From the day I started veterinary school, I knew I wanted to eventually be both a veterinarian and a practice owner. In order to prepare myself, I spent the first three years of veterinary school learning as much possible about business management, business finance, and leadership. So when I realized that one of my fourth-year rotations needed to be completely clinical, I knew that AAHA would be the best place for me to turn to continue educating myself in these areas. I completed a 3-week externship at AAHA headquarters in Lakewood, Colo., and what I took away from that externship will help me tremendously with my future goals.

The first order of business upon my arrival was learning more about AAHA and its role in veterinary medicine. I met with the accreditation department to learn the requirements for accreditation, how accreditation standards are set, and how staff members at AAHA help clinics prepare for their accreditation evaluations. I knew that AAHA held standards for quality of care, but I had no idea that they had an entire category of accreditation standards dedicated to practice management. Following my externship, I was able to shadow a practice consultant on an accreditation review and I saw first-hand how consultants use the standards for client service, human resources, and leadership to help clinics improve their management practices.

Throughout my time at AAHA, I worked on various projects for multiple departments. My favorite project was a spreadsheet being developed for the My Veterinary Career website to give to practice owners. The spreadsheet helps owners figure out the feasibility of hiring a new doctor based on factors, such as their square footage, current transactions, and growth trends. This project taught me many things about practice management, and I was overjoyed to see the finished product rolled out at the Colorado Veterinary Conference.

Another project I learned a great deal from was an article I wrote for Trends magazine about electronic marketing of veterinary practices. For this article, I researched the different methods of marketing, the cost of each to a practice, and the estimated return on investment. I consulted companies that create websites and social media platforms as well as IT and Web consulting professionals for both factual and anecdotal evidence of successful electronic marketing strategies. Not only will I now have an article published in Trends, but I will also be able to contribute new and invigorating ideas to my first practice.

Overall, I had a wonderful experience at AAHA's headquarters. All of the staff members were very friendly, helpful, and accommodating, and they made me feel right at home from day one. What I learned from my various projects will certainly help me in my future pursuits as a veterinarian and practice owner; and what I learned from my new friends will ensure that I stay involved with AAHA for many years to come.

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Red is your guide to everything AAHA. Whether you’re looking for association news, updates on our educational offerings, the latest books from AAHA Press, deals from our Preferred Providers, or fun reads from various AAHA staff and AAHA-member veterinary professionals, this is where you’ll find it.

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