Connecting virtually at Connexity 2020

It’s a wrap on the first-ever virtual Connexity, which took place September 30–October 3, 2020. Veterinary professionals from across the US and Canada posted photos of their outdoor “offices” on social media while others had it running in the background as they worked. And many attendees shared snapshots of conference buddies that included babies, dogs, cats, and even birds.

AAHA 2019-2020 president Guylaine Charette

The virtual format allowed guests to watch while getting in steps for the Connexity Step Challenge, as modeled by 2019–2020 AAHA Board President Guylaine Charette, DVM, during the opening keynote and awards ceremony.

Team building

A few practices took advantage of the time set aside for the conference to have team-building retreats. North Florida Animal Hospital had planned to visit Colorado for the in-person conference, but shifted to a quarantined watch-party when Connexity went virtual.

North Florida Animal Hospital watching Connexity

During their Connexity retreat, the team from North Florida Animal Hospital watches Heather Younger’s keynote: Changing “I Quit” to “I Fit”—Five Powerful Strategies to Increase Employee Retention and Create an Amazing Workplace Culture.

All about the CE

Hot topics were addressed in Connexity CE, including how to handle business challenges stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, and the role of technology in the future of the profession. (These sessions are available now on-demand at

Veterinary visits of the future

Your whole team can get refreshers on VCPR rules and exceptions during the COVID pandemic, as well as valuable guidance to shape your current and future offerings in Telehealth 2.0: Beyond the VCPR: How to Integrate it into Your Practice Tomorrow. This informative session has solid steps to translate the in-person experience to online, including developing good “webside manner.”

“We all know what bedside manner is, which is how a healthcare professional interacts with a patient in person—‘Webside manner’ is doing the same, except we’re doing it virtually,” said the session’s facilitator, Lori Teller, DVM, DABVP (Canine/Feline), CVJ.

Teller outlines very specific tips for verbal and nonverbal communication; choosing a third-party telehealth platform; and preparing yourself, your team, and your clients for success.

Cannabis in veterinary medicine

AAHA flex practice consultant Margaret Spalletta, CVT, moderated throughout Connexity and heard lots of positive feedback.

"The attendees loved the scientific track offerings and thought the material was excellent. We provided tangible material not just for veterinarians but the entire team, and strived to promote healthy environments where the entire team can be utilized and succeed."

Which sessions does she recommend for on-demand viewing?

“Cannabis is a really hot topic right now mainly because there’s still not a great deal known about it,” Spalletta said. “There were lots of questions and really great discussions during these sessions.”

The Cannabis Medicine for Veterinary Teams session facilitated by Casara Andre, DVM, cVMA, gives a scientific foundation to understand the complex plant medicine offered by cannabis, as well as the role of veterinarians as medical advisors, consumer protectors, and research innovators.

“We as the veterinary team have a very specific role in the cannabis world,” Andre said. “Preventing patient harm, making sure we’re advocating for our patients working with these products, and then always pushing science and medicine forward.”

Perfecting common ER procedures

The ER Bootcamp was packed with hands-on tips for common emergency procedures, focusing on the scenarios you’re most likely to encounter in a typical veterinary practice—starting with basic CPR, which like anything else, can be intimidating if you don’t do it often.

On-demand CE credits are still available for watching this thought-provoking session, which includes fresh research-backed suggestions.

A peek at Connexity 2020

During the ER Bootcamp, there were “great questions and engagement from those attending,” said AAHA’s Member Experience Regional Manager Anthony Merkle, CVT, who shared a behind-the-scenes look at his command station.

Are veterinary practices ready to embrace DEI?

Diversity in Veterinary Medicine: Mentoring and Recruiting for Lasting Change, features a stellar panel of speakers with strong passion for making diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) a priority for the profession. This must-see discussion includes definitions of key terms and the current state of diversity in the industry, as well as the business case for why it actually increases profits to hire and mentor with DEI as a guiding principle.

Connexity DE&I panel

DEI is likely to be a core issue for years to come. Get ahead of the curve by watching Diversity in Veterinary Medicine: Mentoring and Recruiting for Lasting Change on-demand.

Where’s Garth?

Many attendees played along with the “Where’s Garth” game by spotting avatars of AAHA’s new CEO, Garth Jordan, and his dog Jem in the conference hall main lobby. Check out the Connexity 2020 Facebook group to see the posts.

AAHA CEO Garth Jordan and his dog Jem                    AAHA's Connexity: Where's Garth

Jordan said in the Facebook group: “AAHA is truly grateful to all those who participated in Connexity 2020. The passion and dedication I witnessed from guests, speakers, and AAHA staff has made me even more thrilled to begin my tenure here. If the passion and dedication translated virtually, I truly cannot wait until I get the opportunity to experience it in person. Until next time. See you at Connexity 2021!”

Awards and keynotes

The prestigious 2020 AAHA-Accredited Practice of the Year award went to Manheim Pike Veterinary Hospital in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. This year also marked the hospital’s 50-year anniversary of accreditation. It was a truly touching and emotional win!

AAHA-accredited Practice of the Year award winner

Watch the winning reaction for the 2020 AAHA-Accredited Practice of the Year award in the Awards Ceremony and Opening Keynote session.

Connexity once again offered up enlightening and entertaining keynotes, which encouraged attendees to explore new perspectives on old challenges. Please note! If you missed the keynotes, you’ll want to act quickly to watch on-demand, as these sessions will only be available for three months following the conference.

Building Loyalty through Memorable Experiences kicked things off with the inspiring story of Johnny Cupcakes, who created a marketing sensation by selling his custom-designed T-shirts in stores that look (and smell!) like bakeries. Some Connexity guests began brainstorming how veterinary practices might use the same out-of-the-box thinking and well-designed products to promote their services.

Johnny Cupcakes at Connexity

You can still buy an exclusive Johnny Cupcakes T-shirt designed for Connexity 2020. And as a bonus, 10% of proceeds go to K9 Courage.

Friday’s Q&A between Connexity Content Weaver Heather Loenser, DVM, and CEO Garth Jordan emphasized empathy in leadership, and it was appropriately followed by team-management motivation from Heather Younger’s talk Changing “I Quit” to “I Fit”—Five Powerful Strategies to Increase Employee Retention and Create an Amazing Workplace Culture, which revealed the number one reason employees leave jobs isn’t money—it’s their managers.

Saturday was all about conquering fears with Michelle Poler’s session: Fear Less, Do More. Many attendees and AAHA team members were inspired by Poler’s call to push through personal obstacles and uncover untapped potential.

“I thoroughly enjoyed Michele Poler tremendously,” said practice consultant Rhonda Sayle, RVT. “Her amusing ways of mustering-up the courage to conquer her fears was entertaining, and she allowed you to feel her fear at the same time.”

Virtual activities

In addition to CE, guests were able to relax in the Zen Zone with puppy yoga (featuring adoptable dogs); participate in the Connexity Step Challenge; connect with colleagues and experts in the Networking Lounge; stock up on resources from the Book Nook; and ask questions in AAHA Central.

Meanwhile, the conference sponsors answered questions and shared their latest news in the virtual Sponsor Village, where guests could collect digital dog bones for a chance to win $500 for themselves and $500 for a charity of their choice.

Virtual or in-person, Connexity is about connecting!

The experience of a virtual conference was an adjustment, but most feedback has been positive. Accreditation specialist Kambria Te Winkle, CVT, said, “It was so exciting to watch members celebrate each other’s successes, be so passionate about the topics that they were learning, and have the desire to learn and grow both individually and as a practice team. The topics were unique with engaging content, given by absolutely incredible speakers.”  

Practice consultant Rhonda Sayle, RVT, said: “Whether we’re obtaining CE virtually or in-person, it’s about us learning and growing our knowledge. Staying safe during this pandemic has given us the opportunity to be creative and learn the process of attending conferences virtually. Kudos to those who are behind the scenes delivering their best to serve our veterinary community!”

Connexity’s hostess and content weaver extraordinaire was once again Heather Loenser, who welcomed guests, offered insights, participated in events, presented awards, and acted as AAHA’s spokeswoman for the conference. In her closing video remarks, she said, “Thank you for taking time for yourself, to become a stronger leader, and a stronger person. You’re all incredible and I’m so proud you’re part of the AAHA community. Can’t wait to see you in Scottsdale Arizona in 2021!”

In the end, the first all-virtual AAHA conference brought new opportunities for incorporating online learning and lots of lessons that will inform the future of Connexity. Next year’s conference is scheduled for September 22−25 in Scottsdale, Arizona. Get the latest details and register at And don’t miss out on this year’s on-demand content, available until October 2021!