Going deep at AAHA’s Veterinary Management Institute

AAHA’s Veterinary Management Institute partners with Colorado State University to delve deep into the art and science of successful veterinary practice, with lessons that apply to the whole team.

By Katie Berlin

I’ve never managed a veterinary practice, nor is that a goal of mine. I’m AAHA’s content strategist, which, in a nutshell, means I get to combine my 12+ years of experience as a practicing veterinarian and my love for the veterinary industry with my liberal arts background and almost fanatical love of words. It’s a pretty great gig.  

One of the perks of working at AAHA is that a couple of us get to nab spots in each Veterinary Management Institute (VMI) cohort. I’ve been lucky enough to join the current group. 

VMI, a collaboration between AAHA and Colorado State University, is a five-month deep dive into the art and science of veterinary practice management. We meet virtually for two intensive half-days each month and are treated to workshops from thought leaders in business, communication, finance, human resources, and more, from both inside and outside the veterinary world.  

Not just for practice managers 

In our VMI cohort, we have a lot of practice owners and managers. But I would have benefited enormously from a course like this as an associate vet—not because I had aspirations to be a practice owner, which I never did, and not because I managed anyone, which I didn’t until I came to AAHA, but because the skills involved in being a great practice manager are also essential for being a great veterinarian.  

That first year as a veterinarian is really hard. You feel like you are pretending all the time, and like you’ve forgotten everything you just spent four years and hundreds of thousands of dollars learning. You’re wrong a lot. And you quickly learn that the medicine often isn’t the hardest part . . . it’s the people.  

The topics we’re covering in VMI—like innovation, team building, coaching, and cost conversations—can potentially serve any member of the vet team. And the cohort learning environment helps us see other points of view: We break into groups and take turns discussing real issues we’re facing at work. We problem-solve together.  

Even as we’re learning about financial management for practices (and, yes, reading the wonderful book Social Media and Marketing for Veterinary Professionals by Caitlin DeWilde, DVM), content that may be aimed specifically at helping learners strengthen and grow veterinary practices, there’s a common thread running through it, which is that real innovation and success comes when we make the people around us (including our clients!) feel seen, supported, and safe.  

I would encourage any practice owner or manager to consider VMI—maybe for yourselves, but maybe also for the people in your hospitals who may never be managers but who are already capable and excited about leading from within the team.  

Considering how many conflicts and roadblocks come up in veterinary practice as a result of human-to-human communication, it’s hard to think of a better investment than equipping your team with tools that help them relate to each other, (REALLY) listen to each other, and meet each other where they are. 


Photo credit: © wenmei Zhou E+ via Getty Images Plus     

Disclaimer: The views expressed, and topics discussed, in any NEWStat column or article are intended to inform, educate, or entertain, and do not represent an official position by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) or its Board of Directors.   



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