Meet AAHA’s Accredited Practice of the Year finalists

Meet all the hospitals nominated for AAHA’s 2024 APOY award and hear from our four finalists.

By Connor Dunwoodie

The AAHA-accredited Practice of the Year (APOY) Awards highlight accredited practice teams that go above and beyond the normal call to make a huge impact on what veterinary medicine looks like for those in the profession, as well as how the industry affects the general population.  

This year, AAHA redesigned the APOY nomination process. Out of the pool of nominees, four practices stood out to the selection committee as finalists: Canobie Lake Veterinary Hospital in New Hampshire, University Veterinary Hospital in Louisiana, Morris Animal Hospital in Indiana, and Westarbor Animal Hospital in Michigan.  

Each of those practices kindly took the time to answer a few of our questions. 

What does it mean to you and your team to be an AAHA APOY finalist?  

 Canobie Lake: It means we are recognized for the work that we do, the quality of service we provide, and the excellence in the care we deliver—not only to our patients and clients, but to our team as well.

Educating our team on best practices as outlined by AAHA is a continuous process; one that requires dedication, constant improvement, and hard work.  We are thrilled that AAHA has recognized our efforts and validated our mission to help pets and their people feel better.    

 University Veterinary Hospital: Being an AAHA APOY finalist is a tremendous honor for our team.

It validates the hard work, dedication, and commitment we put into providing the highest standard of care for our animal patients. It means that our efforts to go above and beyond in every aspect of our practice are being recognized at a national level, which is incredibly gratifying and motivating for us all.  

Morris Animal Hospital: We can’t begin to explain what being a finalist means to all of us! It feels amazing to know that our hard work is noticed and appreciated.

We’ve striven for excellence with AAHA accreditation for 26 years and can’t imagine doing it any other way. It means that we have been upholding high standards of care and pushing ourselves to always do better.  

Westarbor Animal Hospital: It is hard to put into words what it means to me and my team to be an AAHA APOY finalist.

As a practice manager, I have been with the practice for 30 years this June, so I remember as far back as when AAHA inspections had an honors category that you could strive for during your evaluation. I think we received the honors distinction every time. And even since that went away, we operate daily as if we are still striving to be an “honors” practice.   

Being an AAHA-accredited practice is honestly one of the main things that attracts the majority of our amazing team members. Even as team members have come and gone through the years, that is a consistent draw to working at Westarbor. Because of this, our team is always filled with strong team members whose commitment to the care of all pets is their top priority.  Having this sort of recognition of their hard work and dedication is better than any accolade we could give them.  

I also feel like just being nominated gives us yet another instrument to promote AAHA accreditation. We try to do so whenever possible, and this is just another way to get the importance of being an AAHA-accredited hospital into the minds of our clients and hopefully others. 

What drives your team?  

Canobie Lake: Our mission is to help pets and their people feel better. Our focus is unwavering—we expect our team members to show up every day for every client and every pet. We close for two hours every week for team development to teach them to be their very best and provide them with the tools to do their job.  It takes a village to process all the clients that we do in a day.  Most days we see over 100 patients per day, and we need to ensure we are providing the best care for each and every one of them.   

We have strong team leaders heading up all key areas of the hospital (client experience, patient experience, and leadership) to make sure we are continually delivering best practices consistently and confidently. I would say our leaders lead by example and that empowers our team to do their best for our patients and clients.  

We also have a reward program that I created called “Elevate Excellence Rewards” powered by our Kudos app where team members interact with one another to build each other up and recognize one another’s efforts. Weaved into this is my trademark Conscious Care program that is built on five pillars of care—self, team, patient, client, and community care. Our team members are trained in these areas and earn points for the rewards program and special prizes. It is self- and team-driven and based on building oneself and others. It has been instrumental in building, focusing, and motivating our team.   

University Veterinary Hospital:  Our team is driven by a shared passion for animal welfare and a commitment to excellence. We are motivated by the desire to ensure that every pet we treat receives the best possible care and that their owners feel supported and informed throughout the process.

The bond between pets and their owners is incredibly special, and we strive to enhance and protect that bond through our work. Seeing the positive outcomes and the joy on our client’s faces when their pets recover and thrive is what keeps us going every day.  

Morris Animal Hospital: We’re driven by our patients. We want the absolute best for them, and we love seeing our clients’ happy faces when we provide great care to their furry family.

Strengthening the human-animal bond, extending the time that our clients have with their pets, and giving exceptional care are what drive us.  

Westarbor Animal Hospital: The team we have is one of the absolute best teams we have ever had, and that truly is saying a lot.

Their commitment to the care of our patients is almost palpable. Even on stressful days, you can see that what drives them are the needs of the patient, above all else. And, as a part of doing so, they are committed to educating the client and always keeping the lines of communication with the client open. They recognize the importance of working in a team with the client to ensure the patient gets the highest level of care.  

This team recognizes the importance of being open to change within our processes to have the practice run as efficiently as possible so that we are available and ready when our patients need us. They are all Fear Free-certified, even our client care specialists, and are committed to providing care for their patients in an environment that is as stress-free as possible and in a manner that puts the patient’s needs at the forefront.  The drive of this team is 100% the welfare and care of their patients. This team is amazing. 

Why is your community important to your practice?  

Canobie Lake: Our motto is. “Trust our family with your family,” and that certainly extends beyond the walls of our hospital. We participate in many community events including Black Out Cancer Week, Windham Pride Festival, Strawberry Festival, and many local school events to spread the word about the importance of pets in our lives and talk to many students who may be interested in our profession.  

One of our greatest programs is our intern program with four area high schools where we select interns that work with us for school credit because they want to be in the veterinary field. The greatest compliment is that almost all of them end up working for us in some capacity. One of those interns has already become a veterinarian! Three are in veterinary school and we lost count of how many have become assistants and technicians!   

University Veterinary Hospital: Our community is at the heart of our practice. We believe that a strong, supportive community is essential for the well-being of both pets and their owners. By engaging with our community, we build trust and foster long-lasting relationships.  

Our community supports us in numerous ways, from participating in our events to providing feedback that helps us improve our services. In return, we aim to give back by offering educational programs, participating in local events, and providing charitable care when needed.  

Morris Animal Hospital: Community is everything. Our community supports us, and we support them.

These are the people who live next to us, go to school with our children, the people we run into at the grocery store, and the people who make this a great place to be. It is important to us that we provide veterinary care to this community to keep it healthy and happy.  

Westarbor Animal Hospital: Our community is so important to our practice. We have been in the same location for over 55 years. We have clients who have been bringing their pets to Westarbor since they were old enough to own pets. And before that their parents and in some cases, even their grandparents brought their pets to us.  

Most of our new clients come to us from referrals from existing or even previous clients as well as from the fact that we are AAHA accredited.  There is no shortage of veterinary hospitals near our hospital, so we need to make our community presence known so that we can educate the community on the difference between our hospital and others. We use our AAHA accreditation status on absolutely every item that leaves our hospital. We have it incorporated into our logo.  

But there is no substitute for being an active participant in the community. Doing so enables us to educate people on why our level of care is different than that of other hospitals. And, most important, we can educate the public on what being AAHA accredited means to the quality of care and dedication to their pets that they can expect from our team. 

Other hospitals that were nominated for APOY  

Avenue Animal Hospital—Mount Juliet, TN 

Bath Brunswick Veterinary Associates—Brunswick, ME 

BEEVET—Austin, TX 

Boston Veterinary Clinic-Seaport—Boston, MA 

Breeze Animal Hospital—Panama City Beach, FL 

Caring Pathways—Centennial, CO 

DSGCSC-Diplomatic Security Global Canine Services Center—Winchester, VA 

Gehrman Animal Hospital—Minnetonka, MN 

Hopkinton Animal Hospital—Hopkinton, NH 

Ludwigs Corner Veterinary Hospital—Chester Springs, PA 

Urban Veterinary Associates—Westmont, IL 

VCA Braelinn Animal Hospital—Peachtree City, GA 

VCA New Hartford Animal Hospital—New Hartford, NY 

VCA North Portland Animal Hospital— Portland, OR 

VCA White Lake Animal Hospital—White Lake, MI 

Willowrun Veterinary Hospital—Smithfield, NC 

Further reading: 

2023 APOY Winner: Upper Arlington Veterinary Hospital


The AAHA-accredited Practice of Year Awards are generously supported by Zoetis. 

Photo credit: Submitted by the four APOY finalists

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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