What VMI learned from the pandemic

“Everything about the Veterinary Management Institute (VMI) training program has been fantastic,” said recent VMI graduate Jennifer Lehman. “Every speaker has contributed something that I have been able to take back to my clinics and put into action.” 

Lehman, an account manager at MWI Animal Health, is a recent graduate of the newly redesigned Veterinary Management Institute program, where she joined a cohort of professional peers in a five-month online program facilitated by experts from Colorado State University’s College of Business. 

Lehman was a member of the first post-COVID VMI graduating class, and her experience was very different than that of previous classes—she was able to do it in just five months (it used to take 10) and she didn’t have to fly to Colorado three different times to do it (back then VMI was strictly in-person). 

In fact, says Judy Rose Lanier, CVPM, “You don’t have to come to Colorado at all. It’s all done virtually now.” Lanier is AAHA’s learning programs manager and the driving force behind the redesigned VMI program. 

Lanier says the pandemic forced VMI to up its game. During the early days of the pandemic, they stayed true to their usual way of doing things, only online—but the same in-person model didn’t translate well to Zoom.  

“Days were like five and six hours long on computer,” she remembers. It proved too much, and people were exhausted. “We learned so much. We thought, ‘Let’s just redesign the whole thing.’ So we added new facilitators, and robust content people could take back to their practices and use right away.”  

Accessibility is the key to the new, turbo-charged VMI, Lanier said. 

“Now you log into a live virtual session one weekend a month for a few hours on Saturday morning and again on Sunday morning,” Lanier told NEWStat. “Most people are done by noon and get on with their lives,” she adds with a laugh. 

She says participants still have eLearning modules and class assignments in between the monthly online sessions, but now AAHA representatives are available online if you have any questions in between sessions.  “We’re here to help you.”  

And there’s still the capstone project that many graduates say is the second-best part of the whole experience: “Participants base it on what they’ve learned during VMI and use it to address a problem or situation they see in their practice,” Lanier said. “They use what they’ve learned at VMI to develop a plan and implement a project that is meaningful to them.” 

So what’s the best part? 

For Lanier, who helps coordinate the online sessions, it’s that the program has still been able to build the same sense of community they had in person, only better.  

“Now we have these virtual touchpoints once a month, and break-out rooms between the sessions,” she said. “We assign people to the rooms randomly, so they meet more people and get to know them.”  

The students also work together on a subject they’ve just learned about and can flag down (via instant message) a coordinator like Lanier whenever they need help. 

A student in the last VMI cohort had a baby who was often on her lap through many sessions: “During the final session in November she told her classmates, ‘I feel like my child has grown up with all of you.’”   

 You can hear the emotion in Lanier’s voice: “We really built that connection with people.” 

 The Veterinary Management Institute is executive-level leadership training for experienced practice managers and owners. The next VMI session starts February 12, 2022, and runs through June 12.  

It features:   

  • 38 VHMA CVPM Qualified CE hours 
  • Virtual learning with a cohort of peers who become a lifelong professional resource, even after the program ends 
  • Expert learning facilitators, including world-renowned Temple GrandinPhD, MS, a professor in animal sciences at CSU, who is known as a spokesperson for people with autism and an authority on the human-animal bond. 

To learn more, click here. To register, click here.