Shining a Spotlight on Ideas that Work: Veterinary Visionaries and Beyond

Shining a Spotlight on Ideas that Work: Veterinary Visionaries and Beyond 

By Katie Berlin, DVM 

If you’ve been paying attention to social media lately, you’ve probably heard about Veterinary Visionaries. This group of around 50 founding organizations has created a “solving space” where anyone in the industry can submit their ideas, big or small, for how to create mental health and wellbeing solutions that stick at the systemic and organizational level in veterinary medicine. The platform is open for submissions until May 27 (with cash prizes for the winning ideas!), but the ideas will stay posted even after closing. As of this writing, we have over 100 ideas from people in all roles within the industry. 

These ideas are being evaluated by a small group of people both inside and outside vet med, including David Ballard, PsyD, MBA, our guest on this week’s episode of Central Line: The AAHA Podcast. Dr. Ballard is not just a visionary – he's an expert in what makes organizations psychologically healthy, and he’s helped groups all over the human healthcare ecosystem get there. Thanks to connections that led him to Veterinary Visionaries, he’s turning that expert eye toward veterinary medicine. Check out this excerpt from our conversation, and then head over to to submit your idea or read some of the amazing ones already posted.  

David Ballard: Because there’s not a unified [veterinary practice] community, sharing ideas and examples and learning from each other and moving forward more collectively, I think sometimes good examples get lost in the mix. The challenge is, how do you find those good examples where things are working, even if it's only small pieces that are working well? How do you identify those and share that with others, and then potentially pilot those things in other places so that it can snowball from there? I've seen it happen in other industries, where there's a view that the industry as a whole is lagging and they're not addressing issues particularly well - but there are always bright spots within the industry. It just sometimes takes a lot of digging to get to those bright spots and unearth them. 

I'm hoping through Veterinary Visionaries we see some examples, not only of suggestions of things that we could do, but examples where there has been a pilot – where there has been something tried out that went brilliantly or fairly well, and they learned some things from it, and we can iterate and do better. The big organizations have the resources to invest and to help share those.  

Katie Berlin: What you're saying, it sounds like, is that... we need those practices where they are fostering that psychologically healthy workplace and they are taking care of their teams and their teams are seeing results from the systems they've put in place. We need to put a megaphone in front of those practices and make sure that everybody can learn from their example, and the big entities have the resources to do that.  

That paints a really good picture of little practices sending up a flare, and then the big corporations or associations being able to say, "Hey, everybody look here, this is a really cool thing, let's talk about it and see if it could work for you." Love that so much, and hopefully that does come out of Veterinary Visionaries. 

DB: In larger organizations, they have the advantage of the scale and the resources to more effectively evaluate the efforts, and to be able to measure and see if they're getting the results they had hoped for and share. Often in a smaller practice, you don't have the resources to do that. The challenge is, in a larger organization, there's more bureaucracy, more red tape to have to cut through to get anything done, and it complicates things. You also tend to offer a broader range of activities or initiatives or a bigger menu of things that you're doing, where in a smaller organization, you don't necessarily need to do all of those things, you just need to do the right things. 

In a smaller organization, the advantage is that they can do things in a really unique and idiosyncratic way. If you tried to do that in a big complex organization, it'd be a mess - they'd never be able to get it done because there would always be a brick wall to run into. But in a small practice you can tailor things to the unique needs of the people who work there. I've seen very small organizations be able to successfully do things with a fraction of the resources; they identify what few things are really important and that they can do well in a way that’s a great fit for the people who work there. 

Catch the rest of Dr. Ballard’s episode anywhere you get your podcasts, including Apple, Spotify, and Stitcher; on YouTube; or find links to all of these platforms, full audio and video, and transcripts to every episode at  

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