Inside AAHA: June 2020

Cheryl Smith, CVPM, a director on the AAHA board, discusses the humanity in veterinary medicine in this time of social distancing. Other Inside AAHA content includes: Dear AAHA addresses an overheating technician; the hidden benefits of AAHA membership; and an obituary of Ray Pahle, AAHA past president.

Mike Cavanaugh, DVM, Reflects on Tenure at AAHA’s Helm

Mike Cavanaugh, DVM, DABVP (C/F) Emeritus, will step down this month after a decade as AAHA’s CEO. He spoke with Trends about his time at AAHA and what still lies in store.

What has your time at AAHA meant to you as an individual?

Mike Cavanaugh, DVM, DABVP (C/F) Emeritus: Leading AAHA was my dream job. I have been involved with AAHA my entire career and have always believed in the value of accreditation standards and striving for excellence. After working in AAHA-accredited practices as an associate and an owner, then serving as a liaison to AAHA while working in the corporate world, it was an honor to follow Dr. John Albers when he retired from AAHA. Being a part of preparing AAHA for the next 87 years (that’s right—AAHA is 87 years old in 2020) of success is very humbling. I am very grateful for the opportunity to have served as AAHA’s CEO for 10.5 years.

What would you say are your main accomplishments as CEO of AAHA?

MC: Working to remodel the governance structure to reduce the size of the board of directors has improved the board’s efficiency and engagement, and will have a lasting impact on AAHA’s future. The board of today is truly representative of the AAHA membership.

The work we’ve done to improve the culture, both within the AAHA organization and at our members’ practices, has been very challenging, yet very rewarding.

Reorganizing to create the Member Experience team will continue to benefit AAHA and our members. While still a work in progress, we are well on the way to turning the vision of creating a truly memorable, world-class experience for AAHA members into reality.

The AAHA executive team is truly functioning as a team that has the best interest of both AAHA team members and AAHA-accredited and affiliate members at its core.

What are some of the changes you have noticed in the veterinary profession over your 10-plus years at AAHA?


  • The significance and impact of social media.
  • Improved technology in terms of practice management systems, diagnostics, and client communication solutions.
  • Consolidation of single practices into groups of all shapes and sizes.
  • The birth and explosive growth of connected care (telemedicine) for the benefit of practice team members and clients. Who’d have thought a pandemic would ultimately drive the improvement and acceptance of this component of our industry?
  • Changing needs, demands, and expectations of those with pets in their lives.

Where is the veterinary profession headed in the next 10 years?

MC: Short term, we will recover from the impact of the pandemic and settle into the yet-to-be-determined new normal. I am confident the profession will recover and continue to be strong because the importance and recognition of the human-animal bond have never been stronger and will continue to grow.

We need to figure out how to deliver appropriate veterinary care to all the pets belonging to those people without access to care for whatever reason—whether financial, lack of transportation, language barriers, or something else. We must make sure veterinary care doesn’t become something only the privileged can access.
What are your plans for life after AAHA?

MC: I’ll be reinventing myself for the next career adventure. I believe my energy, passion, and creativity will still be of benefit and allow me to contribute in some new way to the profession and the world. I plan to stay supportive and connected to AAHA, and wish to continue to enjoy the many wonderful relationships I’ve developed and enjoyed over the years. And I am going to continue enjoying life outdoors in the mountains and on rivers, camping and kayaking and rafting, and spending time with people I love.

View from the Board

The Humanity in Veterinary Medicine

As I write this, we are deep in the isolation and social/physical distancing of the COVID-19 pandemic. Normal human interactions are difficult to experience under the restrictions imposed and the potential risk for noncompliance. I keep hearing the phrase “We are in uncharted territory.” Though the pandemic is limiting our face-to-face contact with clients, we continue to find ways to bring the same care, empathy, and understanding to our work.

Person-to-person interaction is at the core of the practice of veterinary medicine. Even during the current crisis, each pet arriving at our doors either through curbside check-in or discreetly brought into the building is accompanied by their human. While we always prioritize the best interests of our patients, the human component sometimes brings challenges to providing our best care to the patient. Because they are human, our clients are bringing their personal beliefs, Dr. Google biases or fears, and possible financial constraints, all of which could impede our ability to effectively treat our patients. On the other hand, the incredible bond they have with their pet is the reason we have a business; at the end of the day, veterinary teams and clients alike share a common goal of ensuring the patient’s wellbeing.

Client education and follow-through with treatment plans rely on effective human-to-human communication in veterinary medicine. Therefore, it is critical to build a team possessing not only strong technical skills but also the interpersonal skills necessary to succeed when working with coworkers and clients alike. These vital communication touchpoints arise daily, whether the team member is showing empathy for a client making a difficult decision to euthanize their beloved pet or recognizing that a client’s circumstances necessitate adjustments to the course of treatment. The ability of our teams to empathize, understand, recommend, and respond to the human condition presented with our patients is critical to the success of both our hospitals and the treatment of our patients.

Our hospital utilizes the AAHA accreditation process and other AAHA resources to provide much of the framework to guide all aspects of the human element of veterinary medicine. We benefit from advice on how to build a high-performing team and improve team cooperation and cohesion. The AAHA Culture Initiative includes a two-part employee-engagement program that can assist teams that may be struggling with disengaged team members, whether due to work-life stress, mental health, or other factors.

I truly hope that by the time you have this issue in hand, physically or electronically, we have entered into some type of human normalcy, social/physical distancing is a memory, and handshakes and hugs are once again our everyday greetings.

Cheryl Smith
Cheryl Smith, CVPM, is a director on the AAHA board. She earned her bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics from Cornell University in 1985 and entered the world of veterinary medicine when she married a veterinarian. In 1994, her husband opened Galway Veterinary Hospital in Galway, New York, and as their children grew, so did Smith’s involvement with the AAHA-accredited practice, where she now serves as hospital administrator. Smith became a certified veterinary practice manager in 2009, and she graduated from the Veterinary Management Institute in 2011. When not overseeing the management of Galway Veterinary Hospital, Smith dedicates her time to serving as a member of the Galway Board of Education, a position she’s held for more than 10 years.


How to Pitch Veterinary Management Series: Practice Essentials to Your Boss

As a new or developing manager, you might see the value of the Veterinary Management Series: Practice Essentials course—especially since you’ll earn 28 CVPM-qualified CE hours—but how do you sell your boss on the idea?

There are some universal fundamentals that every practice manager or lead technician must know in order to thrive. Veterinary Management Series: Practice Essentials covers the practical skills and knowledge that enable you to hit the ground running from day one or to deepen your skill set as an established manager. So what can you tell your boss you’ll bring back to your practice?

The ABCs of money management. You’ll learn to avoid costly accounting errors and poor financial decisions through best money-management practices.

Human resources fundamentals. You’ll get to know employment law basics and learn to identify your team’s behavioral strengths and weaknesses.

Marketing 101. You’ll learn to turn your practice’s strengths into compelling marketing messaging.

Inventory and medical records management. You’ll lay the groundwork for efficient systems to track and manage the flow of assets, including medical information, in and out of your practice every day.

You could spend time and money seeking out separate CE programs for each of these areas, or get the benefit of learning alongside your peers from expert facilitators who are there to answer questions at this four-day in-person session.

AAHA Learning program manager Judy Rose Lanier, CVPM, CVA, facilitates the Medical Records Management session. Not only has she seen the value of well-organized and complete medical records in her own career, but she taught AAHA members this important skill as an AAHA practice consultant. She says Veterinary Management Series: Practice Essentials is foundational learning to benefit both new and seasoned veterinary managers.

“One of my favorite things about this course is that you can actually go back to your practice and apply what you learned right away,” Lanier said. “And, as a CVPM, I feel this course is extremely helpful in preparing for the CVPM exam.”

Ready to pitch the idea? The next session is August 5–8 in Denver, Colorado. Visit for the full details.

AAHA Meetings and Events

AAHA is closely monitoring developments related to COVID-19 and we will continue to follow recommended public health guidelines leading up to all scheduled AAHA events.

Last day to renew your AAHA membership!

June 30

AAHA-Accredited Hospital Day

July 22

Distance Education Veterinary Technology Program (DEVTP)

Fall semester registration opens: July 1

OSHA Safe + Sound Week

August 10–16

Veterinary Management Series: Practice Essentials 

August early registration savings deadline: July 13

National Check the Chip Day

August 15

AAHA Pack Trip

Jackson Hole, Wyoming | July 16–19

Connexity by AAHA

Denver, Colorado | September 30–October 3

The Not-So-Obvious Benefits of AAHA Membership

Need reasons to renew your AAHA membership by the June 30 deadline? Don’t forget the “hidden” benefits you might not miss until they’re gone!

Obvious Benefits Not-So-Obvious Benefits
Free RACE-approved CE from AAHA Learning Continuous improvement using the AAHA Standards of Accreditation
Discounts, special offers, and rebates from AAHA’s savings programs Peace of mind knowing your Member Experience team has your back—even after your evaluation
AAHA’s Publicity Toolbox and exclusive use of the AAHA logo Increased awareness of accreditation from pet-owner-facing marketing campaigns driven by AAHA
A listing on the AAHA-Accredited Hospital Locator The pride and accomplishment of being among the only 12%–15% of practices that are accredited in the US and Canada
Free shipping and preferred pricing from AAHA Press Real-time peer support from the private AAHA-Accredited Members Facebook group
Subscriptions to Trends, the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association, NEWStat, and AAHA Update Being among the first to know about new and revised profession resources


View the full list of benefits here.


Dear AAHA,

One of our veterinary technicians has been trying to wear a lab coat and cap for dental procedures to align with standard DE04.1b, but she’s getting overheated. Would it be sufficient to meet the standard if she wore a long-sleeved shirt that she doesn’t wear anywhere else in the hospital, along with an apron that covers her from the waist down to below her knees?

—Overheating in Omaha

Dear Overheating in Omaha,

Great question! If the team is able to change clothes after performing the dental prophy, that is all that is required. It doesn’t need to be a lab coat—just a different covering from what they would be wearing to hold the next immune-compromised kitten or other pet who comes in. A separate scrub top, isolation gown, or smock would all be acceptable. So according to what you describe here, your staff would meet the standard.

—AAHA’s Member Experience Team

Have a question you’d like AAHA to answer? Email us at [email protected].

Obituary: AAHA Past President, Ray Pahle, DVM, aka “The Running Grandpa”

Raymond G. Pahle, DVM, passed away peacefully on March 4, 2020, at the age of 91. Pahle served as AAHA president from 1981 to 1982.

Pahle was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on May 27, 1928, to Raymond and Dorothy Pahle. Pahle had two brothers, William and Joseph. An army veteran, Pahle was part of the Allied occupation force in Japan after World War II. After returning from service, he graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in veterinary medicine.

In West Allis, he built the Pahle Small Animal Clinic, where he practiced for more than 40 years. Pahle tended to the business side of the practice as well as the animals, becoming the president of both the local and state veterinary medical associations.

Pahle enjoyed playing tennis, running marathons, and riding his bicycle across Wisconsin and Arizona. He even wrote a small pamphlet for his grandchildren called “The Running Grandpa” to detail his adventures running at least a mile in every state in the United States.

He is survived by his loving second wife of more than 41 years, Clarice (née Dalrymple), sons (Joe and Gregg), daughters (Barb, Jane, Nancy, and Lynn) and their spouses, 13 grandchildren and their spouses, and three great-grandchildren.

Photo credit: ©



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