Dr. Melanie A. Marsden

Candidate: District IX Director

Dr. Melanie A. Marsden Hi there District 9 friends,

Thanks for giving me a moment of your time to allow me to share a few details about myself. I am originally from the Black Hills area of South Dakota. My grandparents were actively farming/ranching while I was growing up. I've chased barn cats, jumped in the stock pond with the ranch dog, been chased by the rooster, mucked stalls, helped pull a calf and been dumped off a couple of horses. These early experiences helped teach me common sense, the value of grit and most importantly how to work together towards a common goal.

My commitment to community involvement also started early in life during my father's tenure as a representative in the South Dakota State Legislature. Eventually, I served as a political intern during my "gap year," during which they almost kicked me out of a dinner with the governor for actively pursuing a discussion with him about why it was bad for business to have two times zones in South Dakota!

I then attended UC Davis receiving a BS in Zoology & my DVM degree. After many years as an associate DVM, during which I observed different practice types, business models and leadership styles, it was time to map my own path. I currently own a small-animal/exotic practice in Colorado Springs. My current practice has grown from two to five veterinarians. Our "normal" is one in which we shifted the typical practice paradigm to job share and make work-life balance a reality.

In veterinary school, I was the president of several clubs, served as student representative on the committee to interview potential candidates for a deanship and served as SCAVMA representative. I had the pleasure of working with five of my classmates to publish INVERVET, the SAVMA publication back in the dark ages when it was still done on paper.

I served on a committee for the Colorado Division of Wildlife, reviewing rules and regulations for captive wildlife, and on the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies Board of Pharmacy, helping to write the Prescription Drug Monitoring Plan for Colorado, actively working to protect veterinarians from unreasonable reporting requirements.

I attended the Veterinary Leadership Experience, where I was elbow to elbow with veterinary students as we explored character education, personality testing, the concepts of servant leadership and emotional intelligence. The goal of this program is to empower veterinary students and veterinarians with shared knowledge and the skills to impact our profession, our practices, our clients and our patients in a profoundly positive way.

I was then lucky enough to serve as a facilitator for Colorado State University School of Veterinary Medicine ROLE (mini VLE), where we worked with incoming first-year veterinary students to help transition them from a competitive to a collaborative mindset.

I have served as an observer for the AVMA accreditation review & site visit to Colorado State University College of Biomedical Sciences and full participant at Colorado Academy of Veterinary Technology visit. These opportunities have allowed me to immerse in how future generations of veterinarians and technicians are being trained, and familiarize myself with the challenges this entails.

I served on the Board of Directors for the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region, helping to hire a new executive director as well as manage a capital and veterinarian-relations campaign to build and open an on-site surgery center.

As a past-president of the Colorado Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA), I have listened to many veterinarians from all areas of Colorado convey their most pressing concerns, what they need from their state organization, and their ideas on how to grow better and stronger as we look to the future. Currently I serve as a CVMA Executive Committee member alongside many passionate, dedicated and visionary colleagues. We have tackled several thorny issues a few of which are detailed below:

  • modifying our membership structure to best engage veterinarians at all stages of their careers and range of practice types, taking into account university and corporate practices,
  • in-office use and dispensing of compounded medications,
  • statewide ballot initiatives on agricultural animal husbandry practices,
  • the ability for human chiropractors to practice on animals,
  • cat declawing,
  • re-writing Colorado Principles of Animal Welfare.

Serving as Colorado delegate to the AVMA House of Delegates and recently "retired" member of the House Advisory Committee, I have been deeply immersed in current issues within our profession. I fulfilled role as chair of House of Delegates Reference Committees #2: Public Matters, #3 Education & Research and #5 Legislative and Government Matters, having the time to dig deeply into issues, listen, engage members in discussion and ultimately coming to a consensus resulting in recommendations for action to the HOD and BOD. I am proud to have had an active role in outside-the-box thinking leading to the creation of:

  • Veterinary Information Forum, where delegates receive background information prior to the meeting, and then engage in active and productive discussion, often leading to real-time, actionable recommendations,
  • direct email communication four times a year from delegates to AVMA members in their states, because it is essential to directly solicit, receive and utilize input from members.

My grandma used to say "the good Lord gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason"! She is right. The most important thing is listening to each other to find the common ground that allows for creative, collaborative and productive work to happen.

I could not make it all work without the support of my wonderful husband and two children, who are my inspiration and the inspiration for my many other roles: Fancy Cake & Cupcake Baker, Gardener, Organizer of Canoe & Backpack Trips, Religious Education & Our Whole Lives Facilitator, and Girl Scout Leader & Cub Scout Mom. We share our home with dogs, cats, chickens, ducks, geese, bunnies, geckoes, fish, budgies and various strays/orphans (usually limited to animals).

At the end of the day, I am a regular veterinarian, just like you, trying to listen, do the right thing and make a difference for our profession.


Biographical statement provided by the candidate.


Dr. Marsden—Statement of Reason for Seeking Office

I am honored and excited for the opportunity to serve as District 9 representative at the AVMA Board of Directors. This is the only position AVMA members can directly vote for; it is imperative you are comfortable that the individual in this role is able to represent your perspectives, needs and concerns. I will be part of the solution, working with veterinarians in our six states and nationally to help build the bridges needed, to expand the networks of support, and further the progress that keeps our members and profession vibrant, relevant and vital to a rapidly changing world.

It is essential to repair the disconnect between those who serve our profession and our members, as well as those veterinarians who are choosing not to be members of AVMA. It is crucial OUR organization reflect the changing demographic, ethnic and generational differences within OUR profession. AVMA must continue to be a vibrant entity that keeps the profession both relevant and active in ALL discussions about animal health, agriculture, public health and one health. When we utilize all technological tools available to make participation, discussion, voting and meetings accessible to our members across all career stages, AVMA will have become a change-ready organization, fully equipped to increase member engagement and ultimately steer the AVMA from potential loss of influence down the road.

I am stepping forward because I feel, in my bones, that if we as veterinarians do not own the professional issues dealing with the diverse practice of veterinary medicine, somebody else will. We must own advocacy at the state and national levels to prevent legislators from telling us how to treat animals. We must own the public face of veterinary medicine to prevent others from being the go-to sources for information. Owning the challenges may force us out of our comfort zone, but more importantly, it will mean being proactive and not reactive to the changes that are best for the profession. As a parent and practice owner, I understand how "out of my comfort zone" can be a curse and a blessing.

I can bring the perspective of a real-world practicing veterinarian in touch with the changing financial realities of our clients and our profession, juggling practice ownership, working with my team, being a wife, managing children, volunteering in my community and prioritizing of my own health and well-being.

As a past-president of the Colorado Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) I have listened to many veterinarians from all areas of Colorado convey their most pressing concerns, what they need from their state organization, and their ideas on how to grow better and stronger as we look to the future.

As 2015 Student American Veterinary Medical Association (SAVMA) presidential advisor, I was able to immerse myself in the student perspective, listening to their hopes and concerns for themselves and our profession. I heard many talented young veterinarians yearning for the opportunity to find mentors: for technical skills, for real-life skills, for how to engage in their communities as new professionals and in the veterinary world, looking for meaningful ways that harness their passion without consuming excessive free time.

I have served as an observer for the AVMA accreditation review and site visit to Colorado State University College of Biomedical Sciences and full participant at Colorado Academy of Veterinary Technology visit. These opportunities have allowed me to immerse in how future generations of veterinarians and technicians are being trained, and familiarize myself with the challenges this entails.

Serving as Colorado delegate to the AVMA House of Delegates and recently "retired" member of the House Advisory Committee, I have been deeply immersed in current issues within our profession. I fulfilled the role as chair of House of Delegates Reference Committees #2: Public Matters, #3 Education & Research and #5 Legislative and Government Matters, having the time to dig deeply into issues, listen, engage members in discussion and ultimately coming to a consensus resulting in recommendations for action to the HOD and BOD. I am especially proud to have had an active role in outside-the-box thinking that led to the creation of:

  • Veterinary Information Forum, where delegates receive background information prior to the meeting, and then engage in active and productive discussion, often leading to real-time, actionable recommendations,
  • direct email communication four times a year from delegates to AVMA members in their states because it is essential to directly solicit, receive and utilize input from members

My priority in all these organizations has been to focus on finding solutions, creating opportunities and building bridges of communication within and between the diverse sectors of our profession. Building bridges requires me to actively reach out across the divides, across the generations, listening to each of the many voices within our profession to create trust, open channels of communication and establish networks of people working for a common goal. We all can appreciate and learn from the past while focusing on the future, utilize the wealth of knowledge and experience from our very diverse body of members and celebrate the good in our profession while creating solutions to the challenges. I would like to be that bridge builder to help unite our diverse body of members into one voice that is OUR veterinary profession and creating a culture that is collaborative, innovative inclusive.

Please think of me by remembering my four "R"s : Relationships, Relatable, Reasonable and Real.

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Statement of reason for seeking office provided by the candidate.