California practitioner talks to veterinary students about economics of profession, debt, and the value of staff
The challenges of life on the road are cliché, but that doesn't make them any less true. Since his election as AVMA vice president in 2002, Dr. Thomas R. Kendall spends much of his time visiting veterinary schools, participating in sessions of the Executive Board, and attending other veterinary-related meetings.
Dr. Kendall's travel schedule is busier than he anticipated when the House of Delegates elected him when they met in Nashville, Tenn., and his responsibilities often keep him away from the clinics he owns and co-owns in California.
But his enthusiasm for the job hasn't been dulled in the least, which is why he's seeking a second term as vice president. The HOD will elect a vice president, along with a president-elect, when it convenes this July in Denver during the AVMA Annual Convention.
Dr. Kendall has spent a great deal of his career in organized veterinary medicine. He was president of the California VMA in 1997, chaired the CVMA House of Delegates in 1979-1980, and served on the CVMA Board of Governors.
As of early March, Dr. Kendall had met with students at 10 veterinary schools, including St. George's University and Ross University in the West Indies, where the student populations of both schools are made up primarily of Americans.
Asked about his reasons for his reelection bid, Dr. Kendall said, "I'd like to continue what has been a tradition in the AVMA and visit all the veterinary schools. I feel that's it's important for continuity's sake to do that."
As the Executive Board's liaison to the veterinary students, the vice president tries to meet with students at all 28 U.S. veterinary schools. Historically, that's meant the vice president serves two consecutive terms to fulfill the obligation. No one is challenging Dr. Kendall, although candidates can be nominated up to the morning of the election.
Similar to when Dr. Kendall graduated from Purdue University in 1969, there's still "a tremendous amount of vitality among the students and a love for the veterinary profession." The biggest changes are generational and demographic, he said, noting that there were just five women in his graduating class.
"Of course, now most in the classes are women," Dr. Kendall said.
The response from students about the AVMA and its efforts to increase veterinary income through the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues has been positive. "Students are beginning to see their debt problem, which is very personal, as part of a much larger economic problem faced by everyone in our profession," Dr. Kendall said.
During his travels, Dr. Kendall meets mostly with first- and second-year students to discuss such economic matters as the need to raise incomes and growing student debt. As a certified veterinary practice manager, these are issues he's familiar with.
He also talks about how the profession's financial woes depress the salaries of the paraprofessional staff that practitioners rely on. Most veterinary students have worked in these support roles themselves, Dr. Kendall said, so he encourages students not to forget about the economic troubles of those who are the foundation of delivering the top-quality service expected by clients.
And Dr. Kendall speaks from experience as he credits his staff for helping with his clinics while on the road. "I can't tell you how important staff is until you've been away from practice. I really appreciate how much they give to our profession."