Tampa, Fla., played host to the 75th annual meeting of the American Animal Hospital Association March 27-30. The meeting drew more than 3,600 attendees, including 1,330 veterinarians, 395 veterinary technicians, and 100 veterinary students.
Continuing education topics ranging from surgery to practice management were offered along with a number of motivational sessions. Best-selling author Steve Farber gave the meeting's keynote address in which he explained what it takes to be "an extreme leader."
Extreme leaders, Farber said, are people who are passionate about their job and capable of inspiring their staff to feel as though they're part of something great. Farber also noted why it's good business sense to make clients' experience enjoyable. "Clients have to love the experience" to keep them coming back, he said.
AAHA's board of directors presented updates on a number projects and programs the association is working on to address industry-wide issues.
The association's executive director, Dr. John Albers, introduced the AAHA Seal of Acceptance for qualifying high-deductible pet insurance policies. The initiative is meant to educate pet owners about meeting the cost of veterinary care for their pets, explained Dr. Albers, who stressed that the AAHA still takes no official position on pet insurance.
As veterinary bills in excess of $1,000 become more commonplace, more and more pet owners will need financial assistance, such as pet insurance. The lower costs of high-deductible policies could result in the coverage of a larger numbers of pets, Dr. Albers explained.
Companies awarded the seal must use an AAHA-approved message. Among other things, the policies must allow owners to choose the veterinary care provider and provide for direct reimbursement to the pet owner.
Dr. John Tait, AAHA president-elect, talked about the mentoring guidelines recently approved by the board. The guidelines are meant to be "realistic, pragmatic and won't bury you in theory," Dr. Tait explained.
The guidelines don't deal with entry-level veterinarians only but can also apply to any staff member. They take into account that the mentoring relationship need not involve a large time commitment and should allow for different lifestyles and goals, Dr. Tait said.
AAHA vice president, Dr. Gregg Takashima, announced that AAHA is making an "unprecedented" investment in a major public relations campaign aimed at raising awareness about the value of AAHA accreditation. "We want to tell pet owners that not all animal hospitals are created equal," Dr. Takashima said.
The venues the association will use for its stepped-up PR outreach include the AAHA's Web site for pet owners, e-cards, newsletters, and service announcements about pain management, he added.
Dr. Dan Aja offered an update on the association's diagnostic codes project. Work to create a standardized nomenclature consistent with Systematized Nomenclature of Medicine began in 2004. To date, more than 5,000 clinical terms commonly used in veterinary practice have been added to a draft code list that could be presented to the board for approval as soon as this summer, Dr. Aja said.
AAHA President Anna Worth discussed some of the ways the association is reaching out to veterinary students. Efforts include encouraging them to work an externship at an AAHA-accredited practice and using student advocates at the veterinary schools and colleges to raise the association's visibility.
The next annual meeting of the AAHA is March 26-29, 2009, in Phoenix.