Dr. John D. Tait is all about the business side of veterinary medicine, and he brings that perspective to the American Animal Hospital Association during tough economic times.
The incoming AAHA president, managing partner of a group of veterinary practices in Ontario, said the association's top priority is a new campaign to promote AAHA-accredited hospitals to consumers. The association also is trying to address professional issues ranging from student debt to animal welfare.
Dr. Tait formed an interest in veterinary medicine growing up in a family that had a love of animals and a medical background. After graduating from the Ontario Veterinary College in 1986, he went into practice treating companion animals and horses. Soon, he developed an interest in the business side of practice.
"The idea of bringing sound business principles to a veterinary environment intrigued me," Dr. Tait said. "I just found that I liked working with numbers and finance and all the various components of a small business like a practice. The challenge of making it better not only for myself but for others was just something that really became a passion."
Deciding he needed more education to pursue that passion, Dr. Tait earned his master's degree in business administration from Ontario's McMaster University. He went on to become a regional vice president in Michigan for VCA Animal Hospitals.
Dr. Tait also began teaching business at the Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine. He eventually joined the faculty of the Ontario Veterinary College, serving as director of the teaching hospital and developing a business curriculum.
Currently, Dr. Tait oversees the Ontario Veterinary Group, which comprises eight animal hospitals. He continues to teach part time at the veterinary college.
In 2003, Dr. Tait joined the boards of AAHA and the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues. He served as AAHA secretary-treasurer and was a member of its advisory group on practice management. He also chaired the task force that wrote the AAHA mentoring guidelines and the work group that developed the student Web site.
Dr. Tait said the most important AAHA initiative going into his year as president is the new campaign to raise awareness of the association's accreditation program for veterinary practices (see page 1242). During the current recession, he said, consumers look even more for branding that signals the quality of a business.
"The rebranding and new focus on accreditation are very timely," Dr. Tait said. "In this economy, where there's maybe more thought put into spending money, and less discretionary income, there's a challenge for us to increase awareness on the part of our client base as well."
Dr. Tait added that AAHA is working to help veterinarians and pet owners who are struggling because of the recession. The association has joined with VetPartners, formerly the Association of Veterinary Practice Management Consultants and Advisors, to offer advice and coaching for veterinarians. The association continues to offer grants through the Helping Pets Fund for veterinary care of pets whose owners are experiencing financial hardship.
On the topic of student debt, Dr. Tait has a different take than many veterinarians. He said the total return on investment for a veterinary degree is still very positive. Nevertheless, he said, veterinary students and recent graduates must learn more about personal finance and practice management.
Dr. Tait said another important AAHA initiative is the establishment of an Animal Welfare Task Force. He said the task force will review the association's existing animal welfare policies and write new ones, with the intention of serving as a source of meaningful information for AAHA members.
Other officers, remarks
Joining Dr. Tait as AAHA officers are Drs. Gregg K. Takashima, Lake Oswego, Ore., president-elect; Michael R. Moyer, Bensalem, Pa., vice president; Anna E. Worth, Bennington, Vt., immediate past president; and G. Timothy Lee, Anderson, Ind., secretary/treasurer.
Dr. James O. Cook, AVMA president, spoke briefly at the AAHA meeting during the opening session.
Dr. Cook said the AVMA has been working hard to advocate for federal legislation beneficial to the profession. He also touched on the issues of student debt and animal welfare.
"I want to ask you to please help us at AVMA to promote animal health, promote human health, and advance the veterinary profession," Dr. Cook said.