May 15, 2013


 AAHA president sees uncertainty for profession

Posted May 1, 2013 

Dr. Kate Knutson (Courtesy of AAHA​)
Dr. Kate Crumley Dr. Tracey Jensen​ Dr. Aman Sukhija

Dr. Kate Knutson is passionate about veterinary medicine, but she thinks the profession is at a tipping point economically.

She has seen aspects of the issue in her own practice, Pet Crossing Animal Hospital & Dental Clinic, outside Minneapolis. Now she is looking at the issue across thousands of practices as president of the American Animal Hospital Association, an office she assumed during the association’s conference in March.  

The economics were better when Dr. Knutson graduated from the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine in 1996 and opened her hospital with Dr. Steve Barghusen in 1997.

The partners established the practice by buying out a satellite clinic of an AAHA-accredited practice. They later added an associate veterinarian. The practice model revolves around one veterinarian being the primary care provider for each patient.

“I love veterinary medicine,” Dr. Knutson said. “It’s fulfilling, it’s fun to work with the people I work with. I like my clients, I adore my patients.”

Even as a veterinary student, Dr. Knutson was an AAHA member. As a practitioner, she undertook her first major project with the association by serving as a member of the committee that developed the first AAHA Dental Care Guidelines for Cats and Dogs. She also served on the committee that recently revised the guidelines.

For the past six years, Dr. Knutson has been a member of the AAHA board. A pending proposal to amend the association’s bylaws seeks to streamline the composition of the board.

“All around the country, associations are downsizing their boards of directors to get more work done efficiently with less people,” Dr. Knutson said.

In the coming year, AAHA will focus much of its attention on Partners for Healthy Pets, a coalition with the AVMA and other organizations to promote veterinary visits for preventive care.

Dr. Knutson said AAHA members continue to have concerns about the state of the industry, despite AAHA’s positive State of the Industry Report for 2012.

“It feels as if we’re in a position where things could go very badly, or we can get our act together,”

Dr. Knutson said. “I think our clients really would love to have us practice medicine on their pets. They just don’t understand all that we’re capable of, and so many other avenues are taking away their money—because people spend a lot of money on pets; it’s just they spend very little money on veterinary care.”

Another focus for AAHA in the coming year will be promoting accredited practices to the public, particularly via social media. In February, the association launched the “I Choose AAHA” campaign with photos of pet owners and veterinary professionals holding signs explaining why they choose AAHA-accredited practices.

Dr. Knutson thinks the biggest challenge for the veterinary profession as a whole is to become more efficient, but she is not sure of the solution.

“We need to figure out how to streamline veterinary medicine so veterinarians are spending most of their time doing medicine,” she said.

Among her other activities, Dr. Knutson serves as chair of the Pet Nutrition Alliance. She works with the AAHA student chapter at the University of Minnesota and with the Cornerstone Advocate Program, which establishes safe housing for animals that belong to victims of domestic violence.

Joining Dr. Knutson as AAHA officers are Drs. Kate Crumley, Youngsville, N.C., president-elect; Tracey Jensen, Wellington, Colo., vice president; Aman Sukhija, Ormond Beach, Fla., secretary-treasurer; and Mark Russak, Berlin, Ct., immediate past president.