Dr. Kathleen Neuhoff
hen clients come to your clinic, they don't usually mix in a few questions about their own feet, but this is exactly what happens to the new president of the American Animal Hospital Association. In addition to being a veterinarian, Dr. Kathleen T. Neuhoff, who stepped into the position at AAHA's recent meeting, is also a podiatrist.
Following in the footsteps of her father, uncle, and grandfather, who all practice podiatry, Dr. Neuhoff worked as a veterinarian part time while she attended school to train as foot doctor. Now, she splits her time between the two practices.
"I opened my [podiatric] practice cold, but I was fortunate that my veterinary clients were educated all along as to what I was doing, so I had patients immediately," she said. "They saved their bunions for me." Now, the referrals work in the other direction—her patients with ailing feet bring their pets to her.
A high-energy individual, Dr. Neuhoff says she never intended to run for office. "I actually hadn't wanted to become president, but there were some things that were in process that I wanted to complete," the Indiana-based veterinarian said. Her main concerns were changing AAHA's bylaws; obtaining accreditation of the Distance Education Veterinary Technology Program, developed and implemented in partnership with Cedar Valley College, Lancaster, Texas, CVC being the educational provider; and firmly establishing MARKETLink, an association-run pharmaceutical distributor designed to help hospitals save time and money.
The dual-degreed doctor has succeeded at all three projects. In October, the AVMA accredited the distance learning program. MARKETLink, which was created in 1996, is thriving. And new bylaws give a voice to many AAHA members who did not have one. "We [used to be] an association where only hospital directors of accredited hospitals could vote, which was about 10 percent of our membership ... and all the other members had no real say in the organization," she said. "Now, at least all of the veterinarians are able to vote." The new bylaws also changed the way officers are elected; selection is based on competence rather than regional divisions.
In 2002, Dr. Neuhoff is ready to face new challenges. Her goals include educating the public about AAHA, promoting the association's image, and mentoring other board members, helping them bring their ideas to fruition. She will use her experience to guide her, as she has served AAHA since 1987, when she became area director of the Midwest region. Since then, she has held the positions of AAHA regional member representative, coordinator, and director, and served on numerous AAHA committees. She received her DVM degree from Purdue University in 1979, and is currently practice director at Magrane Pet Medical Center in Mishawaka, Ind.
Dr. Neuhoff says the association will continue to try to improve the economic situation of practitioners. "From an economic standpoint, I think we are almost in a crisis situation. There is an issue that veterinarians have up here," she said, pointing to her head, "that says, 'either I am a good veterinarian ... or I am economically successful, and I can't be both.' We need to change that."
Dr. Neuhoff thinks that progress is already being made, saying that in the past 20 years, the association has been talking about the issue but, in the last three, there has been action. While the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues is doing a good job of targeting large meetings, she thinks more work needs to be done on the grassroots level to reach veterinarians who receive their continuing education locally.
"We would like to help promote the things that come from NCVEI," she said. "We have also developed a lot of products based on the findings of the Megastudy. MARKETLink is one."
Students need to be mentored by people who are both successful practitioners and financially successful so that they realize they can have both things, Dr. Neuhoff said. In keeping with this goal, the association's recent annual meeting offered a plethora of leadership and management sessions.
Improving pain management is another goal. Currently, the association is enhancing standards to include many areas of practice, not just the bricks and mortar of care. These new standards will most likely be made available within the next year.
And in terms of diseases, Dr. Neuhoff hopes to see progress made in leptospirosis research, immune-mediated glomerulonephritis, and cancer treatment. "Some of the chemotherapies that we are using are the same ones I was using 20 years ago," she said. "There have been huge advances in cancer treatment in people, but not much seems to be going on in pets."
Dr. Neuhoff has high hopes for the association. "Overall we are doing well," she said. "Our membership broke 25,000 this year, which is a new high for AAHA."