The board of directors for the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues introduced its new chief executive officer at the closing session of the Veterinary Leadership Conference.
NCVEI director Howard Rubin, a certified public accountant with an MBA degree, told attendees that for the past 15 years he has enjoyed worked shoulder-to-shoulder with veterinarians. Involved in the animal health industry since the mid-'80s, he was formerly chief executive of Cardiopet Inc and divisional vice president of IDEXX Laboratories Inc (see JAVMA, Feb 1, 2001, page 327).
The next step for the NCVEI, Rubin said, is goal setting and creating programs. Asked how he is going to influence necessary behavior changes among veterinarians, he said that first, veterinarians must come to believe there's a compelling need to change and self-actualize. Veterinary practice is local, Rubin said, and the commission needs the support of veterinary leaders, their constituencies, and industry in this initiative.
Representatives from the five NCVEI working groups gave progress reports.
Dr. John Albers said the working group on Promoting Greater Efficiency in the Delivery System hopes to engage experts on how to better use staff to enhance productivity and increase revenue. The group wants to create models and educational materials for sharing of equipment, facilities, and services.
Dr. Albers also talked about the Pricing Strategies working group. The KPMG LLP study found that often, pricing of veterinary services is low, Dr. Albers said, given the cost to veterinarians and value to owners. The study found that pricing is low on the list when clients choose a veterinarian. "Veterinarians want tools for setting a reasonable fee structure placed on the Internet for access and updating."
Dr. Lonnie King said the working group on Strategies To Increase the Skills, Knowledge, Aptitude, and Attitude of Veterinarians will identify the skill set needed by veterinarians, including interpersonal skills, and consider those of other professions. Then the group will examine where each is best assessed, taught, learned, experienced—eg, in the preveterinary curriculum, the applicant pool, admissions process, veterinary school, in practice. They will look at developing the human dimension of the "DVM experience."
Dr. Peggy Rucker of the Gender Issues working group said, "Actually, all of the issues we're facing in our profession are gender related." Every profession except engineers has a pronounced gender wage gap, she said. The challenge is to distinguish true from perceived issues and develop strategies. Small working groups are assisting this group.
Dr. Peggy Rucker (left) welcomes her colleagues' input on gender issues.
Dr. Michael Paul outlined two strategies of the working group on Promoting Increased Understanding of Customers and Their Needs: finding out what current clients and other users want, and looking at services and markets not yet in existence—new industries, professions, services. It will take entrepreneurs and visionaries.
As part of the NCVEI update, Frank W. Licari, DDS, spoke on trends in dental education, offering some insights relevant to the veterinary profession.
Traditionally dental education featured a student-driven system in which faculty were "checkers" and patients served students' needs in learning the required skills. The trend now is toward private practice as the model. Education is in multiple settings in a patient-driven system with faculty as mentors. Some schools have simulation laboratories.
In answer to the barrage of questions that followed his talk, Dr. Licari disclosed many particulars about his profession, among them: 40 percent of most students are women; fee schedules are the same for male and female dentists, but women's income levels appear lower because of fewer hours worked; the average debt load is $100,000 but ranges from as low as $8,000 in public schools to $120,000-$150,000 for those attending private schools; starting salaries for generalists are in the $75,000-$90,000 range, and for specialists, $160,000-$200,000; and the average workweek is 36 hours.