Dr. Sandy Willis

Candidate: District XI Director

Dr. Saundra Willis I currently serve as Chair of the House Advisory Committee (HAC) and in that position, am an invited guest (nonvoting) on the AVMA Board of Directors, serve on the Strategic Management Committee, the Budget Finance Review Committee, and am a voting member of the American Veterinary Medical Foundation (AVMF) Board of Directors.

This is my second term on the HAC and my fifth year. I am the AVMA Delegate from Washington. I have served in the HOD since 2009, when I was appointed Alternate Delegate from Washington.

I currently serve as a site visitor for the AVMA Council on Education, a position I have had since 2013. I have served on the AVMA Governance Performance Review Committee (GPRC) and was chair of both the Task Force and Working Group on Volunteer Engagement. I organized the Communications Section of the AVMA Convention from 2008 to 2014. I was a newbie to AVMA volunteer leadership when I served on the former AVMA Council on Communications from 2006 to 2008.

I am proud to have started in organized veterinary medicine at the local level. My journey began in 1996 when a college asked me to chair the Puget Sound (formerly Seattle-King County) Veterinary Medical Association (PSVMA) Public Information Committee. I served in several positions within the PSVMA and served three terms as President, 1998-1999, 1999-2000, and 2016-2017 when I returned to try and resurrect the declining association. I represented the PSVMA to the Washington State Veterinary Medical Association (WSVMA) before moving into the position of WSVMA Annual Conference Chair, a role I held for 17 years. I served on several WSVMA committees including Eds and Pubs, Membership Development, and Public Information, and was WSVMA president for two terms, 2004-2005 and 2006-2007.

I received the honor of WSVMA Veterinarian of the Year in 2015.

I am board certified in the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM). I served as Chair of the Communications Committee from 2002-2009, member of the ACVIM Foundation Development Committee from 2011-2016, and currently serve as Business Management Session Chair for the ACVIM Forum, a position I have held since 2005.

I serve as President of the Board of the Feral Cat Spay and Neuter Project in Lynnwood, Washington, an opportunity that opened for me in 2009. It has been a particular delight to lead this small organization doing very big things for owned and free-roaming cats.

I am the small animal internist for Phoenix Lab, a small, privately owned veterinary diagnostic laboratory located in Mukilteo, Washington. I oversee their continuing education programs, speak at local and state veterinary conferences, write many of the educational documents for our veterinary clients, and serve as Phoenix representative to Alaska. I first worked at Phoenix from 1994 to 2002 and returned in 2009. I have also worked for Antech Diagnostics and served as the Medical Director for the Humane Society for Seattle King County. In 1989, I had the tremendous opportunity to follow two years in private practice with stints as the Veterinary Affairs Manager in the Midwest Region for Hill's Pet Nutrition, Inc. and the Veterinary Customer Affairs Manager for Hill's Canada. These positions provided me skills in public speaking and communications. I left Hills in 1994 to join Phoenix Lab.

I completed my residency in small animal internal medicine at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Saskatchewan, Canada, and my internship in small animal medicine and surgery at the University of Minnesota. I am a 1984 graduate of the School of Veterinary Medicine at UC Davis. My undergraduate degree in animal physiology was also competed at UC Davis. I am originally from Los Angeles, California, but my home for the last 25 years has been in Seattle/Tacoma, Washington.


Biographical statement provided by the candidate.

Dr. Willis – Statement of Reason for Seeking Office

I am excited to submit my application for AVMA District XI Director. District XI veterinarians are active in the AVMA; we have a legacy of leadership. Despite the relatively small size of our collective vote, our experience, our opinions, our collaboration and our leadership continue to help advance the AVMA. We have a reputation of thoughtful, collaborative leadership, of making tough decisions in challenging times, and of working together for the common good. Our district is not unique in these attributes but nonetheless, I am proud of our work in District XI.

Five years ago, when I ran for HAC, I considered the position of District Director. HAC was a better fit at that time for my career and my level of AVMA leadership experience. Since that time, I have obtained many of the necessary skills, knowledge and awareness of my own leadership strengths and weaknesses to be a better candidate for District XI Director. My experience with various councils, committees, task forces and working groups, as well as in the HOD and HAC, has provided a solid foundation of knowledge in the workings of the AVMA. As HAC chair this year, I will gain greater appreciation of how the Board relies on the collective contributions from AVMA entities to make decisions, both financial and strategic, for the AVMA. I hope to contribute to a strengthened partnership of the Board, the HAC and the HOD; there is much work for the AVMA that needs to be done and together, we can best address and grow from our successes and challenges.

My leadership style is collaborative; I feel it is important that people are heard on an issue. Moving forward, however, a leader needs to mold varied opinions toward a definitive decision and direction. By putting myself in positions over the last five years that require me to think on my feet, listen, and choose a direction, I have fine tuned my leadership skills. I have learned how to communicate effectively and most importantly, listen.

I enjoy mentoring others. I strive to help others challenge themselves by giving them opportunities to contribute and lead. I love the power of active, open discussion to bring forth new ideas and stimulate forward thinking. The profession is changing so rapidly. We need all hands on board to be creative and anticipate the future as much as we can and keep our AVMA vibrant and nimble. We need to think "why not" and not "why."

I have visited most of the District XI state conventions as a speaker and representative with Phoenix Lab. Always curious to see how other state organizations ran their membership meetings and intrigued by local concerns, I have sat in on state membership meetings, listening to the debate and discussion about local and national issues. In Alaska, I was excited to see how the recent VIF topics were summarized by the Alaska delegates for AKVMA member discussion and review. It brought the VIF topics full circle. I look forward to the opportunity as District XI director to visit veterinarians personally, learn of their needs, their concerns for their profession and their concerns for themselves. How they see the AVMA today, and how they see this organization in the future. How the AVMA needs to balance the needs of the individual member with the needs of the profession and society.

I am excited to put my name into the hat for District XI Director of the AVMA for 2020-2026. I feel I have the skills and qualifications, time and certainly the interest, to serve our district and the AVMA well. It would be a tremendous opportunity.


Statement of reason for seeking office provided by the candidate.