Entrepreneur takes top spot at NCVEI

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Howard Rubin
Howard Rubin

The National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues named as its chief executive officer Howard Rubin, formerly chief executive of Cardiopet Inc and divisional vice president at IDEXX Laboratories Inc.

A certified public accountant with an MBA degree, Rubin has worked in the animal health industry since the mid-'80s. The New York native was chief financial officer of Ashcroft Rubin Inc and director of GeneLink Australia Inc, the US branch of an Australian firm that developed a breeding hormone and delivery system for sheep and a formulated treatment for calf scours.

In 1988 Rubin led a buyout of Cardiopet Inc, which then grew into the largest provider of telemedical services in the animal health industry, with nearly 60 percent of US veterinarians using the services, along with practitioners in 20 foreign countries.

Within Cardiopet, Rubin built the Veterinary Referral Center in Little Falls, NJ. The center was one of the first for-profit multidisciplinary specialist and referral-only veterinary hospitals. Within four years, Veterinary Referral Center was among the fastest-growing veterinary hospitals in the country, penetrating more than 90 percent of its marketplace, covering 15 specialties, seeing 2,000 patients monthly.

In 1995 Rubin sold Cardiopet to IDEXX Laboratories, an international veterinary diagnostic company, where he signed on as a divisional vice president while remaining president of Cardiopet.

Rubin has been a member of the board of trustees of The Animal Medical Center in New York City since 1992. The center is a nonprofit research and educational institute and the largest private veterinary hospital in the United States.

Dr. Janet Donlin, AVMA associate executive vice president, served as interim CEO while the commission searched for a permanent replacement.

Dr. Michael Paul, chairman of the search committee, said, "We had a number of very good qualified candidates but Mr. Rubin presented a better fit for our needs.

"Rubin's entrepreneurial background, [and] career in management, finance, and building veterinary and animal health businesses provide him with a unique perspective on the challenges facing the veterinary profession."

Rubin said he is excited about the mission of the NCVEI, recognizing the commission as a unique entity with a singular purpose.

His firsthand experience with the business side of veterinary medicine has engendered empathy for veterinarians confronting the economic challenges highlighted in the Megastudy. Rubin believes his being a nonveterinarian will bring an additional dimension and a different perspective to the position.

"I have spent the last 15 years communicating with and serving the needs of my veterinary customers. I have worked shoulder to shoulder with veterinarians helping them confront and solve the issues that concern them day in and day out," Rubin said. "It will not be easy to achieve the goals of the national commission, but veterinarians will need to see, over time, that we can produce results."

While with GeneLink Australia Inc, Rubin became familiar with foreign markets and gained an understanding of the opportunities in the global economy for veterinarians working with the nation's agriculture industry.

As CEO, Rubin said one of the initial goals of the commission is setting measurable objectives promoting economic success and job satisfaction. These objectives will come out of the work groups that are focusing on such issues as veterinary skills and attitudes, gender equality, and efficiency of the delivery system (see JAVMA, Oct 15, 2000, page 1127).

But he's quick to note that desired results are not just financial but will include higher quality care for animals and improved practice standards.

Still, the greatest challenge facing the NCVEI is raising the all-important economic base of the profession.

"It's easy to talk about raising the economic base of veterinary medicine. It's very difficult to figure out how you're going to do it," Rubin said. "It's a tremendous challenge, and it would be presumptuous of me to sit here and say that I have all the answers."

Rubin believes communication with the various constituents inside the profession is a key part of his job, as is rallying them around the goals the commission brings forward.

Regarding his feelings about assuming the chief executive officership of a relatively new corporation, Rubin recognizes the expectations and is confident he is up to the task.

"I have spent most of my career in entrepreneurial pursuits—buying and selling businesses, and building veterinary and animal health business, so I understand the risks of any new activity; there is pressure to be effective and to perform.

"The commission in its work so far has done a terrific job in identifying issues and opportunities and now it's time to turn these into deliverable action steps that will improve the quality of medicine and the economic base of veterinarians—that's what makes it exciting."