AAHA president works to raise association's profile

Students, public are focus of association's outreach
Published on May 15, 2008
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Dr. Anna E. Worth, the new president of the American Animal Hospital Association, plans on spending her time in office educating the public and the next generation of veterinarians about the value of practice accreditation.
She will also continue shepherding along the many AAHA initiatives still in the works, such as mentoring guidelines for practice owners and recent graduates, and standardized electronic health records.
Dr. Anna E. Worth
Dr. Anna E. Worth

Dr. Worth first participated in AAHA more than 25 years ago when she and her husband, Dr. Bob Bergman, bought a clinic, now located in Bennington, Vt. The practice has been AAHA-accredited much of that time, and today employs five veterinarians and provides care for companion animals and llamas.

A 1978 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Worth has devoted much of her career to improving animal welfare. She's worked closely with animal shelters and sat on the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy. She was also a member of Vermont's task force for dealing with animal cruelty and abuse, and is a former president of the Society for Veterinary Medical Ethics.

"A lot of what we're going to be talking to students about is why we have standards and the guidelines. We want them to understand that what we're trying to do is lead the profession and elevate the care of animals."


The AAHA is another of Dr. Worth's passions, especially the association's accreditation standards, which, she says, benefit not just patients but the entire practice team. "The most important thing about accreditation is what it does for you internally and what it does for you as a practice," she said.

AAHA is doing more to tell the public about the value of its accreditation standards, including a major public relations campaign kicking off later this year. "We're trying to stay ahead of the curve and utilize what's out there in the marketplace to promote AAHA and what we have to offer," Dr. Worth said.

Part of that focus includes veterinary students—a subject near and dear to Dr. Worth's heart. She spent fours years as an AAHA Student Advocate for Tufts School of Veterinary Medicine. The association, she said, has to stand out among all the organizations competing for students' attention and show them the value of being an AAHA member.

"We're working at having our student memberships be stronger," Dr. Worth explained. The AAHA, for instance, offers student members help with time management, financial planning, and stress management. There's also a job bank for newly graduated veterinarians as well as information about externships and summer jobs.

"A lot of what we're going to be talking to students about is why we have standards and the guidelines," Dr. Worth said. "We want them to understand that what we're trying to do is lead the profession and elevate the care of animals."

Another initiative aimed at helping recent graduates along with practice owners is AAHA's mentoring guidelines, which were recently approved by the board of directors and are due out soon.

The benefits of mentoring work both ways, according to Dr. Worth. While the mentee learns valuable knowledge and builds experience, the mentor gains a motivated employee engaged in the practice. "Students are asking for this—for an employer who cares about their needs and understands where they're coming from, and will make time for them," she said.

Dr. Worth hopes mentoring will soon become part of the accreditation standards. "This where we need to be as a profession," she said.

An area where AAHA hopes to help clients choosing the right pet insurance is the association's Seal of Acceptance program. Insurance companies that meet certain AAHA criteria, such as providing catastrophic coverage and allowing the client to choose the veterinary care provider, will receive the AAHA seal, Dr. Worth explained.

The goal of the Seal of Acceptance program is to help clients financially plan for the medical needs of their pets. "The idea is to help pet owners make educated decisions regarding the quality of their pet care," she said.

Dr. Worth is also looking forward to the eventual standardization of electronic health records at AAHA practices. The association recently hosted a summit of computer vendors to pull it all together. Dr. Worth believes the first of the standardized diagnostic codes will be introduced later this year.

"I think it's going to be great for the profession," Dr. Worth said. "This will help veterinary practices get a handle on disease incidents and also help practice owners better understand the level of client compliance." 

Other officers

The AAHA introduced its 2008-2009 board of directors, including four new members. They are Drs. John Tait, Islington, Ontario, Canada., president-elect; Greg Takashima, Lake Oswego, Ore., vice president; and G. Timothy Lee, Anderson, Ind., secretary-treasurer.