Former AAHA director receives AVMA Award

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Dr. John W. Albers thought he would become a bench scientist, but he ended up in veterinary practice instead.

Later, he agreed to serve as interim executive director of the American Animal Hospital Association. He recently retired from AAHA after 23 years at the helm.

On July 19 at the AVMA Annual Convention, Dr. Albers accepted the AVMA Award for contributions to organized veterinary medicine—the AVMA's highest honor.

Dr. John W. Albers

Dr. Michael T. Cavanaugh, the current AAHA executive director, nominated Dr. Albers for the award. Dr. Cavanaugh noted in his nomination letter that Dr. Albers has participated in many key initiatives for the benefit of the profession

In the late '80s, Dr. Albers served on the panel that authored "Future Directions for Veterinary Medicine," on the delivery of veterinary education. In the late '90s, he participated in the comprehensive economic study on "The Current and Future Market for Veterinarians and Veterinary Medical Services in the United States" and the subsequent formation of the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues.

Specific to AAHA initiatives, Dr. Cavanaugh wrote: "Dr. Albers worked with many board members and committee members to make AAHA the outstanding, respected organization that it is today. The impact on the veterinary profession of the AAHA Standards of Accreditation, guidelines, position statements, and the output of numerous committees through the years is profound."

Starting out, Dr. Albers studied microbiology as an undergraduate student at Michigan State University. He went on to the veterinary college with the intention of becoming a bench scientist, but exposure to clinical practice changed his mind.

After earning his veterinary degree at MSU in 1967, Dr. Albers served briefly as an officer with the Army Veterinary Corps. His tour of duty included time at Fort Carson in Colorado and a posting in Korea.

Dr. Albers returned to Colorado and joined Anderson Animal Hospital in Denver as an associate, later becoming an owner. He also become involved in organized veterinary medicine in the area and then with AAHA.

When Dr. Albers was AAHA president-elect, the association's executive director moved the AAHA headquarters to Denver but then stepped down. Dr. Albers agreed to lead AAHA for a year as president and interim executive director. It turned out that he enjoyed being executive director, so he accepted a permanent position.

"I just really liked the engagement that I was getting into, in terms of a broader view of the profession," Dr. Albers said.

Each year, AAHA grew and pursued new opportunities. The association constructed its own building, conducted studies on the market for veterinary care, and established programs to provide products and services to members at a low cost and generate revenue for the association. Practice management became a focus for AAHA, Dr. Albers said, while accreditation of animal hospitals remained one of the association's main endeavors.

"Clinical education was always very important," Dr. Albers continued. "We made a lot of strides in that, from just having an annual convention for veterinarians but then expanding training to technicians and to front office staff and particularly the practice management."

Beyond the annual conference, AAHA began offering a variety of other in-person and online educational programs.

After Dr. Albers stepped down as AAHA executive director, he founded Albers Veterinary Strategies as a part-time consultation business. He has been consulting with veterinary companies and associations on development of new products and programs.

"How fortunate I am to have been involved in this profession," he said. "I have no complaints about my career. I would do every single bit of it over again if I could."

See this article for the recipient of the Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Practitioner of the Year Award. The Sept. 15 JAVMA News will feature career highlights of the recipients of other awards presented during the AVMA Annual Convention.