Communicating the value of feline medicine

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Dr. Smith and Jennifer Alden examining a cat
Dr. Roy Brenton Smith and hospital manager Jennifer Alden work with a cat at Central Texas Cat Hospital in Round Rock. (Courtesy of Dawn Shepherd)

In his 50th year in practice, Dr. Roy Brenton Smith is all about communicating value.

He particularly wants to communicate with clients about the value of feline veterinary care and to communicate with veterinarians about the value of the American Association of Feline Practitioners. He will have a platform for his message as AAFP president in 2013.

Dr. Smith came to veterinary medicine early and to feline practice later. He always wanted to be a veterinarian, and he started working at an animal hospital at age 14. He earned his veterinary degree from Oklahoma State University in 1962.

“Back then, we didn’t have feline-only practices,” Dr. Smith said. “But in the back of my mind, I always wanted to end my career being a feline-only practitioner.”

Dr. Smith began his career in mixed animal practice, then went into small animal practice. He built four practices, and the fourth was a feline-only practice.

He has since sold his other practices to focus on his feline-only practice, Central Texas Cat Hospital in Round Rock. Feline medicine is very challenging and very gratifying, he said.

Dr. Smith long has seen value in organized veterinary medicine. He was treasurer of the Texas VMA for 20 years, a founding member of the Texas Veterinary Medical Foundation, and president of the Texas Academy of Veterinary Practice. He is a past director of the American Veterinary Medical Foundation. He is a current member of the AVMA Animal Welfare Committee, representing the AAFP.

As AAFP president, Dr. Smith plans to promote the association’s new Cat Friendly Practice Program. He said the program is increasing awareness of the value of the AAFP, contributing to growth in membership.

Dr. Smith’s practice has earned certification as a cat-friendly practice at the gold level.

“For even your average dog-and-cat practice, there are some adjustments that need to be made, but they’re not insurmountable,” Dr. Smith said. “It just makes good sense to do the things to make it easier to get cat owners to bring cats into the practice and for the cats to have a good experience while they’re at the practice.”

Dr. Smith believes veterinarians need to communicate their value to clients.

“Be sure you stop, talk to the client, explain what you’re doing, explain what you’re doing in (the) exam, explain what you’re finding, explain why you want to do the lab tests and the value of the lab tests, go into detail explaining about your treatment options,” he said.

He added, “Trying to get the client to communicate back sometimes can be difficult, but we have to keep trying.”

In other roles, Dr. Smith serves on the board of the Veterinary Information Network and has served as a director of the Austin Humane Society.

His wife, Sheila, and he maintain the Shadow Cats sanctuary. The sanctuary houses about 100 cats with medical problems and other issues.

“It’s a lifelong commitment for each cat,” Dr. Smith said.