Dr. Kate Crumley knew she wanted to become more involved with the American Animal Hospital Association after attending her first AAHA conference in 1998. She liked the vibe of the association as a group of problem solvers. In March, she assumed the office of AAHA president during the association’s 2014 conference.
The Georgia native originally had planned to become a physician, but she discovered as an undergraduate that she didn’t like being around sick people. She switched gears to pursue research in human medicine, but then she had to write her first grant proposal. Realizing that dogs were her passion, she finally decided to become a veterinarian.
Dr. Crumley received her veterinary degree from North Carolina State University in 1992. She became an associate and then a partner in a mixed animal practice in rural Franklin County, N.C., and went on to earn AAHA accreditation for the companion animal side of the business. In 2000, she and her partner built a second hospital across the county as an AAHA-accredited companion animal practice. She later took over the new Heartwood Animal Hospital, now a 2.2-doctor practice.
As a veterinary student, Dr. Crumley was president of her student chapter of AAHA. She later served on AAHA committees as well as the Leadership Council and board.
Dr. Crumley loves attending AAHA conferences. At her first conference, she overheard one attendee complaining about a problem, but another attendee shared solutions. She said, “I just want to be around people like this, that says it—lots of like-minded folks, want to do things right, want to do things well, not compromising, and having fun while doing it.”
Last year, AAHA streamlined its governance structure. The changes include reducing the size of the board from 14 to eight members and adjusting the terms to one one-year term with eligibility for a second two-year term and a third three-year term. Dr. Crumley believes leaders will have to serve more actively under the new structure.
As AAHA president, Dr. Crumley wants to focus on efforts to improve recognition by pet owners of the distinction of AAHA accreditation for practices.
She said, “I wear my logo and stuff when I’m on the airplane, and I have a dream that one day, I’m going to get on an airplane, and people are going to go, ‘Oh, AAHA! My vet’s in AAHA. I know what that is,’ instead of going, ‘AAHA? What’s that all about?’”
With her own practice, Dr. Crumley is excited about participating in a North American Business Association group through AAHA. NABA is an organization of veterinary practices that allows noncompeting practices to compare business and financial metrics.
The first NABA group started more than a decade ago, and NABA joined forces with AAHA a couple of years ago. Now there are five NABA groups of about six practices each.
“The whole goal is to teach us actually how to be entrepreneurial and to grow, not so much the number of people through the door, although that’s going to be part of it, but it’s to grow the value of our practices. It’s to help us be more profitable,” Dr. Crumley said. “That’s the ultimate goal, is to learn how to do what we weren’t taught to do and make ourselves do it in the trenches.”
Joining Dr. Crumley as AAHA officers are Drs. Tracey Jensen, Wellington, Colo., president-elect; Nancy Soares, Macungie, Pa., vice president; Hilary Mellor, Ottawa, Ontario, secretary-treasurer; and Kate Knutson, Bloomington, Minn., immediate past president.