From waiting tables to AAHA president

Published on April 29, 2015
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Jobs waiting tables and in biomedical research, plus a love of animals, led Dr. Tracey Jensen to her career in veterinary practice. Now she is the 2015-2016 president of the American Animal Hospital Association.

Starting out, Dr. Jensen spent several years working in biomedical research at the University of Colorado. To advance her career, she went on to study veterinary medicine at Colorado State University. All along, she waited tables to make extra money and because she liked working with people.

“I’ve always loved animals,” she added. “It wasn’t until I was in veterinary school that I made the connection between what we learn in the research lab and how that applies to day-to-day life.”

Dr. Jensen earned her veterinary degree in 1996 and returned to research at the University of Colorado. Her boss was a physician who thought good researchers needed a thorough understanding of clinical medicine, and he insisted she also take a job in practice. 

Dr. Tracey Jensen with one of her Labrador Retrievers (Photos by Marilyn Eudaly for AAHA)

Several years later, she and her veterinarian-husband moved to a small northern Colorado town with no animal hospital. Her husband, Dr. Wayne Jensen (Colorado State ’84), has had a career in academia and industry and with Morris Animal Foundation.

He urged her to open a practice, then helped her do so in 1999.

Wellington Veterinary Hospital has grown with the town of Wellington. The original hospital building was tiny and very old, so the practice completed a new facility in 2008 to earn AAHA accreditation.

Dr. Tracey Jensen has found that veterinary practice melds her passion for animals, medicine, and people.

“I can’t imagine doing anything else,” she said. “We help people with a very important part of their life, and it’s an important part of their life that can’t speak for itself.”

Along the way, Dr. Jensen became a diplomate in Canine and Feline Practice with the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners. After she settled in at her practice, she became more involved with AAHA and the ABVP. She is a regent-at-large with the ABVP Council of Regents. She also is a communications coach for veterinary students at Colorado State. 

Dr. Tracey Jensen, 2015-2016 AAHA president, walks with her Labrador Retrievers at her home in Wellington, Colorado.

As AAHA president, Dr. Jensen wants to publicize AAHA accreditation of animal hospitals. The association has created the Champions for Excellent Care campaign to assist accredited practices with promoting themselves.

Research by Trone Brand Energy found that most pet owners think all animal hospitals are accredited, like human hospitals are. The company concluded that word-of-mouth is the best way to spread the message about AAHA accreditation.

“The challenge that we face is, as veterinarians, we’re a pretty humble group of people,” Dr. Jensen said. “We do not brag on ourselves.” 

Currently, she said, “The biggest opportunity that veterinarians will take to explain AAHA is when the client’s leaving, moving out of state.” Then the veterinarian will connect the client with an accredited hospital. 

The Champions for Excellent Care campaign features a Publicity Toolbox for accredited hospitals. The toolbox includes logos, brochures, templates for business cards and notepads, Facebook banners and wall photos, templates for press releases, screen savers, and videos.

Also during her year as AAHA president, Dr. Jensen wants to support recent veterinary graduates in launching successful careers. With more organizations offering support to veterinary students, AAHA has shifted focus more to recent graduates. 
“We saw that as an opportunity for AAHA, a place where help is needed, to help grab those students as they come out of veterinary school and really give them the tools and the direction to form the foundation from which they will have a fulfilling career,” Dr. Jensen said.

​Dr. Nancy Soares (Photos by
Kimberly Lamb for AAHA)
Dr. Wendy Hauser​
Dr. Kate Crumley

Joining Dr. Jensen as AAHA officers are Drs. Nancy Soares, Macungie, Pennsylvania, president-elect; Wendy Hauser, Denver, vice president; Hilary Mellor, Ottawa, Ontario, secretary-treasurer; and Kate Crumley, Franklinton, North Carolina, immediate past president.