Young leader becomes AAFP president

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Dr. Lauren E. Demos is taking the lead as president of the American Association of Feline Practitioners just five years out of veterinary school.

Dr. Demos
Dr. Lauren E. Demos

As 2017 AAFP president, Dr. Demos emphasizes the message that any veterinarian who sees a cat is a feline practitioner. As a young leader in the profession, she wants to see every veterinarian get involved in veterinary associations.

Growing up in Green Bay, Wisconsin, she thought about becoming a veterinarian. In 2005, she earned her undergraduate degree from Northern Illinois University in jazz performance and acoustical physics. She moved to Alaska and became a veterinary clinic receptionist, then a veterinary technician. She went overseas to earn her veterinary degree in 2012 from Murdoch University in Perth, Australia.

“I’ve always liked learning. I like the constant pursuit of making oneself better. So I really like thinking in that scientific mindset, and questioning and challenging things that are handed to you, and looking for inaccuracies,” Dr. Demos said. “And I really want to help people, and I really want to help pets, and I really like teaching.”

When she was in Alaska, she worked in emergency medicine and helped with sled dogs. She didn’t see a lot of cats, but she felt drawn to cats. She even took the two cats she had in Illinois with her to Alaska and Australia.

“I’ve always felt this attraction to cats,” she said. “They’re a little bit more of an elusive species to work on. I think they don’t like to give up their secrets easily. And there’s something that’s really appealing about having to really work a little bit harder and think a little bit differently to approach medicine.”

Dr. Demos practiced at a feline clinic in Wisconsin for a year before joining Exclusively Cats Veterinary Hospital in Waterford, Michigan. She is completing a residency in the Feline Practice specialty with the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners.

In 2013, she represented the AAFP as an emerging leader at the AVMA Veterinary Leadership Conference. She helped create an internship on the AAFP board and then served in that position. She stayed on as a board member and then became president-elect.

Among other activities, she serves on a task force for young professionals for the Michigan Veterinary Medical Association. She said, “It’s really, really critical that people, not only of any year of graduation from veterinary medicine, but even more so, people that are recent graduates like myself, that we’re engaged, because the profession is so much so at the precipice of a lot of issues.”

Dr. Demos said the membership of the AAFP is growing partly as a result of the association’s Cat Friendly Practice program and also because the association provides high-quality tools and continuing education.

She said the CFP program is making headway in getting the word out that cats are not small dogs but have their own needs. In another effort, the AAFP offers free toolkits to veterinary and veterinary technology students about working with cats.

Challenges that impact new veterinarians also will impact veterinary associations such as the AAFP, Dr. Demos said. Not the least of these is the increasing student debt, one of the financial challenges that could affect the ability of veterinarians to join associations and attend conferences.

Dr. Demos said, “Whether it’s your local VMA or an international or a national organization, I really want to see people being involved. I think that the only way we direct and change our profession is to stick your foot in, stick your hand up, and say, ‘I’m going to do something today to try to find new solutions.’”

Joining Dr. Demos as AAFP officers for 2017 are Drs. Paula Monroe-Aldridge, Tulsa, Oklahoma, president-elect; Colleen Currigan, Chicago, immediate past president; and Roy B. Smith, Round Rock, Texas, treasurer

Dr. Monroe-Aldridge
Dr. Paula Monroe-Aldridge
Dr. Currigan
Dr. Colleen Currigan
Dr. Smith
Dr. Roy B. Smith

Related JAVMA content:

Creating cat-friendly practices, homes, and shelters (Jan. 15, 2017)