Leading AAHA in a time of change

Published on May 10, 2017

Becoming a veterinarian was the natural path for Dr. Mark McConnell, but he came later to his appreciation of the American Animal Hospital Association.

Dr. McConnell assumed the office of AAHA president during the association’s annual meeting, March 31-April 2 in Nashville, Tennessee. His term coincides with major changes to the association’s membership model and annual meeting.

He grew up in the state of New York in an outdoorsy family, in a house that was a menagerie. The youngest of five, Dr. McConnell has two older brothers also who became veterinarians.

He never had an epiphany about his career choice, but he truly didn’t know what else he would do. He loved science, working with animals, and helping people. Scottish by blood, he earned his veterinary degree in 1992 from the University of Glasgow School of Veterinary Medicine in Glasgow, Scotland.

He spent a year at a mixed animal practice in Southern California before joining the Emergency Veterinary Hospital in Springfield, Oregon. He and another veterinarian bought the practice in 2006, turned it 24/7, and added more veterinarians.

“I am passionate about emergency medicine,” Dr. McConnell said. “I like not knowing what’s coming in the door next. I like the challenges of emergency medicine. I learn something about myself every shift.”

Along the way, Dr. McConnell attended an AAHA conference and thought, “These guys really know what they’re doing.” His practice earned AAHA accreditation in 2008. He joined the AAHA board as a director in 2015.

“When I was a younger veterinarian, I never thought I would be involved with organized veterinary medicine. At the time, I was very focused on honing my own skills, providing excellent client service,” Dr. McConnell said. “As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that organized veterinary medicine has made me a better veterinarian.”

Dr. Mark McConnell at his practice, Emergency Veterinary Hospital in Springfield, Oregon (Courtesy of American Animal Hospital Association)

His involvement has allowed him to confer with colleagues about the practice of veterinary medicine as well as to see the profession from a 30,000-foot view.

“I’ve learned that veterinary medicine is a huge part of our society and a huge part of our culture,” he said.

In addition to his involvement with AAHA, Dr. McConnell is a member and past chair of the Oregon Veterinary Medical Examining Board and currently serves on two committees for the American Association of Veterinary State Boards.

During Dr. McConnell’s term as president of AAHA, the association is discontinuing hospital membership for nonaccredited practices. The association also is discontinuing the traditional annual meeting in favor of an interactive conference for attendees from accredited hospitals, plus offerings at the annual conference of the North American Veterinary Community. 

“AAHA is very proud of its reputation for veterinary excellence, and the association continually strives to be a leader in the profession,” Dr. McConnell said. “We were trying to be too many things to too many people.”

He said the association is focusing on accredited hospitals, supporting members by providing tools for a thriving practice culture. Dr. McConnell would love for AAHA-accredited hospitals to be known for not only providing great medicine but also being the best hospitals to work in.

As AAHA president, Dr. McConnell furthermore will continue to participate in the Champions for Excellent Care program to help accredited hospitals promote themselves to pet owners.

Dr. Darren Taul ​Dr. Guylaine Charette Dr. Nancy Soares

Joining Dr. McConnell as AAHA officers are Drs. Darren Taul, Lancaster, Kentucky, president-elect; Guylaine Charette, Pembroke, Ontario, vice president; Nancy Soares, Macungie, Pennsylvania, immediate past president; and Dermot Jevens, Greenville, South Carolina, secretary-treasurer.  

Related JAVMA content:

AAHA narrows its focus to accredited hospitals (June 1, 2017)