Advocate for animal hospitals wins AVMA Award

Updated August 11, 2022

Along with his love for animals, improving the practice and the economics of veterinary medicine is a passion for Dr. Link Welborn.

Dr. Welborn (Florida ’82), owner of six animal hospitals in Tampa, Florida—all accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association—accepted The AVMA Award July 30 during the keynote at AVMA Convention 2022 in Philadelphia. The award recognizes contributions to the advancement of veterinary medicine in its organizational aspects.

Dr. Welborn
Dr. Link Welborn (Photo by Sara Beugen)

Nominating Dr. Welborn for the award were Dr. José Arce, 2021-22 AVMA president, and Dr. Douglas Kratt, 2021-22 AVMA immediate past president. In their nomination letter, they wrote of Dr. Welborn, “His service to the AVMA with advocacy and industry partners has been paramount in our advances in animal health, and the economics of veterinary medicine.”

Dr. Welborn grew up on a small farm in Florida with pets and food animals. He said, “I was fascinated by the care provided by veterinarians, and when I had the chance to work in an animal hospital in high school, I was hooked.”

He earned his veterinary degree in 1982 from the University of Florida. Five years later, he and a classmate purchased an existing hospital. In 1988, he became a diplomate of the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners in canine and feline practice.

“The other hospitals were added over the years as opportunities arose,” Dr. Welborn said. “I’m particularly pleased that with the two latest practices, we enabled young associates to become full partners.”

Dr. Welborn developed an interest in organized veterinary medicine as a student. He has been very active with the American Animal Hospital Association, including serving as 2003-04 president.

“Organized veterinary medicine provides opportunities to join with colleagues to broaden our reach beyond those we can touch through our daily work and have a positive influence on veterinarians, those they work with, as well as the animals and people for which they care,” he said.

Along with running his practices, Dr. Welborn is CEO of Veterinary Management Groups, a professional membership organization for practice owners who want to improve the business side of their practice. Having been involved with VMG for more than 20 years, he has seen thousands of practices benefit from the peer-based learning environment provided by the organization.

He said his most fulfilling experiences were participating in the creation of a standardized chart of accounts from AAHA and VMG and the establishment of the AAHA-Accredited Veterinary Management Groups for AAHA-accredited hospitals, as well as chairing the task force that performed the last major revision of the AAHA standards of accreditation and developed the current system that recognizes that practices can achieve excellence in different ways.

Dr. Welborn was the first chair of the AVMA Veterinary Economics Strategy Committee and served on the committee from 2012-18. He helped spearhead the development of the VSG/AVMA Principles of Veterinary Data Ownership & Stewardship.

He has served as AAHA delegate to the AVMA House of Delegates and as AAHA representative to the World Small Animal Veterinary Association. He was a member of the AAHA Canine Vaccination Guidelines Task Force since its inception in 2002 and served as chair from 2010-20. He was a contributing reviewer for the 2019 AAHA Canine Life Stage Guidelines.

Along with his other roles, he is currently chief veterinary officer for North America with Covetrus, which provides veterinary products, software, and services, and a Veterinary Innovation Council board member.

“Over the last 40 years, I’ve been privileged to participate in numerous collaborative efforts with an unwavering focus on win-win outcomes for all the stakeholders in the veterinary profession,” Dr. Welborn said. “This emphasis on not only the best interests of veterinarians but also on the welfare of the animals and people for which we care is integral to what makes ours the greatest profession.”

A version of this article appears in the August 2022 print issue of JAVMA.