Three questions for … Minnesota VBMA’s Zach Loppnow

The school year has begun, and so I am resuming the popular “Three Questions for … ” series on veterinary students. I’m starting with Zach Loppnow, the Minnesota VBMA’s president. Before he graduates from the University of Minnesota’s College of Veterinary Medicine, he’ll serve as vice president of the National VBMA.

Welcome to my blog, Zach!

What drew you to veterinary medicine?

I had to figure it out the hard way: I started my undergraduate education as an engineer. After it became obvious that I was bad at upper-level calculus, I was not-so-kindly asked to pick a different career. It was at this point that I found veterinary medicine. I had grown up on a farm, and had been a steward of a variety of animals for the majority of my life.

I realized I needed a profession in which I was able to incorporate my life experiences, and my true passion for animal health. Veterinary medicine was the perfect match for that. I switched majors, and in two and a half years I brought my grades up to acceptable standards for veterinary school and was admitted to the University of Minnesota right after graduation. It has quite honestly been one of the best decisions I have made in my life, and I finally feel like I have found a profession that I can call home.

zach2Do you think new veterinarians will face different challenges than in previous generations and if so, what are you doing now to meet those challenges?

Veterinary medicine, to me, has always been a rapidly evolving and shifting profession. I think that every new generation faces different challenges than the generation previous, whether it is advancements in medicine, shifting pet owner demographics, or even how we practice that changes. For my generation in particular, I think the biggest challenge we are faced with is that in order to be successful, we cannot rely on our medicine alone. We must also be savvy business owners. A veterinarian who can practice great medicine and also knows the business management minutiae  is a veterinarian who is set up for success.

Recognizing that challenge, I and many of my peers have been working to improve our business acumen and knowledge through involvement in the Veterinary Business Management Association.

The VBMA has been actively trying to improve business education in schools across the nation, by providing students with the Business Certificate Program. This program really allows students to take charge of their business education, and to prepare themselves better than they ever have before for the challenges facing them in the industry. Personally, I chose to take the absolute fullest advantage of this organization that I could.

The leadership roles I have taken have provided me with invaluable opportunities for networking, education, and professional development. It is these opportunities that have prepared me for the challenges ahead.

Can you tell us one thing about you that would surprise your future veterinary colleagues?

As a student pursuing a career in equine medicine, I am entering a sector of the profession where “insurance” can be seen as a dirty word. The thing that I think surprises the most people, and especially my future colleagues, is that I have a deep seated passion for health insurance, and a dream to bring affordable, comprehensive health insurance to the equine industry.

I have seen the great things that pet health insurance has done for owners, pets, and practitioners in the small animal industry, and I believe that those benefits can translate to the equine world as well.

The landscape and culture of equine medicine has experienced a shift in our perception of the horse and the role it plays in our lives. When the recession hit, it became obvious that horses were not a “production” animal or “farm” animal as they had previously been defined. As numbers of horses coming into clinics dropped, it was clear that the horse was really a luxury item, and in many cases, a companion animal.

This shift from valuing a horse for its monetary value, and instead valuing it for an owner’s emotional connection with it, is what I see as a tremendous opportunity for practitioners and owners. They have a chance to use health insurance as a tool to help provide even better care for these animals that they love.