With the first National VBMA Alumni Conference coming up this weekend, I’m delighted and honored to highlight Dr. Meghan Wood, whose idea as a veterinary student became the National VBMA. Her story is a great way to share the history of how the amazing organization was born!
As a rising second-year student at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in the Summer of 2004, Meghan called me to explain that she had written a “business plan” with the idea of creating a national student-driven organization. The purpose of this organization would be to bring additional practice management educational opportunities to veterinary campuses across the country. I remember being incredibly impressed with the voice of this veterinary student who was so engaged, passionate and entrepreneurial. (And, a bit shocked that she had already summarized her idea into a written document.) Her next step: She needed sponsorship from veterinary industry professionals.
I quickly read her business plan and agreed that it outlined a potentially viable solution to an complex, multi-faceted problem that deans at veterinary schools had been struggling with for years. So, I called her back, and said “How much money do you need?” In hindsight, I believe that single decision, to help sponsor the creation of the National VBMA, is the best decision I’ve made as a veterinary industry professional.
Fast forward to today: Nicole Numbers and I are so proud to be part of the National VBMA’s story. It has brought us great personal joy to have crossed paths with so many young, talented and energetic members of our veterinary profession. We salute Dr, Wood, and the 15 years of National and Chapter VBMA Officers who have made the organization what it is today!
What inspired you to start the National VBMA when you were a first-year student at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine?
I spearheaded the National VBMA movement in response to what I believed to be an unacceptable gap in financial and business education for veterinary students incurring six figure debts with median income prospects that skewed the debt to salary ratio in the wrong direction. Coming from an entrepreneurial family, I also wanted to open students’ eyes to the opportunities as a veterinarian that exist beyond medicine. We succeeded in bringing business education to veterinary students. There is substantial work left to be done in closing the debt to income ratio.
How did you grow the National VBMA from UPenn to other veterinary schools?
The growth of the VBMA was and remains student-driven. I traveled to seven veterinary schools to give a presentation called “Why Business Education is Important” with the goal of generating excitement. In each of those trips, meetings and brainstorming sessions were held with students and faculty members who wanted to start a VBMA chapter at their school. We supported each chapter by providing them a framework from which to grow the chapter, funding for events, and connections with other VBMA leaders. Once it got momentum, it just took off.
Is there anything about the VBMA’s tremendous success today that surprises you?
It surprises me that we are able to completely turn our leadership team over every year and not lose much ground in moving the organization forward. This is also the case with the AVMA or AAHA, but in those organizations, key leaders come through a path of ascension that can take years and there are other leadership and administrative roles that remain very constant over time. It likely introduced an element of vulnerability early on but I believe we have succeeded in making leadership turnover an asset by injecting new ideas and new passions into the organization every year.
Thank you, Dr. Wood! So proud of you!