Remembering Dr. Tom Kendall, a practitioner who honored his profession

(Tom passed away on March 2. His wife, Dianne, posted a lovely and sad goodbye to him on his CaringBridge page, here. This is an updated post from last week.)

The Western Veterinary Conference came and went in blast of meetings for me and “Hello! How can we help your practice thrive?” for our booth team. Dr. Kerry O’Hara, our director of research and strategic planning, joined me in presenting our Nationwide ® | Purdue Veterinary Price Index to a room full of industry leaders at the Animalytics Senior Executive Forum.

It was, by all accounts, a very good conference. And yet, news about the declining health of Dr. Tom Kendall set a sad tone for many of us, starting at a VetPartners meeting I attended just before WVC and continuing through the entire conference.

That sense of sadness is keenly felt at VPI. You see, Tom was one of the original shareholders of the company, a practitioner who came to believe that in order to better serve his patients and his clients there needed to be more options to help pay for veterinary care. From the founding of VPI, the nation’s first pet health insurance company, and issuing of policies in California alone and then nationwide (the first went to Lassie, true story), a foundation for an entire industry was set in place.

KendallfamToday VPI is the largest provider of pet insurance and a Nationwide® company, offering more than pet health insurance to pet owners and veterinarians. Dr. Kendall is still a member of our Veterinary Advisory Board. I’ve known and admired Tom for as long as I’ve been at VPI, and in fact long before that, when I was a veterinary student at the University of California, Davis.  He has also served in leadership positions in our professional organizations at regional, state and national levels, and is president of the California Veterinary Medical Board. Although Tom’s practice is in Sacramento, Calif., his roots are far to the east, and he is a proud graduate of the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine.

With all that going on, he also made time to volunteer care for the pets of homeless people in his community, a story told in this wonderful Sacramento Bee article from 2012.

If all that sounds as if it should be more past than present tense, there’s a reason, as I alluded to above.  Many of us learned last November from Tom himself that he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. (Do click on the link. Even at his time of greatest challenge, Tom had something important to say that we all need to hear.)

He is now in hospice care.

Here is a post on Caring Bridge that was written by the VetPartners president,
Shelley Johnson, BS, CVPM, at our meeting just before WVC:

Yesterday, at the 2015 Annual Meeting, our Membership collectively honored and celebrated the many, many important contributions Tom has made over the years for the veterinary profession and the advancement of practice management by awarding VetPartner’s highest recognition: The Distinguished Life Award. His friends and colleagues at VetPartners respectfully and whole-heartedly thank him for his work, wisdom and dedication for continuously advocating and advancing the profession through collaboration, integrity, community, and responsibility. Tom, you were in the room with us! You’ve embraced us, the profession and countless pet parents, employees and students over the years. You have inspired and lead in exemplary ways. Thank you doesn’t seem like enough. How about a collective virtual hug and many warm smiles? We love you.

I write this post with tears in my eyes. In my note to Tom, I wrote:

You have no idea what a profound impact you have had on me, and on fellow UC Davis veterinary school graduates over the years — actually, over the decades!! I graduated 20 years ago, and I have such strong memories of your generous contribution to the profession as a whole, and to students in particular. Thank you for providing such a significant guiding light for us all. You leave a tremendous legacy, having touched the lives of thousands of colleagues, clients and pets. We all love you so, so much.

(Here’s the link to Tom’s page on Caring Bridge)

(Cover and top image from The Sacramento Bee. Lower image from Tom’s Caring Bridge page.)