Independent Contractor …on the side

I mentioned in my prior entry that I have started training to become a part-time field representative for VPI (Veterinary Pet Insurance). This position has completely reinvigorated my passion for the veterinary profession on many levels, so I think it deserves its own blog post. Some of you may be wondering, did I sell my soul to industry or why do i need a second job? The answers to those questions are no I have not sold my soul, but inspired it. I don’t need a second job, but who turns down free travel and some extra money.  The real reason I sought this position is the intangibles, and they are plentiful.

Over three years ago I was granted a one week externship with VPI in their headquarters in Brea, CA. VPI is the oldest pet insurance company and one of the most reputable. Having a business background, I thought it was important to stay in tune with that knowledge and apply it to veterinary medicine. I was also moved by my initial encounter with VPI. VPI has a department dedicated to their veterinary college program. The company sponsors some of the best veterinary business and legal speakers at the veterinary colleges, including materials, speaker fees, and lunch.  In return they give a one hour speech on how pet insurance works with a few slides about VPI specifically. The presentation focuses on what is pet insurance and why is it important. It also lists all the major players, not just VPI, and encourages students to do their research and select some companies to recommend to clients. Most importantly, it sparks a discussion about pet insurance with the goal to make the future generation less afraid.

Most students think insurance is bad, waste of money, and that it will dictate how we provide care for our patients. They leave the presentation understanding that it is insurance, so you may not make money from it, but it provides protection for those numerous small and sometimes one time large vet bills.  More importantly clients are more compliant and see the vet more often if they have pet insurance, so it raises the standard of care for our patients. We even discuss veterinary school debt and that insurance is one of the solutions in this multi-factorial puzzle (a separate post will address the student debt problem).  I am obviously passionate about the presentation, but the truth was in the experience. When I saw this presentation given by a general practitioner,  not a VPI employee, I was blown away; I wanted to inspire other students in the same way in the future.

I have been to two vet schools now observing the presentation and the students are engaged and understand the importance. They are excited about this new tool and the energy is contagious.

VPI is also a major sponsor of the VBMA (Veterinary Business Management Association), a student-run organization that believes in providing a business foundation for future veterinarians. As a student, I was very active with this organization on the local and national level, and I miss it. In this position, I now engage in a dinner with the VBMA Chapter officers and have first hand knowledge of how the organization is evolving, Furthermore, if I continue with this position I will be a part of the National VBMA meeting as a clinician.  In fact, this position was open because the VBMA has instituted a formal business certificate for veterinary students and the VPI presentation constitutes 1 credit hour, so the requests for presentations has grown, which is where I come in.

During my VPI externship I met with the veterinary medical director and I strongly expressed my interest in presenting to the colleges in the future. She told me, “finish school, get settled in practice, call me.”  With my career becoming settled and my desire to have a broader impact, I reached out. My networking paid off and I now have a side position that allows me to interact with students and the VBMA again, and creates a path for a future in organized veterinary medicine, and perhaps even industry.

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