Tag Archives: VPI

Interview Series: Getting to Know Vetgirl’s Dr. Justine Lee

I recently had the opportunity to meet and network with Dr. Justine Lee, DACVECC, DABT, and creator of Vetgirl. vetgirl-on-the-runShe is truly a female, entrepreneurial veterinarian advancing our profession in all the right ways. Meeting her at AVMA Convention, along with the WVLDI workshop the day before inspired me to start an interview segment to my blog. I was hoping it would be less work than original material. Instead, I found myself editing and rejoicing in the abundant material her career provided. As a result, the first Veterinary Brainstorm Interview with Justine Lee will be broken into 2 parts:

Part 1: Getting to Know Vetgirl’s Dr. Justine Lee Continue reading Interview Series: Getting to Know Vetgirl’s Dr. Justine Lee

Students Interested in Practice Ownership: We Need You!


The Veterinary Pet Insurance –Veterinary Economics Financial Healthy study has highlighted many subtle, but concerning facets of our professions’ financial state on a personal level. Continue reading Students Interested in Practice Ownership: We Need You!

Never work a day in your life when you do something you love

When I was in veterinary school, I thought for sure, the second I was finished, I would feel that my new career was a dream come true and not actual work. While it was in many ways a dream come true, when I was first starting my internship I was in survival mode. When I started to practice after my internship, I was a little nervous and excited, but it still felt like work. Honestly, at times I would rather be hiking or kayaking, then be a veterinarian.

My recent position with VPI, presenting on how pet insurance works and can benefit the profession at the veterinary colleges, however is entirely different. No matter how tired I am when I leave for these quick trips, I return energized for days at a time. I love working with students. I absolutely had a blast presenting on a topic I believe in. There is no where else I would rather be.

The networking opportunities continue to expand as well. Just yesterday, I was asked by the dean of Western if my clinic would host externs. In addition, I have the opportunity to work with Dr. Jim Wilson, JD (http://www.pvmc.net/) who has made a career out of bringing business and legal acumen to the veterinary profession.

While I enjoy the challenge and caseload of emergency medicine and I look forward to my new position as clinic manager of an ER clinic, I cannot help but daydream about how to earn my entire income from helping veterinary students and advancing the profession.  For most of my life I have attacked any opportunity that has sparked my interest, which has led me down the path I am currently on. I am so excited to see how this journey unfolds, finally understanding how if you do something you love you will never work a day in your life; in fact you feel energized.

Quick Post: Top 10 Small Animal Conditions

While I am working on my internship guide blog series, I wanted to post a list of the Top 10 conditions for dogs and cats to quickly get in my weekly post. The list is compiled from Veterinary Pet Insurance Co. (VPI) based on their policy claims for 2012. It is important for pet owners and veterinarians to familiarize themselves with the most common medical conditions, most of which can occur in any pet.

Top 10 Canine Conditions:
1. Skin Allergies (my mixed breed dog has skin allergies, so breed selection won’t get you out of this one). average cost $96/visit
2. Ear Infection…good old otitis externa- also allergy related
3. Skin Infection
4. Non-cancerous Skin Growth- so dermatology is almost 50% of medical conditions in dogs…yup?!
5. Vomiting
6. Arthritis- average cost $260/visit
7. Diarrhea
8. Urinary Tract Infection
9. Dental Disease
10. Bruise or Contusion

Top 10 Feline Conditions:
1. Bladder Infection- I assume this is more likely urinary signs related to Feline Cystitis. Average claim cost $251/visit. This typically involves checking kidney values, x-rays to screen for bladder stones, a urinalysis and medications.
2. Dental Disease
3. Hyperthyroid- typically occurs in middle aged to older cats
4. Chronic Kidney Disease- typically occurs in middle aged to older cats
5. Vomiting
6. Diabetes Mellitus- typically occurs in middle aged to older overweight cats
7. Diarrhea
8. Skin Allergies- okay so not the top 4 but still very common in our kitties
9. Lymphoma (cancer)- can occur at any age and affect the GI tract, nervous system, lymph nodes
10. Upper Respiratory Tract Infection- usually due to herpesvirus, calicivirus or secondary bacterial infection.

Many of these issues are chronic and can be frustrating to treat if they recur. This would be a good list to share with new dog/cat owners and to remind frustrated clients currently treating these diseases. Luckily, because they are common new treatments are constantly being researched.

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.