Earlier this year, the VetBilling® team convened our inaugural meeting with our newly formed Board of Advisors. The purpose of the Advisory Board is to assist our leadership team in shaping and guiding the growth of VetBilling® as we pursue strategies for improving financial access to veterinary care in the United States.
VetBilling® set out to remedy this painfully persistent problem by giving veterinarians a systematic way to return to offering in-house payment plans that are contract-based, require automatic payments from pet owners, and are completely managed by our staff of payment specialists. To date, VetBilling’s payment plan and budgeting tools — including pre-payment plans, pet savings accounts, subscription plans, and wellness plan payment management — are offered by over 2,200 veterinarians in all 50 states.
Despite our success thus far, our team recognizes that the ongoing problem of financial access to care demands a holistic approach, so we assembled an outside team to help guide us in our future development. Our Advisory Board has deep and diverse experience not just in the veterinary profession, but in animal welfare, economics, law, psychology, non-profits and the media.
We have always believed that a collaborative approach is necessary to address the systemic inequalities that result in significant cost barriers to veterinary care. The expertise and passion that our Advisory Board members bring to the table is helping us cultivate partnerships and alliances that will yield creative and sustainable solutions to the problem of access to care.
Meet the Advisory Board (individual bios are below photo:)
Michael Dicks, Ph.D.
Mike Dicks is currently the president of AE Consulting and is the Chief Data Human at Erupt LLC, a veterinary research and outreach firm. He is also the Chief Economic Advisor at Calico Financial, where he assists in developing financial tools for the improvement of veterinary practice financial performance. From 2013 – 2018, Mike served as the Director of Veterinary Economics at the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association), where he implemented an extensive data analytics program with the goal of improving the profitability of veterinary practices and improving the quality of care delivered to all animals.
Mike’s decision to join VetBilling’s Board of Advisors hinged on his knowledge of “many pieces of research [that] paint a picture of a major problem in the vet profession – affordability of care. This is the source of many of the profession’s problems from mental health to untreated pets. I think VetBilling® is one of many opportunities to find solutions to the affordability of care…
“VetBilling is on a path that is innovative and requires others to change. This is the long game, one that will provide satisfaction in building a path that others can follow. This is the path that I saw when I decide to accept the board position. I appreciate any opportunity to champion the cause of increasing the affordability of pet health care and feel that VetBilling® is one of those opportunities.”
Carrie has been a veterinary practice manager for over 22 years, and since 2008 she has led the team at Lake Road Animal Hospital and Kennel in Horseheads, NY, a three doctor, full service hospital. Lake Road Animal Hospital has been a VetBilling® partner since 2015. Carrie’s decision to join the Board of Advisors was based on her practice’s experience with VetBilling®:
“I agreed to participate [on the Advisory Board] because I saw such incredible results in our practice when we implemented VetBilling® payment plans. Offering a payment plan when presenting an estimate for service dramatically increased acceptance of our doctor’s recommendations. In addition, we saw a remarkable change within our team toward empathy and compassion for our clients. And our clients have responded VERY positively to that, allowing our team and pet parents to become PARTNERS in pet care rather than adversaries. Negative reviews have all but ceased and our team experienced zero turnover. All veterinary practice leaders need to know the power VetBilling can have to affect revenue growth, decrease expenses resulting from staff turnover, and create a new joy for working in veterinary medicine.”
Mike is the veterinary practice manager and co-owner of Healthy Pet Veterinary Clinic in Madison, WI, along with his wife, Dr. Carla Christman, who serves as medical director. The busy four doctor practice focuses on cultivating long-lasting relationships with clients, and client education is an important component of that. Healthy Pet Veterinary Clinic became a VetBilling® partner in 2016. The clinic’s overarching philosophy for all their client interactions is “we’re here for you,” and offering payment and budgeting solutions through VetBilling® naturally fits with their ethos. Based on the success his clinic has had with VetBilling®, Mike has been a strong advocate for the company in the many veterinary professional organizations in which he is a participant, and he says he was proud to be given the opportunity to be a part of VetBilling’s Board of Advisors.
John Owens, M.A., J.D.
John is an attorney whose solo practice in Gambrills, MD, focuses on veterinary law, as well as small business and entrepreneurial law. He is married to a practicing veterinarian, and together he and his wife are former owners of a veterinary emergency practice in Florida. John holds a leadership position in VetPartners, a nonprofit association comprised of hundreds of specialists dedicated to serving and supporting the veterinary profession. He is also actively involved in the American Veterinary Medical Law Association, having served as President and Vice President and a district director. John is a frequent and popular speaker at business events and veterinary conferences across the country.
Carol is the founder and Executive Director of Brown Dog Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to reducing the frequency of economic euthanasia by providing charitable grants for life-saving veterinary care. Brown Dog was established in 2006 and has supported over 1,200 families since its founding.
In a unique and first-of-its-kind partnership, VetBilling® and Brown Dog joined forces in 2016 to create a more sustainable solution for helping families manage the cost of veterinary care. That solution consists of extending VetBilling® payment plans to select grant recipients, allowing them the opportunity to pay back the grant, whereby Brown Dog then recoups a significant portion of its limited resources. Because many of Brown Dog’s grant recipients are simply illiquid (they can’t pay the full cost of an unexpected veterinary expense upfront, but are well equipped to pay over time), this is a practical approach that helps preserve Brown Dog’s resources and prevents the organization from having to rely solely on constant fundraising to replenish its coffers. (For more on this unique partnership please see our blog post “The Power of Partnership: VetBilling® and Brown Dog Foundation.”)
Currently, Carol and VetBilling® co-founder Suzanne Cannon are working on bringing awareness of the benefits of this partnership to other non-profits that provide grants for veterinary care, and are developing a blueprint that similar 501(c)3 animal welfare organizations can use to implement a repayment program.
Christine is the founder of the Maryland-based non-profit Rescue Well. Together with her team, she has answered over 100,000 crisis calls and over 25,000 re-home requests from pet owners who are facing economic euthanasia or the surrender of a pet because they lack immediate financial resources. She is also the founder of the Coalition of Outreach and Rescues (CORE), a collective of over 125 organizations that serve to place and keep pets in safe and healthy homes.
Christine chose to become a member of VetBilling’s Board of Advisors “because I feel so strongly about finding realistic solutions to end economic surrender and euthanasia. I joined this Board because I wanted to provide insight, support, or whatever is needed to ensure that VetBilling® is offered to every pet owner in need. We all know the challenges that owners face when finances stand in the way of caring for a companion. Having more options for the many pet owners that call our hotline daily is a win for veterinarians, owners, and pets.”
Julie Squires, BA, CCFS
Julie is a Certified Compassion Fatigue Specialist and Certified Life Coach who brings a unique perspective and approach to sustaining the energy and passion of those exposed to the highly stressful and emotionally charged environment of veterinary medicine. Her company, Rekindle LLC, offers on-site seminars, workshops, online courses and private one-on-one coaching, and was developed to help veterinary and animal welfare professionals maintain a sense of well-being and prioritize their mental and emotional health.
Julie agreed to become a member of VetBilling’s Advisory Board because she recognizes that client financial limitations are an enormous stressor for veterinary professionals. “Those who work in the veterinary field are motivated by a deep sense of service and wanting to help improve the lives of their patients,” Julie says. “When they can’t do that because the client can’t afford care and either opts for a less than desired treatment plan or euthanasia, it is a big contributor to compassion fatigue.”
Aimee St. Arnaud
Aimee is currently the Director of National Veterinary Outreach for Best Friends Animal Society, and in her role she focuses on how to increase access to spay/neuter and veterinary care in underserved communities.
To characterize Aimee’s experience in both animal welfare and veterinary medicine as “broad and deep” is an understatement. Her CV is lengthy and impressive. Prior to joining Best Friends, Aimee was Director of Programs at the ASPCA Spay/Neuter Alliance (formerly Humane Alliance), where she handled curriculum design and program oversight that trained 1,000 veterinary medical professionals a year. She has also been a Program Manager at PetSmart Charities, where she gave out $15 million a year to organizations helping dogs and cats, and she co-founded the Ohio Pet Fund, which raises funds to help pets by offering the purchase of specialty license plates. Aimee also founded Humane Ohio, a low cost spay/neuter clinic performing 19,000 surgeries annually.
As if all of the above isn’t enough, in addition to her current role at Best Friends, Aimee is also a business partner in two full-service veterinary clinics in Ohio (Community Pet Care Clinic) and North Carolina (Open Door Veterinary Care) that focus on removing barriers to care and building community partnerships.
Aimee became a member of VetBilling’s Board of Advisors because she shares our vision for developing innovative and practical programs for helping pet owners pay for veterinary care. Along with VetBilling’s co-founder, Suzanne Cannon, and Carol Smock from Brown Dog Foundation, Aimee is actively working on seeking funding for designing and implementing a pilot program to evaluate the effects of offering in-house payment plans on various key metrics, including practice revenue and profitability; client compliance with veterinary recommendations; client perceptions of veterinarians; and default rates.
Susan is a former anchor for CNN and a moderator of the 1992 Presidential Debate, who currently works as a communications expert and consultant in Rochester, NY. Susan is very active in her local animal rescue community, and understands all too well how the lack of financial access to care painfully disrupts the human-animal bond, resulting in the overpopulation of shelters and rescues.
Shani Scherr, DVM
Shani is a practicing veterinarian and the co-owner of Valley Dog and Cat Hospital in Owings Mills, MD. Her hospital partnered with VetBilling® in 2015 to offer their clients reasonable monthly payments for wellness plans. Shani believes that communication and client education are essential to building a lifetime relationship with pets and their families, and that is her favorite part of her job.