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Program Puts C.E. into Practice
by Michelle Lohmann

Increased practice income, effective goal-setting and marketing strategies, and a supportive network of professional peers. These are a few of the benefits attributed to the College’s Executive Veterinary Program (EVP) by its participants.

[EVP class participants]Since the innovative continuing education program debuted in 1991, more than 150 practitioners have reaped tangible benefits—both professionally and personally—from this unique two-year learning experience. Originally designed as leading to a certificate in Swine Health Management, EVP has subsequently been tailored for small animal practitioners, with new certificate programs in practice management and business administration in the works. (See sidebar below.)

Setting Goals, Setting Fees
Dr. Greg Ekdale (Iowa State ’76), owner of Highland Pet Hospital and Wellness Center in Bloomington, Ill., and a 2000 graduate of the Small Animal EVP, credits EVP with helping him incorporate new strategies for change into his practice.

“Prior to EVP, I would make changes in the practice and hope they would work,” he says. But now he works out on paper the specific steps to be taken.

“In almost all cases,” Dr. Ekdale says, “that has included at some point assessing our fee structure. EVP has taught me that fees have to be set to support your goals, rather than be seen as a reason to limit your goals.”

His EVP classmate Dr. Linda Randall (Ohio State ’81) raised the fees at the hospital she owns in Ohio while she was in the program. She tracked the gross practice income of her EVP classmates for a class project and found that it increased 20 percent by the end of the two years. Net income increased as well.

More Effective Marketing
According to Dr. Randall, many participants entered the program with basic knowledge of leadership and marketing, but EVP helped develop these ideas further.

“A lot of us were working on these things,” she says, “but not to this extent and with this confidence. We are vastly more effective now.”

Dr. Jill Richardson (Tuskegee ’94) is currently enrolled in the class of 2002 Small Animal EVP. She has been applying the assignments from class directly toward her work as a professional and public relations veterinary information specialist with the National Animal Poison Control Center of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

As a result, she has designed a series of brochures offering “treatment tips” as well as a poster listing antifreeze antidotes that she hopes to distribute to clinics.

“My goal is to have one in every vet clinic in the nation,” Dr. Richardson says.

Dr. Richardson also helped plan the ASPCA’s National Poison Prevention Week campaign, entitled “Make your pet’s home poison safe,” with guidance from the EVP marketing module. Dr. Richardson says that the campaign was better planned and developed than ever.

The EVP Advantage
The program is designed to fit into the schedule of busy practitioners. Classes meet in Urbana for three days every other month over a two-year period. Homework assignments are submitted electronically between modules.

The instructors are experts from both inside and outside the veterinary field, offering a broad range of views.

Dr. R.C. Ebert (Missouri ’70), a partner in Pleasant Hill Animal Clinic and 2000 graduate of the Swine EVP, says he was surprised with the breadth of the program. He found the program provided help on topics ranging from herd health management to personal evaluation to financial planning.

Class size is limited, creating an intimate and friendly atmosphere for learning.

Just as the ideas and strategies promulgated in EVP continue to benefit graduates long after the classes end, so do relationships formed among classmates. The friendships and network of professional peers that develop in the EVP are frequently cited by graduates as valuable assets.

EVP graduates remain in touch with classmates through an Internet list-serve, where questions and information are posted daily on practice and personal issues. They also meet at least yearly for a program of continuing education and fellowship.

“The relationship with my classmates still functions to drive me to perform and achieve even more,” notes Dr. Doug Carithers (Iowa State ’84), senior director of Veterinary Professional Services for Merial Limited and graduate of the 2000 Small Animal EVP.

Dr. Ekdale agrees. “I am surprised by the strength of the bonds formed among the class members,” he says. “My classmates are now my closest friends in the profession. We are extremely supportive of each other in our professional and personal lives.”

New EVPs Focus on Business and Management Skills

Two new EVPs are being introduced.

A program leading to a certificate in practice management begins in September 2002. It will be similar to the Small Animal EVP, and it will be open to practice managers and veterinary technicians as well as veterinarians.

An EVP in business administration, with a focus on topics such as accounting and marketing, is being developed in collaboration with the University of Illinois College of Commerce and Business Administration. It will be structured to enable participants to spend less time away from work by shortening the on-campus modules to two instead of three days and placing more of the material online.

For enrollment information, visit www.EVPIllinois.org on the Web or call the College Office of Continuing Education-Public Service at 217/333-2907.

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