(Editor’s note: Pictured in the above photo, from left to right, are Dr. Jim Lloyd, Stacy Pursell, Gina Fortunato, and Bruce L. Truman at the Veterinary Innovation Summit.)

While the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession have more than their fair share of challenges and obstacles in the present, three recent industry events not only tackled those challenges, but did so within the context of the immediate and far-flung future. The events in question, all of which I was fortunate enough to attend, were as follows:

  • VetForum USA on September 27-28 in San Antonio, Texas
  • Banfield Pet Healthcare Industry Summit on October 3-4 in Vancouver, Washington
  • Veterinary Innovation Summit on October 9-11 in Kansas City, Missouri

Indeed, the slogan for this year’s Veterinary Innovation Summit was “The Future is Filled with Potential! Let’s Get to It!” This denotes not only a focus on the future, but also an optimistic outlook regarding what lies in store for the profession and those who work within it.

However, so as not to get ahead of ourselves, I’d like to recap all three of these premier training and networking events, starting in chronological order.

VetForum USA

I was fortunate to both attend this event and also to present during it. The title of my presentation was, “Either Recruiting Top Talent is #1 at Your Organization . . . or It’s Not.” During this presentation, I explained why traditional recruiting approaches will not hire today’s top talent, as well as the fact they’re not likely to do so in the future, either. In addition, I addressed why and how the C-suite must take a bigger role in ensuring that their organizations are branded properly and the best candidates are effectively recruited.

Other highlights of the event included Ryan Gallagher, CEO & Co-Founder at Scribenote, whose topic was “The Future of Veterinary Medical Records.” He explored the possibilities of digital transformation in this domain, including electronic health records, telemedicine, and data-driven decision-making. Gallagher’s presentation sparked discussions on the benefits and challenges of modernizing medical record-keeping practices in the Veterinary field.

Also presenting was Jerry Savage, CEO at VetPower, who discussed the integration of artificial intelligence in the Veterinary industry. He showcased how AI can enhance diagnostics, patient care, and administrative tasks in Veterinary practices. This topic tantalized attendees with a glimpse into the future while prompting discussions about ethical considerations and implementation challenges.

The second day of VetForum USA featured a panel discussion regarding data utilization, moderated by Bruce Truman, the Chairman of BLT Technology & Innovation Group. The panelists, including experts from PetsApp, Inventory Ally, Heartland Vet Partners, Bitwerx, and Digitail, highlighted the power of data in driving efficiency, decision-making, and customer satisfaction in Veterinary practices. They provided practical insights on how to collect, analyze, and leverage data to enhance patient care, improve operations, and stimulate growth.

Pet Healthcare Industry Summit

Banfield Pet Hospital and MARS Veterinary Health are the hosts of this event, which celebrated its 22nd year in 2023.

One of the prominent topics discussed at the summit was the transformation of Veterinary education systems. The Veterinary profession is undergoing rapid change, necessitating innovative educational models to ensure that it can meet the evolving needs of pets and their owners. Molly McAllister, Chief Medical Officer of Mars Veterinary Health, emphasized the importance of collaboration between industry, academia, and the Mars ecosystem in addressing this challenge.

The summit also underscored the significance of team-based care in the future of Veterinary medicine. This approach enhances access to pet care, reduces wait times, and offers greater coverage, all without overburdening hospital teams. Mony Iyer, President of Banfield Pet Hospital, explained that team-based care improves the delivery of Veterinary services, increases client education, and creates a more positive work environment. This, in turn, leads to higher job satisfaction and retention rates.

In addition, technology was highlighted as a powerful driver of change in Veterinary medicine. Technological innovations have the potential to revolutionize various aspects of the profession, from prediction and prevention to monitoring, diagnosis, and treatment. Nefertiti Greene, President of Mars Science & Diagnostics, pointed out the opportunity for Mars Petcare to lead in these areas, given their comprehensive diagnostic offering, unique cat and dog biobank, and a commitment to sharing knowledge with the industry.

The summit also addressed the pressing issue of access to care, acknowledging that access can be a significant barrier to pet owners seeking proper Veterinary care for their animals. In response, Mars Veterinary Health and Banfield Pet Hospital announced a $25,000 grant to the Veterinary Innovation Council. This grant will support the creation of a dynamic website or repository of information that consolidates services, programs, and resources related to access to care. The goal is to make it easier for Veterinary professionals and pet owners to explore their options when providing and seeking care for pets, aligning with Banfield and Mars’ commitment to leveraging their influence and resources to benefit the broader Veterinary profession.

Veterinary Innovation Summit

Last, but certainly not least, the VIS, now in its seventh year, served as a platform for insightful discussions and innovative ideas that showcased the future of the Veterinary profession and its intersection with human medicine. Sponsored by the North American Veterinary Community (NAVC) and the Veterinary Innovation Council (VIC), this event drew visionary leaders from the healthcare industry, futurists, and trailblazers in biotechnology to explore ways to advance both human and animal healthcare.

Eleanor Green, DVM, Founding Dean of Lyon College School of Veterinary Medicine and VIC Board Chair, expressed the significance of the crossroads between Veterinary and human medicine. She emphasized the transformative potential of technology, particularly in the realms of diagnosis and treatment, which have seen unprecedented advancements in recent years. Green highlighted the collaboration between brilliant minds from various fields as a key factor in propelling healthcare for animals and humans to new heights.

Keynote speaker Mary Lou Jepsen, CEO and Founder of Openwater, presented technology that employs light rays and sound to eradicate glioblastomas, cancer cells in the brain that are typically terminal. This technology holds the potential to replace traditional MRI machines with a more cost-effective, efficient, and wearable system. Jepsen, recognized as one of the world’s foremost engineers and scientists in optics, imaging, and display, has garnered accolades for her influential work in display innovation.

Renowned medical futurist Bertalan Meskó, PhD, discussed the role of AI, precision medicine, wearable technology, and digital health in both human and Veterinary medicine. Dr. Meskó, known as The Medical Futurist, analyzed the intersection of science fiction technologies and real-life applications in healthcare, highlighting their potential impact on the future of medicine.

Brennen McKenzie, MA, MSc, VMD, presented “Can We Make Dogs Live Forever?” and challenged the notion of aging as an inevitable part of life. He shared insights into pre-clinical research and a pilot clinical study aimed at extending the lifespan and healthspan of dogs. The Federal Drug Administration has endorsed the protocol for this pivotal clinical study, which will involve around 1,000 dogs at 50 sites across the United States, lasting approximately four years.

As you can see, VetForum USA, the Pet Healthcare Industry Summit, and the Veterinary Innovation Summit have collectively put the future of the Veterinary profession in sharper focus. These annual gatherings not only demonstrate the industry’s commitment to advancement, but they also highlight the evolving landscape of animal healthcare. Ultimately, they offer ample reason to be optimistic about the future of Veterinary medicine and the future of the Veterinary profession, where a commitment to excellence, collaboration, and innovation will continue to drive progress.