Ken Niedziela is the editor of Today’s Veterinary Business. He is a longtime journalist and editor who started his professional career at The Blade newspaper in Toledo, Ohio, before he moved to Southern California for an array of assignments at The Orange County Register. He entered magazine journalism in 2008 with Veterinary Practice News and Pet Product News International. He joined the North American Veterinary Community in January 2017 to help launch Today’s Veterinary Business. The Rochester, New York, native earned his journalism degree from Michigan State University.Read Articles Written by Ken Niedziela
TOP ROW: Amanda Donnelly, DVM, MBA | Charlotte Lacroix, DVM, JD | Eleanor Green, DVM | Ernie Ward, DVM | Fritz Wood, CPA, CFP
BOTTOM ROW: Jeff Thoren, DVM, PCC, BCC | Kelly Baltzell, MA |Mark Cushing, JD | Mary Beth Leininger, DVM | Zack Mills, DVM
Amanda Donnelly, DVM, MBA, fell in love with veterinary medicine when she was a 9-year-old girl pitching in at her father’s small animal hospital. Mary Beth Leininger, DVM, a lifetime animal geek, caught the veterinary bug even earlier in elementary school. Ernie Ward, DVM, saw his future when he was “knee-high to a grasshopper,” he quipped.
Drs. Donnelly, Leininger and Ward made good on their goal of becoming a veterinarian and have succeeded professionally in many other ways. The three of them are giving back to their cherished profession by serving on the Today’s Veterinary Business editorial advisory board.
They join three other veterinarians, a veterinarian/lawyer, a second lawyer, a certified public accountant and a person with 22 years of digital marketing experience who will help Today’s Veterinary Business become the magazine world’s leading source of practice management, business and personal wellness education for veterinary professionals.
A Greater Purpose
All 10 board members agree that improved business acumen is crucial if the magazine’s core audience — veterinarians, practice owners and practice managers — is to thrive professionally and financially.
“The veterinary profession is at a crossroads,” said board member Jeff Thoren, DVM, PCC, BCC, who co-authors the Go With the Flow personal wellness column. “Faced with a variety of stresses including rapid technological change, ongoing economic challenges, and increasing levels of personal debt and professional burnout, it’s clear that we need to consider new ways to preserve the health of our practices and the people who work in them.
“Today’s Veterinary Business will play an important role in creating a new roadmap for veterinary business and stimulating needed change.”
The advisers come from practice, business and academia. They range from Eleanor M. Green, DVM, DACVIM, DABVP, the Carl B. King dean at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, to industry veteran and current practice owner Zack Mills, DVM.
Dr. Mills went from buying a practice in 1985 — a year after earning his DVM at the University of Georgia — to taking jobs with Merial Ltd. and Hill’s Pet Nutrition to returning to practice in 2012, when he opened Tiger Tails Animal Hospital in Duluth, Georgia. He believes that privately owned hospitals like his will remain in the majority for a long time.
“The owners of these practices must become more astute business people,” Dr. Mills said. “We also have to look to provide ways to bring associates into the practice as partners and owners. Today’s Veterinary Business can be a resource for ideas, information and education to that end.”
Six board members spend their work hours as professional advisers. Drs. Donnelly, Ward and Thoren own consulting firms, as do H.R. Huddle columnist Charlotte Lacroix, DVM, JD; Politics & Policy columnist Mark Cushing, JD; and Fritz Wood, CPA, CFP.
Wood, who also is closely associated with a financial planning firm, said financial security isn’t an impossible goal for veterinary professionals.
“Veterinarians and the people who work in their practices need and deserve to do better financially,” Wood said. “Since a practice’s financial health ultimately impacts pet health, everyone benefits from healthy practices.”
Board member Kelly Baltzell, MA, the president and CEO of Beyond Indigo, said she loves “assisting veterinarians and their teams in understanding the fluid, rapid-changing environment of online marketing.”
“It is rewarding to see light bulbs go off in people’s heads as they finally get how marketing can send tails through the door of the hospital,” she said.
Dr. Leininger spent three decades as a Michigan practice owner, served as president of the American Veterinary Medical Association and this year retired from an executive role at The Hartville Pet Insurance Group. Networking and savviness can help veterinarians succeed, she said.
“In my decades of involvement with veterinary organizations of all sizes and focuses, it is my network that has been responsible for any personal or professional success I’ve been blessed with,” Dr. Leininger said. “And the ability to be savvy about business strategy and management decisions is crucial in today’s challenging and competitive practice environment.”
Did you know?
Start a conversation with a Today’s Veterinary Business editorial adviser and you may hear this:
- Zack Mills was Clemson University’s tiger mascot for two years. Because of his mischievous behavior, he said, “rules had to be written to keep mascots off the playing field.”
- A run-in with a patient convinced Dr. Mary Beth Leininger that avian medicine wasn’t for her. “My first injury was from a duck that beaked my nose bloody and broke my glasses when I was examining a wound he received from the neighbor’s dog,” she recalled.
- Fritz Wood’s sister financial planning firm, Triune Financial Partners, manages more than $500 million in assets, including more than 70 401(k) plans.
- Jeff Thoren is an avid cyclist and has completed several 100-mile rides. He considers himself “an organizational rebel and corporate bullshit detector.”
- Mark Cushing, founding partner of the Animal Policy Group, grew up in an Oregon farm town. “I went away to Stanford. When I returned, my little hamlet in the Willamette Valley and Dundee Hills had turned into the world’s next great pinot noir wine region,” he said. “Apparently, all it took was for me to get the hell out of the state while smart winemakers got to work.”
- Kelly Baltzell isn’t a veterinarian, but she knows a fair amount about invertebrate animals. “I have had the same worm farm colony for the last 10 years,” she said.
- Ernie Ward stays physically active. “I’ve been a certified personal trainer, a USA Triathlon-accredited coach and a multiple Ironman finisher,” he said. “When I’m not on the trails or in the gym, you can find me in the ocean surfing with my family.”
- Eleanor Green owned a Mississippi veterinary hospital before she moved into academia at Mississippi State University and Texas A&M University.
- As a New Jersey 10-year-old, Dr. Charlotte Lacroix saw a goat advertised for sale in New York. Her parents said, “If you can figure out how to get it, you can have it.” She found a way to pay for the goat and transport it home.
- Amanda Donnelly loves football. She roots for the University of Missouri, the Kansas City Chiefs and the New England Patriots.