Love at first veterinary "site"

Love at first veterinary "site"

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Jun 01, 2012

In the spring of 1963, I was a 23-year-old, final-year veterinary student. I was single and looking for love in all the right places. I visited the student union, worked as a pizza delivery man specializing in sororities and women's dormitories. And I even visited the library occasionally. That's where I first encountered her. The February issue of Veterinary Economics with the story "How VETEC Helped Design a Hospital" featured on the cover.

I had worked for my brother in his large animal practice in Coopers-town, N.D., (population 1,500) for several summers. However, I had never seen a veterinary hospital as beautiful and efficient as that one on the cover. Since that day I have always dreamed of having a beautiful small animal hospital.

I have seen, built, owned, and worked in some great hospitals over the years. However, even my dreams were not as big as the winners we have seen in this new century. And my love for veterinary medicine and Veterinary Economics magazine's Hospital of the Year has remained constant.

Since 1982, I've had the honor of being a Hospital of the Year judge. The judging process is complex—part subjective beauty contest, part science, part debate. (Judging is also my favorite job of all time.)

WINNING AWARDS

My first new hospital was completed in 1972 and I entered the contest in 1973, winning a merit award—but not the coveted Hospital of the Year. I guess all of us who receive merit awards can assume we were first runner-up.

The criticism of my hospital was that we devoted too many square feet to two private offices. They were separated by a folding wall, and a 12-foot table pulled out from a credenza on the north wall. This setup facilitated years of weekly staff meetings. And those eventually evolved into open book management strategies. That score boarding approach is now touted by some professors at Harvard Business School as the best management idea of the last 75 years. So, in hindsight, I guess I wouldn't change a thing.

Today I'm among the judges who have to make the tough decisions (often based on pretty small factors) about which hospitals get the biggest design awards around and which get doomed to the "not a winner" category. And I just have to say, I would be proud to own any veterinary hospital entered since the very earliest years of the competition.

HATS OFF!

In that spirit, I want to salute all the veterinarians who entered this year's competition—many of whom are featured in this special supplement. My dreams and the dreams of your colleagues are continually reinforced and embellished by your beautiful hospitals. Thanks to you, your hospital teams, and your architects for providing valuable vision to grow the image, efficiency and professionalism of veterinary medicine.