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Students do the business
  1. Chloe Hannigan

Abstract

Three years ago, students at the Royal Veterinary College established the first UK chapter of the Veterinary Business Management Association. Its president, Chloe Hannigan, discusses the association's aims and reveals some future plans

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CREATED in 2001 by a group of North American students, the Veterinary Business Management Association (VBMA) was set up to provide veterinary students with a business-related support network, and the means to achieve their personal and professional goals. With a focus on enhancing business skills in order to become better clinicians, the VBMA ethos was infectious, and now there is a chapter in every vet school in the USA.

In 2007, a group of keen RVC students, along with a faculty adviser, decided to join their American peers and founded the first British chapter, which is now well and truly established.

Business skills

We aim to provide our members with additional knowledge and skills in business-related topics, concerning veterinary medicine and good practice, at a higher level than can be offered at the veterinary schools.

VBMA organises a variety of events; a recent one was a ‘Question Time’, where a panel responded to a series of questions including advice on being a new person in the practice, the ease with which women can find employment in large animal practice, and ways of balancing personal and professional lives

By conflating the vocational and business aspects of the veterinary profession, VBMA aims to promote graduates as well-rounded, clinically competent professionals. The association wants to give members the resources to get more out of their future careers.

An awareness of our ‘value’ as vets is a key element to being successful, and it can only be a good thing for students to know how much they could bring to practices, while being conscious of the potential expense to the practice of taking on a new graduate.

Increasing students' ‘employability factor’ is one of our targets, and we are looking to hold a professional skills clinic in May, featuring talks and interactive stations where members will have the opportunity to learn how to improve their CV, practise interview techniques, hear what employers look for, and so on.

VBMA is ideal for those of us who have ever thought about becoming a partner, or running our own practice, though for the moment I am sure we would all be content just to get through the five years of exams!

Events

We hold a variety of events throughout the year, organised by some of the key players in the veterinary business world. In November 2009, we held a ‘Question Time’, where we invited members of the audience to pose questions to a distinguished panel of veterinary professionals.

We always put an emphasis on engaging with our guests after events, which provides excellent networking opportunities and allows questions to be asked in a less formal setting – over drinks and, usually, pizza!

On this occasion, we trialled event feedback forms, so that our members had the chance to review their society and the event. This will have a bearing on our future plans. With an ever-increasing membership base, and an enthusiastic executive committee, we have high hopes for what the RVC VBMA can achieve.

Setting up a chapter

We are pleased to be working with Hill's Pet Nutrition, and together we are looking to help other UK vet schools to establish their own chapters. It would be ideal if eventually we could establish a VBMA chapter in each UK vet school, with the further development of, perhaps, a national executive board.

Last year, Andrew Monchar, our president at the time, went to Florida for the annual VBMA congress, and was able to count it as a week of clinical EMS. He presented the findings of his visit to us at our annual general meeting, and it was extremely beneficial to hear what is happening ‘over the pond’ with regard to the development of business material in the curriculum.

We would love to hear from you if you're a proactive student who could find a few like-minded friends and a willing faculty adviser! Or perhaps you are a member of a vet school faculty and would like students from your university to get involved. Either way, we would all have one goal in common: the progression of the veterinary profession.

If you would like to find out more, please feel free to contact me (vbma@rvc.ac.uk), or visit www.vbma.biz.

About the VBMA

On its website – www.vbma.biz – VBMA describes itself as ‘the largest independent veterinary student organisation in the world, and the fastest growing veterinary student group in the USA’. It has 28 chapters at veterinary schools across the USA, three international chapters, and over 2600 student members.

The VBMA, the website says, is ‘a truly grass-roots movement, that is organised and advanced by veterinary students working within their own schools. Each school is different, and each chapter focuses on issues and topics of greatest interest to its own student body. At ground level, students learn to organise and fund major events, cultivate necessary leadership skills and network on a local level.’

The website goes on to say that the VBMA ‘is founded on the determination, innovation, and entrepreneurial spirit of future veterinary leaders who desire a higher level of business education than what is being offered through veterinary colleges’.

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