In my first President's Message published in November 2016, I challenged the WVMA membership to "Seize the opportunity, get creative and devise business models maintaining these activities to benefit the profession."
Access to veterinary medical care is a growing focus nationwide; the Humane Society of the United States estimates 23,000,000 pets in the U.S. can't access veterinary medical healthcare. Barriers are not strictly financial and include transportation, culture and language. If the profession could lower the veterinary medical care barrier these pets experience, what could the financial impact be? Basic healthcare provided to these pets, using a $200.00 per pet annual estimate, could have a $4.6 billion impact on veterinarian provided medical care. Approximately $24.6 billion is spent on veterinary services nationwide annually. Do the math, 19.6 percent of our industry's revenue is untapped in pets without access to veterinary medical care.
Here's an opportunity; a business model was devised, WisCARES (Wisconsin Companion Animal Resources, Education and Social Services). WisCARES is a UW-Madison program through the School of Veterinary Medicine in a partnership with the School of Social Work. The program's focus is the intersection of housing/homelessness and pet ownership and keeping animals and their people together and feature's veterinary medical wellness, pet food and supplies and boarding and foster for animals. The program is supported by a paid veterinary staff, veterinary volunteers and veterinary medical students in a non-profit environment.
Credit the vision of Drs. Ruthanne Chun and William Gilles for the concept genesis in 2014. The success of this program, providing veterinary medical care to an unmet demand, brings WisCARES to the threshold of expansion. This novel model works. Let's look to expand this model, let's find opportunity to employ more veterinarians. What an opportunity to leverage the human-animal bond, increasing access to pets' and humans' healthcare. This certainly is not the traditional model of veterinary practice, but a highly effective model of veterinary practice.
Once again, I challenge the WVMA membership to - seize the opportunity, get creative and devise business models maintaining these activities to benefit the profession. Support Drs. Chun and Gilles; consider the model; how can the profession leverage 23,000,000 pets without access to healthcare? The need is great!