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Board of Directors
President Jon Cunnington, MBA, CVPM
Jon received a bachelor’s degree in marketing and a master’s degree in business from the California State University system before joining the veterinary profession in 1994. He served as Hospital Administrator for a three-doctor, AAHA accredited practice in Chico, California from 1994 until 2000 before joining Loomis Basin Veterinary Clinic as its first full-time Hospital Administrator. In 2012 Loomis Basin Veterinary Clinic was purchased by VCA Antech, Inc. VCA Loomis Basin Veterinary Clinic, located about 25 miles northeast of Sacramento, is an AAHA accredited, 24/7 practice with 30 doctors and about 120 support staff. They offer general, emergency, and specialty services including internal medicine, oncology, radiology, behavior, soft tissue and orthopedic surgery, and CT scan. In 2001 Loomis Basin was named a Practice of Excellence by Pfizer Animal Health and the publisher of Veterinary Economics magazine.
A VHMA member since 2000, Jon earned the distinction of CVPM in 2005. He has written articles for the association newsletter, presented at conferences, and is currently serving on the Board of Directors as Secretary. He also currently chairs the Program Committee, assisted in the development of the VHMA’s self-Audit Workbook and Document Organizer, and helped launch the Innovation Committee. In addition, Jon collaborates with other managers within and outside of VCA and is a steering committee member of the Sacramento Valley Veterinary Practice Managers Association. Whenever opportunity arises, Jon enjoys speaking on various topics including general management, financial performance indicators, budgeting, and compensation/benefits. These speaking opportunities provide a nostalgic look-back at the 1990’s when he taught communications, marketing and organizational design courses at CSU, Chico.
In 1997 Jon began working on a part-time ad hoc basis with Jim Remillard, MPA, CPC, CVPM, a veterinary practice management consultant and president of Remillard Management Associates, Inc. While Jon’s availability is limited, he does enjoy assisting Mr. Remillard with practice valuations and other projects as often as opportunity and time permit. Jon and his wife, Becky, have one daughter, Emily. Their home includes a spoiled border collie and two mischievous cats.
Vice President Brian Conrad, CVPM
Brian had been the Practice Manager for Meadow Hills Veterinary Center in Kennewick, WA since 1999. During his tenure at Meadow Hills, the clinic received awards for the Hospital Design of the Year in 2001 from Veterinary Economics magazine and the 2004 Mid-Columbia Small Business of the Year. In 2009, Meadow Hills opened their second location. Brian lectures on a wide variety of topics challenging the veterinary industry using practice and “real-life” examples that keep the audiences engaged and enthused. Brian has been a frequent contributor to Veterinary Economics and Firstline and lecturer for several of the national conferences. His speaking engagements went international in 2012 as he was featured at the Southern European Veterinary Conference in Barcelona, Spain. They will continue in 2013 where he will be featured in Melbourne, Australia. Brian has been a member of the VHMA since 2002, and earned his CVPM designation in 2003 and has served on the VHMA Board of Directors as Director since 2009. His first Educational DVD launched in 2012 titled “Listen Up! How to Profit from Client Feedback.” Brian and his wife Taryn have three children. They enjoy spending time together outdoors, are huge sports fanatics always rooting for their favorite teams, and enjoy taking advantage of the nearly 110 wineries within a 60 mile radius of their home.
Secretary Michelle Gonzales, CVPM
Michelle began her veterinary career 20 years ago. With her Veterinary Assistant certification in hand she spent the first two years as a surgery technician. She spent the last 18 years working for University Animal Hospital in Tempe, AZ where she currently serves as the Assistant Hospital Manager and also the Kennel Supervisor. University Animal Hospital is a small animal practice with 11 doctors and 50+ staff members.
Michelle is a current Board Member of the Veterinary Health Care Team of Arizona (VHCTAZ), a local managers group. She currently serves on VHCTAZ Membership Committee and is the Chair for the Vet 2011 Committee.
In 2009 Michelle was named Arizona’s Hospital Manager of the year.
Michelle has been an active member of the VHMA since 2006 and in 2010 Michelle earned the Certified Veterinary Practice Manager (CVPM) designation.
Treasurer Gerard Gervasi, CM
Gerard has been an active VHMA member since 1999. Gerard graduated with a Bachelor of Science from Christian Brothers University in Business Management and Marketing and has earned the Certified Manager designation. In 1985 he received a Wildlife Restoration Certificate of Education from Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks and assists that division with wildlife management projects.
Gerard had a 14 year career in the management consulting and training field before he had the “calling” to the veterinary profession. For the past fifteen years he has served as the Hospital Administrator and co-owner for Collierville Animal Clinic, P.C. The six-doctor small animal and exotic practice has been in operation since 1955 and he is involved in every aspect of the practice. He enjoys the day-to-day challenges the clinic produces and develops strategic plans for the future growth of the business.
Gerard has served the VHMA in various positions since becoming a member including: State Representative for Tennessee (2000-2002), Area Director in (2002-2003), Treasurer (2003-2005), Vice-President (2005-2009), and((delete "and") Interim-President (2009), President (2010-2102), Past-President (2012-2014). He is currently the Chairman of the Industry Liaison Committee. Gerard was active in the VHMA Mentor program and enjoys sharing information with other clinic managers. In 2009 he was voted “Hospital Manager of the Year” by the local Veterinary Medical Association.
Other organizations that he has active memberships include: AVMA, TVMA, MSCVMA, CPMA, AMA, local veterinary managers association, and the Collierville Chamber of Commerce.
Director Kat Burns, CVPM
After nearly a decade working in various managements roles for PetsMart (at the time an almost new company), Kat accepted a position working with PetsMart Veterinary Services as a hospital manager. Spending a year in the clinic environment was exciting, but the company was acquired by Banfield and in the transition she left and took a position in the animal division of the American Humane Association. Kat found the non-profit animal welfare environment very fulfilling. She had the opportunity to work with some of the best sheltering professionals in the country and take part in some really great program initiatives.
In 2005, Kat joined the Humane Society of Boulder Valley (HSBV). After a year in the shelter, she became the veterinary clinic's first practice manager and then director. HSBV has such a unique business model, with a six-doctor full-service public veterinary practice alongside a robust shelter medicine program. Revenue generated by the veterinary clinic directly supports the medical care and treatment for homeless animals. Kat often says that her most demanding client is the shelter itself. Kat feels blessed to work in one of the most nationally recognized, innovative and cutting edge shelters in the country. Weekly they take in multiple transfers of animals from other shelters in other parts of the country. They offer ground¬breaking behavior modification programs, leading edge adoption initiatives, and one of only a few clinic operations of its kind in a shelter. Kat regularly consults with other shelters on how to navigate the delicate balance between shelter and public medicine while building relationships with community private practice veterinary clinics.
When not working, Kat volunteers with pug rescue, enjoys hiking and letterboxing in gorgeous Colorado, and working on collaborative mixed-media art projects. Kat is loved by a fat persian and a spoiled pug.
Director Mathieu Doyon, LLB, MBA, CVPM
Mathieu has been involved in veterinary practice management since 2001 when he was hired to manage a 15-doctor companion animal practice as the Hospital Administrator, right after completing his graduate studies. Three years later, he founded his consulting business with the intention to help as many veterinary practices as possible achieve better results in all aspects of their business. He is currently involved on a day-to-day basis with eight different practices, as well as consulting with 30 veterinary practice owners. He has gained experience in diversified environments ranging from huge Referral and Emergency Hospitals with over 150 employees to small exotic animal clinics, as well as the run-of-the-mill one-and-a-half doctor to larger 12 doctor general practices. Trained as a lawyer, his undergraduate studies complement his business training (MBA) by improving the legal compliance of veterinary practices in Human Resources, ownership transitions, corporate structures, and contracts. His past experience in the field of computer business development has recently led him to collaborate closely with practice management software developers throughout Eastern Canada in order to disseminate management and operations best practices faster and more efficiently. Mathieu currently co-owns 5 practices in the Montréal Metro area where he serves as Hospital Administrator and VP, Business Development and Innovation.
Mathieu has been a VHMA member since 2003 and earned the CVPM designation in 2006. He balances his professional involvement with an intense family life, raising four children and helping taking care of the family’s numerous pets (a dog, lizards, geckos, and fishes) while scuba diving every chance he gets.
Director Debbie Hill, CVPM, PHR
Debbie Hill, CVPM, PHR entered the veterinary field as a receptionist at a small animal clinic in Denver in 1989. Good people skills and a desire to solve problems made up for a total lack of experience.
Debbie was fortunate over the next few years to attend a wide variety of management courses through the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), including Veterinary Management Development School and the Veterinary Management Institute at Purdue. Attending AAHA, NAVC, and VHMA management conferences annually kept the idea of becoming a certified veterinary practice manager in front of her. After sending for the application, she took a course at the local college to get her feet wet. Marketing 101 proved to be a turning point in her decision to pursue certification. “Taking courses that are relevant to your everyday work made it much more interesting.”
In 2005, she sat for the CVPM examination and passed. Debbie’s advice to others considering certification is “you will be surprised at what you can do and the amount of encouragement that is out there in this field and especially in this association.” Debbie is a frequent speaker with the VHMA, an adjunct instructor for Patterson Management University, and a full-time hospital administrator for four small animal practices in Florida. In 2012, Debbie sat for the exam and became a PHR (Profession in Human Resource) believing that people are the biggest part of any successful business.
She is a mixed media artist (anything with paper and ink) and Bible class teacher who enjoys time with her husband of 40 years, two schnauzers, their three daughters, son in-laws, two grandchildren, and Maggie, the grand-dachshund. It’s a juggling act most days, but a great life.
Debbie has been a member of the VHMA since 1999. She served on the Ethics committee and is a current member of the Membership committee. Debbie has been a Director on the VHMA Board of Directors, and serves as Liaison to the CVPM board since 2009. Her primary drive is a desire is to give back to others and show managers that there is no limit to their potential!
Director Jessie Merritt, CVPM, SPHR
Jessie is currently the Practice Manager of a four-DVM animal hospital in a suburb of Portland Oregon. Jessie has enthusiastically participated in the veterinary profession since entering the field in 1988. Since Jessie has held almost every position in the profession, she believes it offers her a valuable insight and perspective of team life in the trenches that has enhanced building successful relationships with her team and peers. Jessie entered management in 2000 and has embraced this area of the profession with her usual enthusiasm and passion. She believes strongly that the success of a practice lies within a stable team that understands and champions the vision of the practice and that vision must embrace customer service in addition to medical excellence.
A member since 2008, CVPM certified in 2009, SPHR certified in 2013, Jessie currently serves as the Chair for the VHMA Membership Committee. Jessie also enjoys participating in various veterinary social networks, and also helps facilitate the monthly meeting and general organization of a group of local Practice Managers whose insight, wisdom and wit she greatly admires. Jessie believes her profession is unique in the challenges and rewards it can bring and is a personal advocate and supporter of the up and coming manager in the field. She passionately believes Veterinary Practice Managers can and should be an incredible value to their practice and she is always available for networking and brainstorming ideas and new concepts.
Director James Nash, MHA, CVPM
Like many managers, Jim started his leadership career a long way from veterinary medicine. He served as a Warrant Officer and Aviator during Desert Storm where he flew OH-58 Scout helicopters in an armored cavalry squadron. Jim believes that being a good leader is about being a great team member first. He also feels that the loyalty, dedication, and commitment that he learned in the military are the fundamental transferable skills that lead to success.
After completing his military service, he attended the University of Florida where he completed a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in three years. He then began working in the human healthcare field and had the opportunity to learn about all aspects of hospital business operations including: billing, collections, insurance contracting, reimbursement, and patient service. He decided to pursue his goal of a graduate degree while working for HCA and earned his Masters in Healthcare Administration through an executive program at the University of Florida.
After graduation, Jim moved to Colorado where he was the liaison between the Patient Account Service Center in Denver and hospital administration of a Level 1 trauma center. Even though he enjoyed living in Colorado, he began to feel stagnant with HCA and decided to make a change. This was the catalyst for his transition to veterinary medicine. He accepted a position as the Hospital Administrator at a five-DVM general practice. Over the next four years, he helped grow and develop this hospital into a 10-DVM, 24-hour, three location, general, and emergency hospital.
Jim has recently moved back to Florida, where he currently owns and leads two practices. Jim also enjoys supporting other practices through consulting and speaking. Jim has been a VHMA member since 2004 and completed the Certified Veterinary Practice Manager (CVPM) process in 2008. He has had the privilege of serving on the VHMA Board of Directors since 2008 in the role of Director and Treasurer.
Director Jessica Speas, CVPM, PHR
Jessica has been involved and around veterinary medicine her entire life. She was born during her father's senior year of veterinary school and has worked in his practice since high school. Jessica fell in love with the profession, but couldn't stomach the medical side. While in school she worked part-time as a receptionist, and later as the bookkeeper before starting full-time as the administrator in 2002. Jessica understands firsthand how difficult it can be for the owner veterinarian to also manage a practice. By allowing the doctor to primarily be the doctor, the practice has grown steadily over the last 10 years. Jessica completed the Veterinary Management Institute (VMI) program at Purdue in 2008, earned the CVPM designation in 2010, and achieved Professional in Human Resources (PHR) certification in 2012. Jessica became a partner in the practice in 2010. Jessica joined VHMA in 2006 and currently serves on the Ethics, Membership and Program Standing Committees.
Immediate Past President Tom MacDonald, CVPM
Tom began working in the veterinary field in 1997 as the co-founder of Lincoln Village Animal Hospital, the first AAHA accredited hospital in Waterloo, ON. His diversified career path has enriched his ability to contribute to his veterinary practice. Tom graduated with a Bachelor of Science (Honours-Marine Biology) from the University of Guelph. After completing the Canadian Securities Course, he was hired by the investment arm of Toronto Dominion (TD) Bank where he worked as an Investment Representative and an Equity and Options Trader for five years. Concurrently, Tom studied human resources and small business management at Seneca College in Toronto preparing for the eventual opening of a brand new companion animal hospital with his wife, Tracy, who is a veterinarian.
Tom played a major role in formulating the design and service concept of their hospital. In 2002, he completed AAHA’s Veterinary Management Institute (Purdue University, Krannert Graduate School of Management) certificate program. He fulfills his role of Hospital Administrator by overseeing the needs of the hospital in the areas of financial and marketing management, human resources, and strategic planning. Tom is a member of the AAHA, the OVMA, and has been a VHMA member since 2001.
He has served on the VHMA Board as Canadian Director 2006-09, and Vice-President 2009-11. Tom enjoys facilitating the sharing of ideas with other managers and in 2006, assisted in creating the Ontario Veterinary Managers Group (OVMG), which continues to serve the Southern Ontario region. He obtained the designation of Certified Veterinary Practice Manager (CVPM) in 2007 and is the Chair of the VHMA Ethics Committee. Tom participates in VHMA’s Mentor Program, and has spoken on greening the veterinary environment.
Tom enjoys training for triathlons, skijoring, remote wilderness travel and baking artisan breads. Along with his wife and growing family, his home life is enhanced by his many pets including twin Siberian Huskies, a cat, and Japanese koi.
Executive Director Christine Q. Shupe, CAE
Christine graduated from the State University of New York College at Oswego in 1992 with a Bachelor of Arts degree, major in Political Science. Christine started her career in 1992 as an administrative assistant for the lobbying firm of Shea and Gould in Albany, NY. In 1994, Christine continued her career at the New York State Legislature as the Legislative Aid to Assemblywoman Frances T. Sullivan. In 1997, Christine joined the association management firm of Capitol Hill Management Services where she first started serving as the Executive Director to the VHMA in 1998. In 2003, Christine earned the Certified Association Executive (CAE) designation awarded by the American Society of Association Executives. After moving from New York to Florida in 2004, Christine started her own management company, CQS Management Service, LLC where she continues to serve as the VHMA Executive Director.