2021 a Historic Year for VHMA

By Michelle Gonzales-Bryant posted 01-23-2021 11:03

VHMA logo

Welcome to 2021, a historic year for VHMA.

In 1981, the association was founded by and for managers, and 40 years later, it continues to fulfill its core purpose---to advance and support veterinary management professionals. Over the next 12 months, VHMA will highlight its long and rich history, discuss significant milestones, share members’ recollections, and speak to the original members whose vision, as well as dedication and enthusiasm, powered VHMA’s growth and success.

Peering into the future

In the film Back to the Future, Marty McFly’s and Doctor Emmett Brown’s time travel was made possible by retrofitting a 1981 DeLorean DMC-12. Imagine If, in 1981, VHMA hitched a ride in the DeLorean, traveled 40 years into the future, and came face-to-face with 2021. How would they react?

After deciphering current trends like hoverboards, caramel macchiatos, bitcoin, TikTok, and virtual reality, they would be confronted with the changes that have occurred within the association.

Imagine their reaction when learning that:

  • The association, founded with 13 members, has grown to more than 4,000 members.
  • The CVPM---launched several years after VHMA’s founding--- is considered the gold standard of practice management competence and excellence. In 1981 the credential was not even discussed. As of 2021, more than 800 managers have successfully qualified and passed the arduous exam.
  • Non-DVM practice managers routinely manage veterinary practices and hospitals. Owners hire practice managers because they have confidence in their skills and knowledge. In 1981, the non-DVM manager was an oddity.
  • Clear job descriptions have been written for the office manager, practice manager, and hospital administration and detailed skills and competencies. In 1981, owners commonly foisted management responsibilities on technicians and receptionists without acknowledging that these increased responsibilities were changing the nature of their positions.
  • Practice managers and hospital administrators are now compensated at a rate that is consistent with their expertise and responsibilities.

These are just a few of the changes that VHMA has ushered in. The impact on professionalizing the position, equipping managers to manage effectively, and adding tools and resources that managers can use to improve performance and advocate for the position is beyond what the organizers had anticipated.


It has been a fabulous ride, which would not have been possible without a core group of managers who invested their blood, sweat, and tears into building the dream of professionalizing the profession.

Mark Opperman, VHMA’s first president for the first ten years, and the original 13 founding member were employed full-time and held demanding jobs in the veterinary industry. They were also deeply committed to ensuring that practice managers were respected and empowered.

When it was formed, VHMA was not served by a staff.  The original group---in addition to their day jobs---organized meetings, identified and created newsletter content, reached out to members and handled day-to-day operations. They even paid their own association related travel expenses.

Their efforts and dedication were responsible for creating the industry’s most respected association.

Taking inventory

VHMA provides quality education, relevant resources, professional growth opportunities, and networking opportunities, to name just a few. The tangible benefits are clear and abundant…take a look at the resources and education listed on the VHMA website to appreciate the depth and breadth of tools and resources available. I rely, as do my colleagues, on these resources to upgrade skills, find answers to perplexing practice questions, learn more about hot topics, products, and services, and find outstanding continuing education.

But in addition to the tangible benefits, there are many intangible benefits that define the association and distinguish it from other management associations.

Specifically, VHMA is more than an organization that unites managers. VHMA is characterized by individuals who care deeply about practice management, their practices, staff, clients, and patients. They are committed to integrity, professionalism, innovation, collaboration, and excellence. The original values have endured as the baton has been passed from one leadership group to another and embraced by generations of members.

For 40 years, VHMA members have exhibited a spirit of generosity and a willingness to share information, answer questions, provide advice, and pitch in to help others. Their actions suggest that a “we,” rather than “me,” culture characterizes VHMA. Most members I speak to have a story about being mentored by a senior member who has helped them with their career or finding support and guidance from members when facing professional challenges.

I am proud to lead the VHMA and am thankful for the efforts of Mark Opperman and the early members, excellent leadership over the years, and dedicated members.

VHMA is fabulous at 40, but then again, VHMA has always been fabulous.

Read first VHMA at 40 blog.


Michelle Gonzales-Bryant, CVPM
VHMA President