VHMA Announces 2021 Emerging Leader Scholarship Recipients

By VHMA Admin posted 28 days ago


The Veterinary Hospital Managers Association (VHMA) is pleased to announce that Missy Filarecki and Samantha Millet have been selected as the association's 2021 Emerging Leaders Program scholarship recipients. The prestigious program provides two VHMA members in good standing---age 40 or younger at the time of application---access to opportunities to refine their skills and enhance their professional development. The 2021 recipients were selected for their commitment to professional growth and leadership.

VHMA Executive Director, Christine Shupe, CAE, said, "Applicants are asked to describe a challenge they overcame in the practice. Missy’s and Samantha’s statements conveyed their strong commitment to professional growth. Furthermore, in their positions they have displayed true leadership ability. Because we received an impressive batch of applications, it was a tough choice. Congratulations Missy and Samantha!”

Meet the Leaders

Melissa Filarecki, Practice Manager, Just Cats Veterinary Clinic, NY

Missy Filarecki

Missy Filarecki joined Just Cats Veterinary Clinic five years ago and was promoted to practice manager in 2016. Previously, she worked in dentistry for five years as an administrative manager and as a bartender for 17 years. She earned four college degrees---liberal arts, musical theatre, creative writing, and legal studies. Given the many career paths she could have pursued, she describes it as luck and the influence of friends that led her to veterinary medicine.

Learning to grow into a leadership position

After working at Just Cats for a year, Filarecki was promoted to practice manager. Although excited and eager to assume a more challenging position with greater responsibilities, she recognized that her relationship with her coworkers would change and even questioned how the transition would play out as she transitioned form peer to leader. Internally, she struggled with wanting to maintain the friendships she enjoyed with coworkers while acting in the best interest of the clinic. She knew she needed to act in the best interest of the clinic, a decision that left her feeling isolated and alone.

Knowing her strong leadership potential, but sensing her unease, the practice owner encouraged Filarecki to enroll in classes that would develop her skills and improve her comfort level. The coursed were transformative and made her an advocate of field specific education. To improve her skills and further her professional goals, she joined VHMA, enrolled in veterinary leadership courses, attended conferences. According to Filarecki, she learned that the best leaders delegate and give others the opportunity to shine. She has internalized these lessons and continues to refine them in her quest to become the best leader she can be.

Career impact

Filarecki believes the award will have a tremendous impact on her career. One of her personal goals is to be more involved with VHMA and the industry and the award will allow her to become more active. In the future, she aspires to work part-time as a practice manager and as a consultant for other veterinary clinics. Teaching and speaking, especially on the topic of compassion fatigue, is part of her long-range plan. In fact, after achieving the CVPM, she plans to be certified as a Compassion Fatigue Counselor. Filarecki said, “Achieving this award is my stepping-stone to what I imagine to be an endless pool of opportunities for me to achieve my long-term career goals and help the veterinary field cope with compassion fatigue.”  

On a personal note, Filarecki is happily married and mom to two rescue cats. Her hobbies include guitar, singing, painting, and doting on her nieces and nephews.

Samantha Millet, Practice Manager, Blue Grass Animal Practice, TN

Samantha Millet

Playing with a ball of string

Samantha Millet started out at a rural small animal practice in west Tennessee as a kennel assistant/veterinary assistant. She loved working in the field and in 2013, earned a BS in Animal Science from University of Tennessee at Knoxville. She accepted a job with Bluegrass Animal Hospital and was eventually offered a position as practice manager.

According to Millet, “Managing Bluegrass Animal Hospital is like a cat playing with a ball of string. The more I dab at the issues, the more the string unravels and the more I chase it around, the more tangled it can become. But I’ve learned not to let these issues get out of control.” She tries to ensure that at the end of the day, her ball is metaphorically neatly put away.

To illustrate this, she uses the example of dealing with employees who continue to make the same mistakes. She admits that it is frustrating when employees cannot---or don’t want to---improve behavior, but rather than become upset, she collaborates with these employees to change their behaviors. “I may take them aside, discuss the behavior, and brainstorm potential strategies and solutions,” she explained. Fully aware that change will not occur overnight, Millet believes that the one-on-one helps preserve her sanity and the employee’s dignity and motivation to change.

She adds that she always strives to be uplifting when delivering critical news because recipients tend to be more receptive. She has used this strategy to deal with other issues in the practice and it allows her to roll up her ball of string at the end of the day knowing that a solution has been generated.

Looking ahead

Millet is excited to have been selected for the award. Earning the CVPM credential is something she aspired to and the Emerging Leaders Program is getting her started down that road.

She said, “I am excited to gain experience and learn from leaders in the VHMA, especially those who are CVPM’s. This is an amazing opportunity that will provide me with the resources to excel in my career, as well as to help others who are pursuing careers in practice management.”

Millet is married, the mother of a baby girl and two fur babies---a German/Australian mix and a Weimaraner. She loves hiking, family adventures, and spending time with family and friends.

About the Emerging Leaders Program

The VHMA Emerging Leader Scholarship program is intended to create an opportunity for new veterinary management professionals to become engaged in the association in meaningful ways that contribute to their professional growth, as well as energizes the association with new leaders and future direction of the profession.

VHMA Emerging Leaders receive an annual $2,500 scholarship for two years, which can be used toward registration and travel costs to attend the VHMA Annual Meeting and Conference and applied to the CVPM certification process. Each candidate is also expected to "give back" to VHMA through specific volunteer activities, such as serving as an ambassador to promote the
program, the association and profession, presenting an educational webinar or submitting an article for publication in Practice Pulse. Additional volunteer activities are detailed on VHMA's website.

About VHMA

The VHMA is a nationally recognized thought-leader and innovator in providing training, education, and resources to more than 4,000 members and a trusted resource that the veterinary sector relies on for industry insights, research, and advocacy to assure performance at the highest levels. VHMA's core purpose is to advance and support veterinary practice management professionals by developing professional competence, supporting
and encouraging standards through the industry's highest-level certification program, the Certified Veterinary Practice Manager (CVPM), and providing individuals with a network for professional connection and support. For more information, go to www.vhma.org.