Current VHMA members know Gerard Gervasi as 'VHMA's Director of Strategic Partnerships, a position he has held for the past seven years. But Gerard has assumed a number of positions with VHMA and, in this 'month's exploration of 'VHMA's past, present, and future, shares his thoughts from his many years of involvement with the VHMA.
Question: Why did you join VHMA?
GG: After accepting the Hospital Administrator position at my clinic, I immediately began searching for a group that understood the experiences of managing day-to-day in a veterinary clinic. I was also interested in joining a group that provided networking opportunities. The first meeting I attended was in February 1999 in Florida. There was the beach and a hot tub…the rest is history.
What positions did you hold with VHMA?
GG: I have 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 and 2013), Vice-President (2005-2009), interim-President (2009), President (2010-2012), and Past-President (2012-2014). I also served as Chairman of the Industry Liaison Committee and Director of Strategic Partnerships since 2014.
Please describe what you currently do for VHMA.
GG: Currently, I am the Director of Strategic Partnerships. I facilitate and support relationships between the VHMA and industry vendors and organizations that support that association's mission. In short, I find meaningful ways to collaborate with our corporate industry leaders.
What big industry or association issue did you face during your presidency?
GG: I 'wouldn't describe it as an " issue,"" it was more of an opportunity. The association was experiencing a steady increase in new members. The membership was hungry for more educational experiences, so we focused our energies on developing more advanced levels of content and a "toolbox" for managers. This allowed managers to easily and quickly implement what they learned into their practices. Furthermore, the team created virtual learning opportunities and career development resources.
You were involved in the early stages of the Business Alliance Program. Please describe how that program has evolved.
GG: This is one of 'VHMA's longest-running and most successful programs. Peter Ainslie was the outgoing Treasurer, and I was moving into the position. Finding sponsors to provide financial support was our responsibility, and we developed the Business Alliance Partner program. We were confident companies would appreciate---and ultimately support---the program. They did, and the results have funded some of 'VHMA's most significant initiatives.
How did early sponsors perceive VHMA? Has that perception changed today?
GG: It was a bit of a challenge to get sponsors to write a check of significance in the early days. They believed in 'VHMA's mission and membership, but our member’s influence was still in the growing stage. Fast-forward a few years, and now sponsors want to collaborate with VHMA and provide financial support. They realize we are a go-to resource for business leaders in the industry.
What is your favorite VHMA conference memory?
GG: I was presented with the 'President's Award at the 2014 Annual Membership Meeting. It was an amazing honor. Because I knew the fantastic individuals who previously received the award, it made the recognition that much more special. It is something I will never forget.
Would you like to share a humorous memory?
GG: After more than 20 years as a member, it isn't easy to single out just one funny story, but I will try. At one particular meeting, a bunch of us were going out to network after a long conference day. We entered the elevator, and someone "accidentally"" pushed the emergency stop elevator button on the way down. We 'couldn't get it going again, so we attempted to use the emergency phone. But, of course, it 'wouldn't work. Finally, after what seemed like hours, the fire department arrived to rescue us.
What is the biggest change you have seen over the years in VHMA?
GG: Besides the growth of the association, I would say our members have become more industry savvy. They actively participate in educational programs and incorporate what they have learned into practice life.
Other than the number of people joining VHMA, any thoughts about how membership has changed?
GG: It seems that managers are joining us earlier in their careers and not waiting for an event to occur in the practice. They are proactively joining.
What has it been like moving from officer to staff?
GG: The shift has been relatively seamless as the current staff position is a continuation of my work while on the Board. We have always worked together like a family.
Please share a little-known fact or tidbit about VHMA.
GG: All staff working with the VHMA are virtual and located across the U.S. and Canada.
What is the next big thing that VHMA should focus on?
GG: VHMA should consider increasing collaboration efforts with industry partners and continue developing strategies to address workforce crises.
Thank you, Gerard, for pulling back the curtain and providing VHMA members with insights into the 'association's growth and development.