Banfield plunges into international waters


Mexico City-Expanding into the international arena is no longer just a dream for Banfield, The Pet Hospital. The nation's largest veterinary hospital opened its first international site late last month in the United Kingdom and recently finalized plans to build a small animal teaching hospital at the Universidad Nacional Autonome de Mexico (UNAM).

Mexico City-Expanding into the international arena is no longer just a dream for Banfield, The Pet Hospital. The nation's largest veterinary hospital opened its first international site late last month in the United Kingdom and recently finalized plans to build a small animal teaching hospital at the Universidad Nacional Autonome de Mexico (UNAM).

Leaders from Banfield and UNAM unveiled plans for the new teaching hospital in August at the 150th anniversary of UNAM'S veterinary school and the International Symposium-Frontiers in Veterinary Medicine, which drew veterinary leaders from around the world (see related story this page).

"UNAM has an excellent school faculty but has a real need for a facility for small animal medicine," says Dr. Scott Campbell, chairman and CEO of Banfield, The Pet Hospital. "This new hospital will provide UNAM with improved clinical services as well as offer students the chance to get the practical experience they need."

The 12,000-square-foot primary care facility, which is targeted to open at the end of 2004 or early 2005, is designed to be a full-service hospital that can handle a high volume of patients and will offer 24-hour care. It will include nine exam rooms, an in-house laboratory, three surgical suites and overnight accommodations that will be used to house residents who will provide overnight care to hospitalized patients.

Banfield expects its 12,000-square-foot teaching hospital to open in late 2004 or early 2005 at Mexico City's UNAM .

"We are very honored that Banfield has selected UNAM as a site for one of its hospitals," says Dr. Luis A. Zarco, dean of UNAM's veterinary school. "This will enable us to offer more to our students and pets that we care for."

After the hospital is completed, Banfield will also fund the renovation of UNAM's current teaching hospital so it can be developed into a specialty hospital. The two facilities will be 200 meters apart. The new hospital, which will cost in excess of $1 million, will be located on several acres of land at the entrance of the university and is close to public transportation for client convenience.

"We couldn't have asked for a better location," Campbell says. "This hospital will be easy for clients to get to and is close for students to walk to and from the veterinary school."

Currently, UNAM's veterinary teaching hospital sees about 11,000 cases annually.

Answering a need

"The new Banfield hospital will allow us to double the number of cases we see," says Dr. Francisco Trigo, associate dean of UNAM's veterinary school.

Receiving a veterinary education in Mexico is unlike the degree program in the United States. Students enter the veterinary program directly out of high school and spend five years in training, Trigo says.

UNAM's veterinary school has about 2,200 students enrolled with class sizes of around 400 students. From those 400, about 200 students focus on small animal medicine.

"This will also facilitate our students in getting acquainted will all the modern technology Banfield uses in their regular practice, including access to the Banfield Learning System," Trigo adds.

School officials anticipate 20 students will be working daily in the hospital with close to 250 students benefiting from the experience annually.

The new hospital, which will mirror the Banfield facilities in the United States, will also likely help the veterinary school achieve accreditation from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). During the last several years, UNAM and AVMA began talking about possible accreditation for the veterinary school.

Filling another void

However, UNAM, as well as other Latin American veterinary schools, must overcome a few obstacles before accreditation is granted. AVMA officials have said UNAM's current teaching hospital does not meet the U.S. standards for technology and education.

But the new Banfield hospital could change all that.

"UNAM has standout programs in other areas of veterinary medicine except in small animal because they don't have the money to build a new hospital," says Dr. Jeff Brant, Banfield's vice president of development. "We've had plans to expand into Mexico and this seemed like the right place to start.

"We also hope we can serve as the catalyst to bridge the gap between UNAM and AVMA," he says.

Although the communication between the two organizations has been sporadic, it appears progress has been made recently and more discussions are likely. Former AVMA President Dr. James Nave served as the keynote speaker for UNAM's International Symposium-Frontiers in Veterinary Medicine. Current AVMA President Dr. Jack Walther and Dr. Donald Simmons, AVMA director of education and research, also served as speakers.

Banfield officials began talking with leaders from UNAM's veterinary school about six years ago when they saw a void in meeting the needs of their Latino clients in certain areas of the United States, Brant says.

Campbell adds that through the years the relationship has evolved and last year discussions began on the possibility of building a hospital at the school.

"This is a win-win situation for everyone," he says. "They need a hospital and we can help them obtain practical training and they can help us with the shortage of veterinarians."

Campbell says he would like to hire veterinarians from UNAM because they are good doctors but is unable to due to the current barriers for hiring foreign graduates.

"There is definitely a shortage of veterinarians in the U.S., especially Spanish-speaking doctors," he says. "As the Latino population continues to grow in our country, we need to listen to their needs and concerns."

Campbell believes being able to hire qualified foreign graduates will help fill that void not only for Banfield, but for the entire profession as well.

"More than ever veterinary medicine is facing globalization and it's important for the profession to keep up with the changes that are occurring in our country and the rest of the world," he says.

In late September, Banfield opened its first international practice in Manchester, England. A second full-service hospital is set to open in the United Kingdom in early 2004. Both hospitals will open in partnership with mypetstopª Pet Resort & Care Centers, a new business developed to meet almost every pet service need under one roof.

First international practice

"This is the first international hospital Banfield will open, and also the first mypetstop service center," Brant says. "A quarter of a million pets live within a 30-minute drive of the new pet hospital in Manchester, so this is a great opportunity to launch our European expansion."

"This is going to make quite an impact in the U.K.," says Senior Veterinarian Christoph Reichman, who leads the team of health professionals at the Manchester hospital. "There's nothing like this one-stop service center for pets in any other country."

The international expansion is just one of the newest initiatives for Banfield, which currently has more than 330 clinics in the United States and employs more than 800 veterinarians. Plans for continued expansion include additional U.S. hospitals and facilities throughout Europe and Latin American countries.

The UNAM announcement comes on the heels of Banfield recently signing an agreement with Western University of Health Sciences College of Veterinary Medicine (Western U) to build a new primary care teaching hospital.

Gaining ground

The primary care facility will be built so that first and second-year veterinary students enrolled in the university will have a chance to learn about routine veterinary care as part of new problem-based curriculum, Campbell says.

The cost of the new 6,000-square-foot facility is about $8 million paid over a 10-year period. Plans for the new hospital call for five to six exam rooms, a large treatment area and surgical suite, an X-ray room and isolation facilities. The hospital will also have at least two conference rooms so students can meet with instructors.

However, the university will not have a large, centralized campus hospital. Instead, third- and fourth-year veterinary students will work in rotations in various Los Angeles-area practices, including four Banfield hospitals, which are being renovated to facilitate the education.

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