An easier path to ownership will empower the next generation of veterinarians
This content is sponsored by PetSmart Veterinary Services.
PetSmart Veterinary Services is creating exciting opportunities for veterinarians to own their clinics within PetSmart stores, revolutionizing the veterinary care landscape. Vernard Hodges, DVM, costar of the television show Critter Fixers, recently discussed the unique advantages of this initiative on dvm360 Live!™ with Adam Christman, DVM, MBA, chief veterinary officer of dvm360. With more than 1600 PetSmart locations nationwide, veterinarians can enter the field with minimal start-up costs and tap into a preexisting client base of pet-loving individuals. The autonomy provided enables veterinarians to practice medicine on their own terms, free from corporate constraints.
Hodges also shared his personal mission to promote diversity in veterinary ownership by spearheading a venture that aims to open 25 new hospitals, empowering young racial and ethnic minority veterinarians with ownership and mentorship opportunities. The partnership between PetSmart Veterinary Services and passionate veterinarians such as Hodges signals a transformative approach to accessible care and inclusivity in veterinary medicine.
Christman: How did you find the opportunity with PetSmart Veterinary Services, and what about the opportunity was unique and compelling to you?
Hodges: The best relationships are ones that occur naturally. One day, I was sitting down having a bite and a gentleman was talking to me about what PetSmart had to offer. With Critter Fixer [Veterinary Hospital in Bonaire, Georgia], I’ve been very happy being a private practitioner for the past 25 years. However, once I started seeing the opportunities for [younger veterinarians] coming behind me, I thought this was an amazing opportunity. They’re providing a chance for 100% ownership inside their PetSmart stores at a very low cost. You could probably get in for less than $100,000. They offer financing too.
Normally, to start a practice and get everything up and running, we’re talking millions of dollars. You have to buy land, build, and find equipment. With PetSmart, you get to lease a space inside a business that, on average, is bringing 4500 people through your lobby door. These are 4500 people we know love pets, and you have 100% ownership. It’s a win-win. You can just come in and start practicing because everything is set up and ready to go from day 1.
You and I have been practicing for over 20 years. We want to use our brains. We don’t want a big corporation to tell us what to do. The beautiful thing is there’s no veterinary medical officer. You are in charge of your own drugs; you are in charge of your own medicine and how you practice.
I have never lent my name to another practice besides Critter Fixer [Veterinary Hospital] in 25 years, but I have an opportunity to help [younger veterinarians] own and change their life. When students are coming out of [veterinary] school with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, this is an easier way to get into a practice and change your life.
Christman: Tell us about Vet for a Day.
Hodges: At this point in my career, I am fortunate enough to be able to help the profession. People would always ask me how their kids could become veterinarians. So eventually I thought, “Why don’t we have a place where everybody’s kids could meet up and be veterinarians for a day?” We did that, and it immediately took off. Partnering with Zoetis Foundation, we were able to take the program nationwide. More recently, we started working with [veterinary] schools at universities [such as] Cornell [University in Ithaca, New York] and Auburn University [in Alabama]. Kids who normally aren’t exposed to veterinary medicine can come to Vet for a Day and learn about the profession.
Christman: Can you tell us about your personal mission?
Hodges: Often we talk about the less than 2% of Black veterinarians in this field. It’s been less than 2% since I started 25 years ago, and it’s still less than 2% now. My thought is, how can I change this dynamic? So I reached out to some younger Black veterinarians around the country and said, “Let’s get together and form a vendor conglomerate. We can find locations; I’ll mentor you through it, and I’ll show you how to run the practice.”
Now we’ve identified 25 hospitals across the country that we’re going to open together. We’re finding younger minority veterans and giving them a piece of the ownership. If we have these socioeconomic barriers, it’s great to be able to change that for the next generation. It’s got to start somewhere, and why not me? With PetSmart Veterinary Services backing us up [and] partnering on the locations, it’s a win-win for everybody.