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Women leading change: Christine Merle


This executive director of VetPartners advises the profession from the outside-in.

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Dr. Christine Merle, MBA, CVPM, has always watched the money. First, she was a treasurer for her college sorority. Then she watched a corporate entity buy out her first veterinary employer. Next she gained a wider perspective in an MBA program, following that with a stint teaching business at a veterinary college. Most recently, she’s brought it all together as executive director of VetPartners, the world’s largest organization of veterinary management consultants. Through it all, she’s tried to remain a veterinarian first.

“What goes on in practice is unique because we serve two clients: pet and pet owner,” Dr. Merle says. “But in my business work I’ve seen the similarities among organizational successes, whether they’re in banking, finance, science, or private veterinary practice.

“My goal has always been to bring strong overall business techniques from outside into the veterinary world,” she says.

Dr. Merle sees her consulting and leadership work outside the exam room as another example—hopefully an inspiring one—of the wide possibilities available to veterinarians today. “We think a veterinarian’s role is to be in practice and to physically touch the animals,” she says. “But veterinarians can affect things on a wider scale, too. That’s what drives my career focus.”

Dr. Merle has dug deep in her leadership of VetPartners to forge connections among consultants and build awareness of the many business advisors available to veterinarians. VetPartners board member and president Phil Homsey, J.D., says he was astonished at Dr. Merle’s contacts within the industry. Standing with her at a veterinary convention booth, “I could not believe the connection she had with just about everyone who came by,” Homsey says.

The industry is ripe for change during this recession, Dr. Merle says. “We can’t just raise prices, so veterinarians are willing to change,” she says. “We need to be more efficient, more individualized in our approach to building each practice.”

Whether in private practice, consulting, teaching, administration, or the corporate world, Dr. Merle will continue to be a powerful voice. Her colleagues say she brings practical advice from outside the industry into the exam room and is inspiring women to realize the wide range of positions available to them in the veterinary profession.

Editor’s note: A few weeks after our interview with Dr. Merle, she resigned as VetPartners executive director and took the leap into the corporate world as technical consultant for Elanco Animal Health.

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