The University of Minnesota’s College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) seeks a highly accomplished academic veterinary medicine leader to be its next Chair of the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences (VCS). This is a tremendous opportunity to lead the vital clinical education and research enterprise of a preeminent veterinary colleges, one of six colleges comprising the Academic Health Center (AHC) on the campus of one of the nation’s major public research and land-grant universities.
Reporting to the Dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM), the new Chair will provide academic and administrative leadership for VCS, including faculty and curriculum development, serving as the primary liaison between the department and the Veterinary Medical Center (VMC), managing the allocation of resources, and community outreach and engagement. The Chair will play a critical role fostering a departmental culture with a shared sense of purpose and vision for the future and deep respect and value for the widely varying educational, clinical, and research responsibilities of VCS faculty. Identifying interdepartmental and intercollegiate relationships that will generate new collaborative clinical and translational research opportunities aligned with the College, AHC, and university priorities is a key responsibility. Identifying and pursuing financial support from industry, the veterinary community, and philanthropic sources will also be important. A high priority for the new Chair will be the recruitment and retention of faculty to ensure the department’s capacity to continue to meet the growing needs for the high quality teaching, clinical, and research activity for which it has long been recognized.
The Chair of the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences serves as the department’s chief administrative officer. The Chair reports to the Dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine and is a member of the College’s Administrative Council, the primary advisory committee to the Dean. The other Council members, including the Associate Deans for research, graduate programs, and academic and student affairs, the two other Department Chairs, Center Directors, and CVM’s CFO/COO and the Director of Human Resources, will be important colleagues of the new Chair. At the department level, the Chair is currently supported by a Vice- Chair and an Administrative Director. The VCS Chair also serves as member of the VMC leadership team and in this capacity is an active participant in major decisions that would affect both the department and the Medical Center. As the primary liaison between the VCS and the VMC, a critical relationship for this department Chair is with the VMC Director.
KEY OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES FOR THE VCS CHAIR
The overarching challenge for the VCS Chair will be to foster an environment that supports faculty with diverse interests and commitments, and to establish a more seamless integration with the VMC. Accordingly, the following will be early priorities for the new Chair:
Provide academic and administrative leadership for the Department of Clinical Sciences
Veterinary Clinical Science’s last strategic plan was written for the 2007-2009 timeframe, so actively engaging VCS’s deeply committed faculty and staff in the development of department goals, objectives and plans, perhaps through a formal strategic planning process, will engender trust and confidence in the new Chair. At the same time, in developing the budget, and in monitoring and allocation of department resources – fiscal, human, facilities, and capital – the Chair will need to make some difficult choices. Effectively communicating the rationale for such decisions will also be critical to earning the respect and loyalty of department faculty and staff.
In addition to academic and administrative leadership of the department, and external activities, it is expected that the new Chair will continue to be an active clinician and/or researcher. Effectively balancing this wide range of responsibilities will require careful time management.
Ensure that all department faculty are valued and respected for their contributions
The complement of faculty in VCS is complex, with faculty members’ allocation of time and effort between clinical service, research, and teaching varying widely. More than two-thirds of faculty are hired into positions with significant clinical effort while other faculty members have limited clinical responsibilities and more time committed to research and/or teaching. The new Chair will play an important role fostering an environment in which all missions – research, education and delivery of high quality clinical care are equally valued and recognized as critical to the College’s mission and integral to its success.
Establish a strong and mutually beneficial relationship with the VMC Director and team
The VMC is the primary training site for DVM students and most of the College’s interns and residents. VCS faculty spend considerable time working with students in the VMC for clinical training, and for many faculty, a significant amount of their time and effort is committed to working in the VMC for clinical service beyond their teaching obligations. The new Chair will work in close collaboration with the VMC Director, as well as the Chair of Veterinary Population Medicine, to develop strategies for staffing, including scheduling, recruiting, and hiring, which will be fundamental to the continuing success of the clinical enterprise. The VMC has been at the cutting edge for capturing utilization and other data that will be invaluable in this process, and the College’s growing capacity to generate data to help inform decision making will also help to facilitate this important effort.
As the growth of basic science, clinical, and translational research becomes increasingly important to the College and University achieving its goals and ambitions, the new Chair will be expected to foster an environment that supports these efforts. VCS is particularly well positioned to expand its clinical trial and translational research activity given the high caseload of the VMC. This will be another important area for the new Chair to work closely with the VMC to increase synergistic activity between the two units. Already the VCS department is recognized nationally and internationally for clinical research in several areas, including urology, genetics, orthopedics, oncology, and raptor medicine. Among other areas of excellence, they are also highly regarded for their physical rehabilitation work with dogs.
Another key area for VCS and the VMC to work collaboratively is on priority setting around new equipment purchases and upgrades, to ensure that clinical training, patient care, and research activity are well supported and facilitated with state-of-the-art tools.
Ensure the continuing excellence of the DVM program with leading edge programs
University of Minnesota’s DVM program is among the top in the country and its outstanding reputation makes it a very attractive place to study veterinary medicine, allowing the College to be highly selective in its admissions process. A new DVM curriculum is being rolled in starting with the Class of 2017 and features early introduction to clinical and professional skills and enhanced horizontal and vertical integration. The curriculum delivers the most up-to-date scientific information, encouraging leadership, facilitating active and collaborative learning, and using technology to enhance learning. While some fine-tuning will be necessary the new curriculum has been well received.
The new Chair must be vigilant in keeping abreast of emerging new trends in veterinary medicine and expectations from students, animal owners, caregivers, and veterinary practitioners. Enhancing business training to ensure that graduates have the skills needed to handle the administrative activities related to running a practice, and expanding preventive/primary care, alternative, and shelter medicine experience will give students greater exposure to areas of veterinary medicine they may otherwise not have considered. All of these additional experiences will afford students a greater range of employment opportunities upon graduation. An affiliation with a local humane society assures continuing access for fourth-year students, and is evolving to become a complete shelter medicine program. Identifying more potential partnerships to provide additional training sites will be important to ensuring that the UMN CVM remains a highly competitive program that is proactive in its efforts to remain at the forefront of veterinary medicine.
Actively engage with the veterinary community beyond the College
The practice of veterinary medicine in the greater Minneapolis-St. Paul area is getting increasingly competitive. While the VMC is a highly regarded referral center that reaches well beyond the Twin City area, the greater percentage of care provided is for companion animals in the general vicinity. To remain competitive and to ensure that the veterinary community and pet owners are aware of the full spectrum of primary and specialty care available at the VMC, the VCS Chair will take the lead and work in close collaboration with the VMC Director to be proactive and visible.
Initiatives like the Minnesota Veterinary Institute (MVI), a new and unique collaboration of the Minnesota Veterinary Medical Association (MVMA), the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, and the Veterinary Hospitals Association (VHA) launched in 2014, is an example of the types of activity that will help ensure the College remains vital. VCS is the key college sponsor of the MVI, and took an active role in its development. The Institute’s goals are to elevate the quality and quantity of continuing education programs available to veterinary practitioners and technicians, and its year-long course design combining lectures, wet labs, and online interactive case studies enables participants to study one subject in-depth and to successfully implement the program into their practice. The 2014 program was Veterinary Dentistry and Oral Surgery, and the one beginning winter of 2015 is Feline Health, Medicine, and Surgery.
Identifying and implementing other opportunities to expand the College’s reach, including partnerships with outside veterinary hospitals to provide specialty services, or exploring the feasibility of opening satellite operations, will be an important aspect of a new Chair’s work.