UF’s veterinary business management certificate program thrives in first 10 years

By Sarah Carey

The University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine was an early advocate of training veterinary students in the importance of business skills for success in veterinary practice, launching a unique program in 2014 that continues to thrive today.

The Veterinary Business Management Certificate Program, an innovative opportunity for business skill development with a tailored curriculum, was the brainchild of the college’s current dean, Dana Zimmel, D.V.M., when she oversaw operations at the UF Veterinary Hospitals. The program has continued, led by Martha Mallicote, D.V.M.

While other schools offer business-related academic content, the academic Business Management Certificate Program at UF — with a curriculum aimed at furthering veterinary students’ education in business and personal finance, practice ownership, business and employee management and career path preparation — remains unique, said Mallicote, a UF large animal medicine specialist and the Weeks Endowed Clinical Associate Professor.

As of May 2023, 271 students have earned the certificate.

In the past five years, 31% of UF veterinary students who completed the certificate program went on to buy a practice compared with 22% of graduates who didn’t earn the certificate. And most of the certificate-earning graduates who don’t yet own a practice say they hope to.

While the college offers other certificate programs such as shelter medicine, aquatic animal health and food animal medicine, the business management certificate program boasts the highest number of certificate holders.

The first class of students in UF’s Veterinary Business Management Certificate program graduated in 2014.

While there’s no metric that definitively ties post-graduation D.V.M. salaries to participation in the business management certificate program, UF veterinary students’ understanding of contract negotiations doesn’t hurt, administrators said.

The average mean salary for all UF veterinary graduates in clinical practice, both men and women, is $135,720, while the national average mean salary in clinical practice is $125,449, according to the college’s Office for Academic and Student Affairs.

Two UF College of Veterinary Medicine alumni, Alexis Brandenburg, D.V.M. (’17) and Taylor McLendon, D.V.M. (’19), chose to buy practices in small animal and equine medicine, respectively. Both said the skills they gained through the program helped them navigate the ins and outs of business ownership.

“I always had an interest in owning a business, being my own boss and controlling my own future,” said Brandenburg, who purchased a Gainesville small animal practice, The Veterinary Center at Hunter’s Crossing. “The business management certificate was the perfect way to gain the knowledge I needed to pursue those dreams.”

Brandenburg said she never pursued business courses as an undergraduate because she was too busy preparing for veterinary school.

“I felt behind in my knowledge of business ownership, and let’s be honest, money management in general, going into veterinary school,” she said.

One of the most valuable aspects, she said, was a rotation in which students visit veterinary hospitals and evaluate their day-to-day business operations, from business expenses and financial records, building specifications and much more.

“We dissect every number and see where they flourish and where there is work to be done,” Brandenburg said. “You get to see how all of the parts come together to determine the success, or failure, of a business.”

Learning about contracts was also especially valuable, she said.

Some young veterinarians sign contracts in which they are underpaid and overworked, leading to burnout, she said, adding that in other jobs, contracts may overpay veterinarians but insist on caseloads that aren’t sustainable.

McLendon said a key thing she learned was that outsourcing is OK.

“I don’t do my own taxes, I hired a CPA. I hired a company that does my payroll,” McLendon said. “I do a lot of the personnel management and that kind of thing myself.”

While the certificate program’s benefit to students is a key aspect, Mallicote said its importance of relationships between UF, practitioners and the state’s veterinary community can’t be overstated.

Veterinarians who let UF’s certificate students pore over their books have been incredibly helpful, Mallicote said, and the program wouldn’t work without them.

Another part of the program’s value is that it refutes the idea that every practice is corporate-owned, Mallicote said. It also shows that student debt doesn’t preclude veterinary graduates from buying a practice.

In the future, Mallicote hopes the program will expand to new audiences, like veterinary students at other schools, alumni and veterinarians who need help with business decisions.

Brandenburg said she highly recommends the program.

“Everything I learned in the program, from loans and staffing to contracts and communication skills, has helped me as a practice owner,” she said. “There is so much to take away from the program and practice ownership is extremely rewarding. As veterinarians, we spend our lives helping animals, but as a practice owner, not only can I help animals, I can also take care of the people that work for me.”

Added McLendon, “As the owner of my practice, to see it flourishing and see my employees going out there and doing great things makes me feel so empowered.”

She said she wished more universities offered programs similar to UF’s.

“I would tell people: If you have even the smallest inkling of interest in practice ownership, pursue it,” McLendon said. “Ask questions. It’s worked out so well for me and I have the perfect path. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Now that I’m an owner, I could never go back to working for anyone else.”

Share this article with others:
  • E-mail this story to a friend!
  • Facebook
  • Digg
  • Twitter

March-April 2024

Dr. Zimmel

A message from our dean

A message from the college’s dean, Dr. Dana Zimmel.

Dr. Taylor Curley, back row, second from right, with members her UF College of Veterinary Medicine emergency and critical care team before the Key West Half Marathon on Jan. 14.

Quick action from UF veterinary emergency and critical care resident saves life of human runner

Performing CPR on animals is routine for Dr. Taylor Curley, but when a fellow runner collapsed during a race, her instincts kicked into gear.

Dr. Jeff Gruntmeier with his poster at EPI early stage investigator competition.

Scientist receives 1st place in EPI poster competition

Dr. Jeff Gruntmeier’s poster detailed progress in sample collection from mammals in wildlife rehab facilities. His project involves testing these samples for the presence of the SARSCoV2 virus.

Dr. Taylor McLendon performs a hind limb flexion during a lameness examination on a horse.

UF’s veterinary business management certificate program thrives in first 10 years

The program is unique among veterinary colleges nationwide.

Dr. Kari Hancock, Dr. Sally DeNotta and Dr. Lisa Edwards of UF's large animal medicine team ware shown with Lionel in his pen a few days prior to his discharge from UF's Large Animal Hospital. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Sally DeNotta)

Young ram back on his feet after months of treatment by UF veterinarians

The ram, named Lionel, is continuing his recovery at the UF-IFAS sheep unit and is doing well, UF veterinarians said.

Dr. Dan Lewis surrounded by several current and former UF small animal surgery residents.

Faculty member honored by national surgery group

Dr. Dan Lewis has received the 2024 Steve Fox Lifetime Achievement Award from the Veterinary Orthopedic Society.

...also in this issue



Around the College