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Understanding the Bottom Line

Graphic illustratration to accompany storyTeaching the business side of vet med

Equipping students with tools to understand financial well¬being is an important piece in the overall approach to wellness in the Ontario Veterinary College’s Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) curriculum. 

The more than 45 hours of lectures OVC Clinical Studies professor John Tait delivers to DVM students is structured around confidence-building strategies for both business and personal financial and debt management. 

“Part of financial wellbeing is knowing how to protect your current and future income, planning for the future while learning how to live off early career income levels and manage debt right out of the gate,” says the 1986 OVC DVM graduate. 

In the first year of OVC’s Art of Veterinary Medicine (AVM) course, Tait focuses on primary business areas — finance and tax tips, early debt management strategies, how to manage a budget and how to best utilize credit. 

With third-year DVM students, he focuses teaching around business issues in the profession. He begins with an overview on economics and the veterinary industry and examines the operational portfolios of the veterinary practice before turning the course more personal with a presentation including personal financial issues. 

Tait breaks it down further from there, delving into practice finance, individual compensation models and, while far off, succession planning. He spends time on marketing, including how to develop both a personal and business brand, as well as human resources skills, customer service, legal issues, business ethics, contracts, negotiation skills, job seeking strategies and self-employment. 

“Many graduates will eventually operate small businesses so it’s important to cover these areas and set the stage,” he notes. 

Tait also tackles more in-depth financial and planning topics, focusing on three areas: income protection, income management and investing for the future, all part of financial wellbeing, he notes. 

Business management has been a part of the AVM course since it was introduced almost 20 years ago. He regularly reassesses course content, hosting focus groups annually with graduates, who are one year out of the DVM program and have taken a variety of career paths.

During the sessions, Tait leaves the floor open so that new graduates can share what stressors they’ve encountered since graduation. 

The answers depend on what is trending in the industry. Common financial issues include managing debt, becoming a practice owner, consolidation in the workplace, balancing a budget, determining net worth, as well as choosing insurance and investment products, says Tait, but also include how customer service has changed and the abundance of social media. 

“Other areas of business that consistently affect young grads include the challenges of establishing oneself as a leader and inner conflict in the workplace,” he notes. 

He uses their real-world feedback to continuously improve the course and help students develop business and finance skills they will need throughout their career to market themselves and manage their bottom line.

John Tait brings a wealth of experience and expertise to his teaching, with a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from the Ontario Veterinary College, an MBA in Health Services Management from McMaster University, as well as a Master of Science in Finance, combined with a Certification in Financial planning from the University of Toronto.

Originally published in the Winter/Spring 2019 Crest Magazine.

(Illustration: istockphoto.com/DrAfter123nto.)