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College alumnae lead the way in pet obesity research for AVMA Future Leaders program

The future of veterinary medicine is looking bright, thanks to two alumnae looking to embrace it. Gillian Angliss DVM ’07 and Stephanie Janeczko DVM ’04, members of the new class of Future Leaders at the American Veterinary Medical Association, meet a profession on the cusp of change. In joining the Future Leaders program, they’re working to unveil a project that addresses the challenging issue of pet obesity in addition to developing skills that will shepherd veterinary medicine into a new era.

The Future Leaders program, funded by Zoetis Animal Health and guided by a skills-focused training group called High Impact Facilitation, is a one-year curriculum for veterinarians who have graduated within the last 15 years.  The AVMA selects up to 10 participants each year to work on developing leadership qualities and problem-solving skills.

“Each class develops leadership skills to advance veterinary medicine, the veterinary workplace, and society as a whole, as well as creating resources for their veterinary colleagues,” said Tom Meyer, immediate past president of the AVMA.

Broad challenges, bright ideas

This year’s topic of pet obesity is intentionally broad. The challenge set by AVMA for the Future Leaders is to create something within general guidelines. For example, the group must create something that’s novel, requires no upkeep, and serves as a resource for AVMA members. Last year’s class created tools to strengthen a veterinary team, including new hire training, employee performance feedback, and guidelines for effective team meetings. The 2015 class focused on wellness and developed five tools to implement a wellness-centered workplace.

“They tell you your topic and the guidelines, and then they say, ‘Now go,’” said Angliss.

The nation-wide group collaborates via long-distance conferencing, following an in-person kickoff meeting in August. They’re currently prepping for the AVMA Veterinary Leadership Conference in January, where they’ll be able to share some preliminary details about the project. As a culmination of their work, they’ll demonstrate the final deliverables as part of a segment of continuing education talks during the July 2018 AVMA convention in Denver.

“Our group will look at what resources are currently available out there as well as some of the challenges that veterinarians and pet owners face in terms of having their pets at a healthy weight. This background will allow us to develop tools that can help veterinarians be more effective in their interactions with clients to support a weight loss plan,” said Janeczko.

“Each of these new leaders will use their skills to benefit the veterinary workplace, society and organized veterinary medicine,” said Christine Jenkins, chief veterinary medical officer at Zoetis Animal Health.

Cultivating leadership

The program emphasizes a holistic approach to developing leadership skills, requiring participants to complete comprehensive self-assessments. “I’ve made some interesting discoveries about myself through this process,” said Angliss. “It’s exciting to have those ah-ha moments that increase your self-awareness. Each of us in the program is finding that we bring different strengths to the group, different ideas, and it’s growing into an exciting project.”

Currently an assistant professor of veterinary technology at Mercy College, Angliss practiced emergency care for about 10 years before transitioning into teaching. She still regularly practices High Quality High Volume Spay/Neuter and per diem emergency medicine, and she’s already thinking of ways to incorporate what she’s learning into her daily life.

“I’m hopeful to use the skills learned through this program in the academic setting where I am, and also to continue my involvement on the local and national level with organized veterinary medicine,” said Angliss.

Janeczko also sees this as an opportunity for professional and personal development. She worked previously in general small animal clinical practice before returning to Cornell as the College’s first shelter medicine resident. From there, she worked in the New York City shelter system before moving into a position with the ASPCA.

“The profession is at an interesting and challenging time for many reasons, ranging from student debt, wellness issues, the need for younger veterinarians to become more involved in leadership positions, and large numbers of faculty on the brink of retirement,” said Janeczko. “There are crucial questions for us to answer in order to come up with solutions that can help advance the profession.”

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