Why a Study Group?

The demands of practicing veterinary medicine today require more than great medical and surgical skills. The capital intensity required to operate a veterinary practice and the skills needed to maintain a standing of activity with personnel assemblage, inventory acquisition, equipment purchases, hospital design, client services, compliance requirements for standards of practice, etc. require a person for all seasons. The skill set taught in veterinary school is a good start in understanding medical and surgical issues, but by no means equips a doctor for the operation of a veterinary practice with gross income ranging from $1.5 million to $15 million.

Unique management tools are needed that cannot be taught even in a school of business. Unlike other business activities, a veterinary practice is a marriage of commercial enterprise in a capitalist environment coupled with the other-centered demands of being in a profession. A professional burden requires that patients’ health, clients’ interest, employees’ well being, and owners’ financial availability must all be balanced. Ironically, the best decision may not be the most financially astute because professional ethics may preclude good business. In all instances, ethics must win out. A study group of disparate practices of similar interests located throughout the country offers a diversity in thought that permits the individual practice members to synchronize the interests of finance, personnel management, and property control with the highest quality of medicine and surgery in a professional environment.

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System of Study Group Operation

Study groups normally meet multiple times during the course of a year. Most of the study groups within Veterinary Study Groups, Inc., an entity that was formed to help foster and administer study groups within the veterinary profession, meet twice a year. Selection of members within this group requires that each individual member is not infringing upon the practice catchment of another. A specific requirement to ensure that information is not shared among competing practices is essential. The unique makeup of a study group is clearly upon the design of that study group per se. Study groups that restrict membership to doctors and use the discipline of benchmarking ratios and percentages as well as other financial data can intertwine the disciplines of medicine, surgery, and finance.

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Meeting Agenda

Study group meetings are usually designed to foster the best possible benefit for the members. Management groups within Veterinary Study Groups, Inc. function under the charter and guidelines secured by Veterinary Study Groups, Inc. Each study group is free to provide a variation on this theme through the direction of the organized leadership of that study group, usually found in an Executive Committee. Two meetings per year are organized where outside speakers may be invited or the power of the group is tapped with pre-defined themes for a specific focus.

Members are expected to do their homework. Detailed information about the practice is presented and members within the study group function as a pro forma Board of Directors that offers advice and assistance for the management of each group. The group is led through the efforts of a facilitator. The facilitator’s role is multi-faceted and includes not only the organizational structure for maintaining the meeting at a location but also to help provide content, offer assistance to the program director, interface with the Executive Committee, lead discussion in specific areas that require shepherding, and offer commentary. Study group facilitators are usually selected because of their extensive experience and knowledge in veterinary practice issues, their extemporaneous communicative skills, and their ability to think quickly on their feet.

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Appropriate Candidates

The most successful candidates are hospital directors from multiple-doctor practices. Because the meeting times occur only twice a year, a requirement is made by the study group that the members attend all meetings. Unless there is depth of coverage within a practice, that commitment may be onerous for some practitioners. For this reason, hospital directors in multiple-doctor practices seem to be able to make the commitment both in time and capital.

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Financial Commitment

The organizational structure of a study group does not come together on its own, but rather through the efforts of many. Veterinary Study Groups, Inc. assists in the establishment and coordination of a study group that is most appropriate for the type of group organized. Specific study groups have already been formed in companion animal and equine medicine. Appropriate candidates are reviewed by Veterinary Study Groups, Inc. which takes the responsibility of forming these initial groups.

A facilitator functions on an ongoing basis after initial meetings are attended by representatives from Veterinary Study Groups, Inc. as mentors. The facilitator’s role is to continue the operation of the study groups for decades that follow. Study groups normally meet at locations that are agreed upon by members and require that those members attend the meeting at those locations during the selected days.

The fall meeting focuses on the business of veterinary medicine, while the spring meetings center in selected topic areas in medicine, surgery, and finance. On a quarterly basis, information is gathered on each practice within a study group. Appropriate reports are prepared and sent to members so that up-to-date quarterly current information is available not only on the practice as it exists but also the other practices within the group.

Taking into consideration travel, subsistence, meals, fees paid to Veterinary Study Groups, Inc. for organizational structure and maintenance of the operational entity, acquisition of data for quarterly reports by the facilitator, facilitator’s time in coordinating activities, making hotel arrangements, preparing for meetings, and the actual attendance at the meetings for each member usually range between $6,500 and $12,000 each year.

Each study group sets its own parameters as to which locations it will meet, the extent of assistance that will be required, the number of days of the meeting, any outside speakers that may be invited where separate fees are paid for private seminars, etc. An investment of capital as well as an investment in time is required. Those individuals who join study groups are committed to the continual improvement of their practice. The investment of time and money is not small but the rewards are massive. One idea taken from one study group meeting can mean tens of thousands of dollars of improvement in the practice. The impact is not only enjoyed with improved income yield but also the appreciation of the underlying veterinary practice entity by improved goodwill.

Presently, Veterinary Study Groups, Inc. has, in operation and formation, eight specific study groups with a ninth being organized presently in companion animal medicine, and another for emergency clinics. Some individuals wish to join a burgeoning study group while others prefer admittance into an existing study group. The equine study groups have grown the most quickly. The advantage of starting at the ground floor with a study group is that everyone is at a common standing. The advantage of gaining entrance into an existing study group is that you are joining a group of individuals who are well versed in the benefits and disciplines of being together to gain information about practice operation for operational efficiency and improvement.

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Contact Info

If you have interest in joining a study please contact Ms. Heather Bigley in our Las Vegas office for an information packet (702-616-0075). You may also contact her through her e-mail address at

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Contact Info

Owen E. McCafferty, CPA, Inc.

Jacksonville Office
5000 Sawgrass Village Circle, Suite 31
Ponte Vedra Beach, FL 32082

Tel: (904) 992-1099
Fax: (904) 992-1098