Pre-Review of the 2020 AVMA Economic Summit

It has been a minute (really weeks) since I last sat down to write about the veterinary industry. Needless to say, my new job and settling into a house has taken all of my focus and energy. This week I mostly wanted to take the time to talk about the annual AVMA Veterinary Economics summit happening this week. This is a great event that I have spoken at in the past on topics such as the market for veterinarians and the gender wage gap. While this year’s summit is happening virtually, and I am very sad not to see many of you in person, the lineup of speakers and topics is sure to be unforgettable. All I can say is that Matt Salois, his team, and the many collaborators that make this conference happen every year are fantastic people and have done a great job bringing the veterinary industry some real insights from an economic perspective.


So, let me quickly say a few things about what I think we will all be able to take away from this year’s summit. First, Dr. Matt Salois is going to open the summit with “Confronting the 3 realities in veterinary medicine.” We have seen a lot change over the last year and I can assure that Matt will do a great job summing this up for us. I suspect (I promise this is just me guessing!) we will hear about diversity and inclusion, the recession and other macroeconomic issues, and potentially burnout due to the surge in veterinary expenditures from pet owners. I am most excited about the macroeconomics because Matt is much more in tune with that than I could ever hope to be!

The overall theme this year is about transformation, which is highly appropriate. We have seen all veterinary practices transform and pivot to serve a drastically different consumer base. The topics about building consumer trust, pricing, customer value, and building relationships are more important now than they were last year. If these issues are not addressed when demand is high for veterinary businesses, then how can we expect these trends to continue after the pandemic is over? Perhaps the keynote I am most excited for is the one by Dr. Dambisa Moyo on small business survival in a post-pandemic world. Many veterinary businesses have done exceedingly well during this time as revenues over the third quarter made up for and exceeded the losses experienced in the first quarter and a half of the year. I hope Dr. Moyo talks about how to sustain this trend going forward because the veterinary industry is not like most other small businesses that have suffered greatly this year. That doesn’t mean some veterinary practices have not struggled, but the year has been good for the industry.

Finally, the last day of the summit with data science and we will get our annual update on the various markets (education, veterinarians, and veterinary services). This is something the veterinary economics team at AVMA has done really well over the past several years and it will be interesting to see how these latest numbers compare to previous years. My predictions are that the demand for education is increasing and the addition of several new schools will aid in supplying this demand. How that affects debt accumulation though is still to be determined. The market for veterinarians is running hot this year with the additional need from most clinics. I suspect salaries will also see a marked increase over previous years. Though, I think we should all still be a bit cautious as this year and next year are anomalies until proven otherwise. From my research, real incomes (inflation adjusted) prior to the pandemic were still stagnant in growth and that is more indicative of the industry trends as a whole. When it comes to the market for veterinary services, I think it safe to say demand is still increasing and this year is the poster child. It will be interesting to see how this changes post-pandemic (if at all). Keep in mind, expenditures on veterinary services may well decline as a large portion of pet owners are taking pay cuts and looking to get back to work.

Overall, I am looking forward to the summit and hope to see you all there! There is always more to learn, and I can’t wait to see what topics the attendees find most important and what topics we should focus our research on for the next year.

As always, thank you to all the new people who have connected with me and chatted with me about future collaborations and topics. This blog is all about communicating science based work that can impact people, businesses, and policy makers. Let’s make the world more informed with good science. Also, a special thank you to the entire AVMA Veterinary Economics team, speakers, and collaborators for providing us with this amazing conference. 

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