San Diego Fetch dvm360® keynote speakers describe their joint conference, professional accomplishments, and more.
Day 1 of the San Diego Fetch dvm360® conference kicks off with a joint keynote titled “Courageous Conversations: Change Through Communication,” led by Peter Weinstein, DVM, MBA, Owner of PAW
Consultant and President of Simple Solutions for Vets, Irvine, Calif.; and Phillip Nelson, DVM, PhD, recently retired Dean, Professor of Immunology at Western University College of Veterinary Medicine in Pomona, Calif. In anticipation, dvm360® sat down with Weinstein and Nelson to get some insight
on the conversation and recounting special moments of their career.
Weinstein received his undergraduate degree from Cornell University before earning his DVM at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine. After graduating he moved to Orange County, California and worked as an associate for a few years before starting his own hospital, that’s when he realized that he knew little about the company. In response, he went back to school at the University of Redlands and worked to get his MBA at night while running the business during the day. This inspired him to infuse change into his practice, relocating and expanding it, before selling it to a consolidator.
Since then, Weinstein has been involved with the California Veterinary Medical Association, the Veterinary Economic Strategy Committee of the American Veterinary Medical Association, and the Southern California Veterinary Medical Association (SCVMA), serving as executive director for 14 years. Additionally, he has worked in the pet health insurance industry and expanded into counseling and coaching. Last year, he left ACSMV to pursue teaching at Western University College of Veterinary Medicine.
Nelson graduated from Tuskegee University College of Veterinary Medicine in 1979. He then completed a residency in internal medicine at Mississippi State University (MSU) College of Veterinary Medicine and earned a doctorate in comparative immunology from North Carolina State University. He was involved in the veterinary teaching profession upon graduation, first joining the MSU College of Veterinary Medicine in its second year of operation. Additionally, he was a founding faculty member of 2 veterinary schools, MSU and Western University. More recently, he left his position as Dean of Western University after serving in that position for 15 years and assumed a position as a faculty member of the college.
Of the roles you have held, which was your favorite?
Weinstein: When I took on the role of Executive Director of the [SCVMA], I really didn’t know what to expect or how long I would be interested in it, and it just grew inside of me. I really enjoyed the role…because it put me in a position as an advocate for the profession. This has allowed me to create continuing education programs for my members, from this point of view. It allowed me to focus on collegiality, camaraderie and… collaboration, which is very important in the profession. And that allowed me to be an influencer for the profession, not just in Southern California, but in other parts of the industry.
I think the role with SCVMA, which allowed me to tackle so many different things, was the most rewarding in many ways. [It] helped me to have a broad understanding of the veterinary profession…especially since I was the leader for most of [the COVID-19 pandemic], which really tests your leadership skills. Overall, I enjoy influencing and disrupting the profession in hopes of making it better in the future, and I think we were able to do that with SCVMA.
Nelson: When I went to vet school, my plan was to practice with my mentor, Dr. Roland Powell, in Jackson, Mississippi, it was a fluke, or God intervened in my life. Because when I graduated, Mississippi State opened a veterinary school. Powell was actively involved in establishing this veterinary school and recommended me for faculty there because he thought another year of seasoning would help the partnership. Little did he know that I had become so interested that I would never go into private practice with him because…I saw an opportunity to be involved in starting a veterinary school and thought at the time that I would never have the chance to be a part of establishing a vet school again. Seeing how it happens, being in the room when it happens… honestly couldn’t turn my back on it… Being part of the foundation [veterinary] mississippi state faculty was probably one of my favorites and i have to say it fit with being part of the foundation [veterinary] Western University faculty as well.
What is your proudest moment professionally?
Weinstein: I can look down the hall and see a bunch of glasses that I’ve received, and plaques at other times, but I think the recognitions that I’ve received as speaker of the year, both for the Veterinary Meeting & Expo and the Western Veterinary Conference, really touched me as they reflect my ability to communicate with the profession as a whole – to veterinarians, managers, technicians, team members… the personal plan, [I am proudest of] my 2 daughters, one of whom is less than a year away from graduating from Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine.
Nelson: My proudest moment, professionally, was when… Western [University College of Veterinary Medicine received accreditation] because I was dean at the time…and because of the uniqueness of the program that we accredited. At the time, Western was sailing against the grain of politics and expectations, much more so than Mississippi State, and the inclusion of problem-based learning, the inclusion of distributive modality in clinical training and the public consensus that we no longer needed vets at the time of Western’s inception. These 3 things came together at significant headwinds. And there was a broad consensus that Western University was unnecessary. And that the pedagogy we adopted would ruin veterinary medicine and ruin Western graduates. We were able to meet the standards of [College of Education] and convince [them] that we had a quality program.
What is the significance of your opening speech on Courageous Conversations?
Weinstein: Communication is a human weakness in many cases, and a notable weakness in the veterinary profession. And we are involved in daily communications with our team, with our clients, with family members, with friends. Many of these conversations are quite mundane. However, in the world in which we live, with the information that is broadcast on television, in the newspapers, via the Internet, [or] on the radio… there are subjects that require difficult or courageous conversations.
The premise of the keynote is to encourage these types of conversations. To find people [with whom] you can engage in these conversations…whether it’s about social issues or job performance, develop the skills and confidence to ask the tough questions. Also be prepared to be asked tough questions. So courageous conversations are those that you initiate or [which you are] reached out to [about], to evoke the topics you prefer to avoid, the so-called “indisputable ones”. I think the importance of our speech is to emphasize being comfortable being uncomfortable in these types of conversations.
Nelson: The importance of presentation [Weinstein] and I will do is a recognition that our country needs to reevaluate and relearn how to have a public conversation. I am very concerned about our inability to share our opinions without reprisal… [We will] encourage members of our profession to reach out to people who don’t think like them…and have the courage to first share [their] opinions and second, to listen to the opinions of others. Then third, agree to disagree in a pleasant way.
As African Americans, the goal is that we can move forward recognizing that we are all human beings, that race is a myth, and that…our laws and practices have been structured to deny certain demographics in our country. . The only way to get past that is to understand how each of us came to our point of view of what America is meant to be. This presentation is designed to gently engage the audience in watching how they arrived at the perspective they have on the issue they deem important.
What inspired you to give this joint lecture?
Weinstein: For over 2 years, Dr. Nelson and I had what we call courageous conversations. These started when I contacted Dr Nelson after the murder of George Floyd and asked for his help in understanding what is going on in the world. I just couldn’t reconcile the issues and felt like the company was moving backwards. All this just disturbed my state of mind.
So, we started having conversations, and from our conversations, we created a podcast called “Courageous Conversations” (www.peterandphil.com), during which we share our thoughts on life and other issues , not just about veterinary medicine – very little of it is about veterinary medicine. We challenge each other and our unique perspectives on issues. Dr. Nelson is originally from Mississippi. I’m from New York. And we approach things from a different angle because of [his] education in the South during the 1960s, and [mine in] the North in the 60s and 70s. The courageous joint conversation will allow us [not only] share with the public our points of view, but also the advantages and the importance of having these difficult conversations.
Nelson: Shortly after George Floyd’s death, Weinstein called me and was so disturbed by the incident that he called me with several probing questions. Questions that I didn’t feel comfortable answering, but because of that interaction, we grew the podcast and ultimately that led to this presentation.
I have always been involved in diversity [and] diversify the profession, largely because of my experiences as a minority in the profession…[and] my experiences as an educator and educational administrator and observing the practices that occurred in the 70s and 80s within this profession. History matters and the history of our profession in relation to inclusion is not a pretty picture, so my inspiration for this conference is one that has developed over time.
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