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Veterinary student wins national business award

Kile received the Simmons Educational Fund Business Aptitude Award and an accompanying $25,000 scholarship for his efforts in the annual event.

A $2 million proposal by Washington State University student Thomas Kile for the purchase, remodel, and expansion of a fictitious veterinary clinic earned first place in a national competition for veterinary students.

Representatives from the Simmons Educational Fund, a nonprofit created to educate practitioners and students about the business of veterinary medicine, presented Kile with the Simmons Educational Fund Business Aptitude Award and an accompanying $25,000 scholarship for his efforts in the annual event.

“I feel extremely fortunate to win this award, and I now have the knowledge on how to buy a practice top to bottom,” said Kile, now a fourth-year Doctor of Veterinary Medicine student at the WSU College of Veterinary Medicine. 

Participants were judged on their educational resume and solutions to a business case study in which they were asked to develop a proposal to purchase and turn around a struggling veterinary practice.

Kile drafted and submitted a 50‑page report breaking down the fictitious business and his plans to reinvigorate the practice and inspire his new team. Kile, who is the president of the WSU Veterinary Business Management Association, had an advantage over his competitors, having recently completed a unique Practice Management rotation. Offered by the College of Veterinary Medicine, the rotation provides veterinary students with the chance to make onsite visits to a practice to assess its strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for improvements.

“The rotation gave me a huge edge,” Kile said. “There’s a lot of people in this field who don’t care about the business side, which I get because we’re here to be veterinarians, not businesspeople. But if you talk to anybody who had that rotation, they will say it was one of their favorite rotations because it teaches you so much outside of being a veterinarian.”

Dr. Richard DeBowes, a professor and director of the Professional Life Skills Development Program at WSU, leads the rotation.

“Every now and then you meet a student whom you know will shift the paradigm in veterinary medicine. They see possibilities where the majority don’t,” DeBowes said. “Thomas Kile is one of those students, and it’s been my pleasure to mentor and coach him in building his practice management acumen.”

“Every now and then you meet a student whom you know will shift the paradigm in veterinary medicine. They see possibilities where the majority don’t.”

Dr. Richard DeBowes
Professor and director of the Professional Life Skills Development Program
Washington State University

The fictitious practice operated with one full-time veterinarian but based on market research of the surrounding community looking at average income, Kile proposed expanding to a six- to eight-veterinarian practice to better meet demand and increase profitability.

To assist with his proposal, Kile hired an architectural firm to help develop a plan for renovation and expansion to accommodate the increased staff and improve the patient and client experience. The end plan called for doubling the size of the facility from 3,000 square feet to nearly 6,000 square feet.

Kile estimated the expansion would be paid off in as little as two years due to increased profits and efficiencies.

During the construction phase, Kile proposed operating the practice from a modular building located in the practice’s parking lot, allowing services to continue without the disruption and chaos of construction.

“If you are working around the construction, your clients aren’t going to be happy, and your patients are going to be stressed. And construction just takes longer if you are trying to see patients in that area,” Kile said.

After the completion of the renovation and expansion, Kile called for implementing an interactive display system in the lobby and exam rooms to improve client communications and education.

Kile will graduate from WSU veterinary program this spring. He plans to return home to Arizona and work in a small animal practice.

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