Practice Manager of the Year Recognition
The inaugural VECCS Practice Manager of the Year Award was presented to Brandee Crowder, Fresno Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Center, Fresno, CA, during the Practice Manager luncheon. Brandee was selected from 25 nominees. Those of us in attendance were inspired and moved as we listened to one of the doctors who nominated Brandee talked about her incredible leadership, her strength during difficult of times and her willingness to sacrifice for the good of the hospital.
A little more about Brandee in her role as a practice manager, in her words:
I began working in the veterinary field as a kennel assistant for a primary care practice in the San Francisco Bay Area at the age of 16. Within 8 months, I was promoted to veterinary assistant and receptionist. Following graduation from high school, I moved from the Bay Area in order to obtain my Bachelor’s of Science from California State University, Fresno. While attending college, I worked as a veterinary assistant at Veterinary Emergency Services (VES) – under the leadership of the late Roger Gfeller, DVM, DACVECC. Although I lacked extensive experience in the field, I was promoted to Team Lead at VES, where I was tasked with organizing the work on my shift and working directly with management to improve patient and client care.
In 2005, Dr. Gfeller announced he would be opening a second emergency practice in Fresno, CA by the summer of 2006. Even though I had obtained a significant promotion at VES, I felt that working with Dr. Gfeller aligned with my career goals in the veterinary field. Tragically, less than two years following the opening of Central California Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Center (CCVSC), Dr. Gfeller passed away. His veterinary family was left with uncertainty about the future, as well as a sense of very deep loss.
Approximately one month prior to his passing, our practice manager unexpectedly resigned and left no leadership or management, exacerbating our loss. With the future uncertain and a visionary staff dedicated to continuing Dr. Gfeller’s dream, I took over the role as practice manager with the blessing and encouragement of his family. Without previous experience or credentials as a practice manager, it was a challenging two years maintaining the practice while it awaited sale. Yet, despite the difficult times and uncertainties all of Dr. Gfeller’s original staff remained. I experienced many hard-won lessons during this time, and they were invaluable in shaping me as a person and as a practice manager.
In October 2009, CCVSC was sold to our current ownership and renamed Fresno Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Center. I have gratefully continued my role as practice manager since. Over the past seven years, I have expanded the number of specialties offered from three to eight, added I-131 for Hyperthyroid Cats, and introduced Canine Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation. My staff has increased from 15 to over 30 dedicated employees as profits grew with the subsequent addition of more specialists and the continued support of the local community. Through the hard work of my amazing staff, Fresno Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Center became a VECCS Level 1 Facility in 2014. To date, we remain the only Level 1 VECCS Facility in the state of California.
Though my path to practice manager is arguably unconventional, it has shaped the manager I am today. Given the circumstances of our leader passing, becoming an effective manager was not an option but a necessity. I was forced to learn on the job because the status of the practice did not leave time for me to obtain a related degree. Having worked many roles within a veterinary practice, I am able to empathize with all members of my team and lead more effectively. It is difficult to say my role as practice manager is a “job” for me; everyday I am able to do what I truly love. While there are challenging and frustrating days, making a client or employee smile, seeing the practice blossom into a unified dream, or seeing patients leave wagging their tails makes it all worthwhile. Without the dedication of my staff, which I consider family, the practice and I would not be where we are today.