Webinar Wednesday Replay: Dr. Dana Varble

Dr. Dana Varble on Webinar Wednesdays With GeniusVets





Hello, everybody. Welcome to another Webinar Wednesday. My name is David Hall with Genius Vets. I am absolutely thrilled today to be bringing you another fantastic guest. We have joining us today the Chief Veterinary Officer of NAVC, Dr. Dana Varble.

For those in the audience who don't know, Dr. Varble graduated Summa Cum Laude with honors from Souther Illinois University in '99. Then completed her veterinary degree with high honors from the University of Illinois. She has practice clinical medicine in exotic pets, small animal general practice, and emergency medicine, and she continues to practice on a limited basis in both exotic hospital and an emergency services hospital.

Dr. Varble has spoken locally, nationally, internationally, at conferences, at seminars, and has been with NAVC since 2015 serving as the Executive Director of the Pet Nutrition Alliance. Then Senior Director of hands on workshops, then as Vice President of Veterinary education, and finally now as the Chief Veterinary Officer. A storied ascent to the top of the pole over there.


I can only imagine as the Chief Veterinary Officer, you've got to weigh in on so many things before the organization can really put them in front of an audience. That means you have to be really incredible at effectively getting things done.

Some people would argue that. I mean, it's always funny. I think I always feel like I could do more in a day. I mean, I think that's part of I think almost every veterinarian feels like that. We're so driven and we didn't decide to become a veterinarian because you thought it would be an easy life that you would work 9:00 to 3:00 and go home. So I guess I always feel like there's more hours in the day.


What things have you personally found that played an important role in helping you get things done? I'm talking about morning routines, healthy habits, organizational discipline or tools, or the way that you utilize your own team. What really helped you get it done?

Mornings are my catch up time, they're just, get whatever done time. For me, afternoons are when I start to feel really good. It's funny because a lot of people talk about a lag in the afternoon, their energy naturally goes down, and because I'm a night owl, my energy tends to go up in the afternoon, be a little bit lower in the evenings, and then go up again. So it is really funny that I will occasionally do emails or start doing writing or editing, or especially that high creative, high-energy stuff, for me is often really late.

So I have learned to harness that, my natural rhythm a little bit and do that. Sometimes that means things get done sometimes 9:00 or 10:00 at night when the rest of my house is winding down and going away. Sometimes it means things get done at 12:00, 1:00, or 2:00 in the morning too. So my team has gotten used to waking up for their day and having this collection of things that I've finished off in the evening or sometimes really late at night in their email box. They seem to be okay with it. I think sometimes I surprise them still though.

I'll do crazy things, and people think I'm a little nutty but I'll work out or walk on the treadmill while I'm doing some things, which you can't do that with everything. I'm not walking on the treadmill while I'm with you, but you can get actually, sometimes that helps again if I have a lot of excess energy, which I sometimes do. It's a great way to help me refocus.


Can you take us through all the things that NAVC is currently doing and how you're overseeing that?

We’re busier than ever right now, but probably the biggest change has been that we have moved VMX from its... if you've been to VMX, you know what you're getting into, one of the world's largest veterinary conferences, it happens in January. We usually have anywhere from 15,000 to 18,000 attendees. Now, we're going to do a hybrid event. So we've done a big pivot and we're still going to welcome people into VMX live in Orlando, but now we've created a whole virtual world for those of us that either can't or are not able to travel for a variety of reasons.

So I definitely oversee and contribute to our education team, some of whom have been around for a long time and have a lot of expertise, so I'm grateful that we have this wonderful team that we can work together to create that event. We also NAVC Institute, which I know we'll talk a little bit about later. I help our media team with some publication stuff, sometimes contributing writing, sometimes just looking over the slightly odd stock photos that come in and make sure we're not doing anything too weird, make sure they match. Things like that. Helping VetFolio create and categorize content online.

We have a great editorial team that can really pick out most of that but every once in a while they're like, this doesn't look right to me. They're usually right, their intuition is usually... I'm sure you experience this too, folks that look at that stuff all the time start going, wait a minute…

You’ll see some wacky things like stethoscopes on heads or on shoulders and no, not right, not right. So definitely look over things with them. They're working a lot through COVID with Spark to bring the community updates and access to new resources that have been developed during the COVID, during the pandemic to help them become more efficient, stay caught up on news. Work a little bit with again, not as much with expo because there are so many great contributors already to our expo, but definitely ... we do a lot of brainstorming at NAVC. We do a lot of new idea generation and one of my roles is to stay connected with the profession. I'm still a working doctor, I still work at a clinic, and just stay connected with them and what they need and what's happening. Try and make sure we don't lose our connection to the professionals that we serve.


VMX is going to be the first big hybrid event in 2021, people attending live on-site, as well as virtually as you said. Can you tell us, what about the event do you expect to be the same for those of us that loved attending in the past, versus what's going to be different and new?

I think the really exciting thing is, we made some very pointed choices this year. We knew VMX was going to look different, we're probably not going to have the same number of attendees. It'd be great if we did, but we're probably not going to have all those things.

So we made some very deliberate and thought out choices, and one of the things was we know we have some smaller... some subject matter that attracts a smaller audience. It's very niche, it's very interesting, but maybe we don't have 700 people in that room. We try to preserve some of that in the live event. So yes, we're focusing on our biggest, our bread and butter, the stuff folks come in for. Surgery, medicine, but we decided to make a very concerted effort to keep things like our exotics education, education for our mixed animal practitioners, and our farm animal practitioners, include some subject matter from one health, include some subject matter from rehab, and some wholistic education. Stuff that maybe you don't come again, maybe you're not going to come and sit through 20 hours of it, but maybe you want to sit through an hour of Zoom medicine just to hear what your colleagues are doing, try something different. It still counts as CE for you.

For example, we've had penguin medicine courses. Maybe you just want something different, maybe you just want to get out of your norm, hear about some things that you haven't heard of since school, and attend something like that. So we decided to make an effort to include that this year, even though things are going to be a bit different.

We're still going to have the chance to get some immersive education in a smaller group. So things like our Coffee with Expert sessions or Meet the Professor luncheons are still going to happen, they're going to be in much larger rooms than we're used to. We used to make it feel intimate and sit everyone around the table and encourage conversation. We're still going to do that but in a much larger setting. So still smaller groups than you would normally expect, 30 to 40 folks, but now seated six feet apart.


So you're going to be really enforcing, trying to enforce or encourage six-foot distancing.

Yeah, and so things like the session rooms that you're used to being very crowded, which is good for energy but maybe not always the best for seeing the speaker or interacting with the speaker. We're still going to have very large rooms but now everyone's going to be really far apart, yeah. It'll be a little strange but it'll also be good. We'll be able to take away some of the stress of feeling like...we don't want anyone to feel like they're crammed in right now. We know that that's not safe. We know sitting in large groups all smushed together is not safe. So we're not going to allow that in the space this year. We're really going to encourage social distancing, yeah.


As people come in, what other types of safety protocols? Are you going to be taking temperature checks and things like that on-site?

Yeah, so we're working with the Orange County Convention Center, which they've really gone above and beyond. They decided very early in this process they were going to get the GBAC certification, which is the Global Bio-Risk Advisory Council. I had to look it up, that's not something you would know, but they went ahead and got certified through them.

What that means is, yeah, they've instituted a lot of new sanitation measures, new ventilation, they've upgraded a lot of things. So adding in hand sanitation stations, cleaning the bathrooms more frequently, which I think is a huge bonus either way. Public restrooms could always be cleaned more often. Just you're a veterinarian, you start getting a little germophobe-y very early in the process so you're like, more cleaning, it's good. But they went ahead and started doing that very early. They're very strict about room capacities, again, to accommodate social distancing. Entrance and exits from the room, it used to be like, oh, we'll just open up all the doors, let everybody come and go. We're going to have to control that, so a dedicated entrance, a dedicated exit so that we can control flow.

The expo hall is another place where the aisles are going to get wider so that we can keep people, you can still interact with the exhibitors but you're going to do so in a much wider space so that you don't have to have that crowding.

Masks are mandated now in Orange County, so the convention center is no different. So everyone's going to be wearing a mask while they're indoors, which I think is very important too.


So how will it work, having both live and virtual simultaneously?

So there's a combination of everything. It has been a really interesting process to go through the development of this and what we would do. We decided not to just recreate the event. So if you come live, you're going to be able to see some things that we can't recreate virtually. There are going to be a few things in the virtual space that we can't recreate live, so.


What are some examples of the things that can’t be recreated virtually?

Probably specific sessions. So there are, especially... I'm trying to think of a really good one right off the top of my head, but I know, for example, one of our shelter medicine speakers is not going to be able to come to the live event but she's doing her presentation in virtual. So if you're there live, unfortunately, you won't be able to experience her presentation but when you come live, you get access to virtual as well. So there's a couple of options for registration this year, and if you decide to commit to come to Orlando, you get virtual as well. So a lot of options there.

The schedule's not exactly the same. So if you're sitting at home and you're like, the VMX schedule is crazy, it's not going to fit into my daily schedule, don't worry. We created a very different schedule for you. So things start on the hour, they're a little bit more regular. Whereas live, you're going to see a lot of the same schedule that you're used to. Most sessions are 50 minutes, we still have some 75-minute sessions in the morning to get really deep into certain topics with multiple speakers if you'd like.

So that's a big advantage but the nice thing is if you're coming to Orlando and you're completely committed and just want to be there with live speakers in the session rooms, but you're interested in seeing some of the virtual. Everything that's taking place virtually and real-time, will eventually be on-demand. So if you're there in Orlando and you're like, I just want to pack my schedule with everybody that's here, you still have 90 days afterward to go back and check out everyone that's happening virtually.


So the replay, the on-demand stuff is all going to be available for 90 days?

Yeah, through April. So you have a long time to, if you just... because I know one of the rushes with virtual events is like, again, we only have so many hours in the day and if you're already working, how much time can you spend in CE before your brain gets a little numb. So you have a little, you can take a break. If you came to Orlando and you're like, I need a week, I need some time. You have a little time to let your brain absorb everything you learned in Orlando and then go back.

Then another exciting thing is, if there are some speakers though, that are presenting the same topic twice. So they're presenting live in Orlando and in virtual, so if you're ever really torn between two speakers, you could potentially see if it's going to be in virtual later and you can catch it at a later time.


Did you mention something about the Virtual Expo that’s free to users?

Yeah, very exciting. I know sometimes it gets missed in the excitement that is VMX and with everything that's happening there, but if you haven't checked it out, it actually launched last January, January 2020. We launched the VMX Virtual Expo. So we have a 360-degree immersive virtual expo hall that is live for all our attendees and free for all the attendees. So we've got a bunch of exhibitors that have already committed and created a virtual booth that you can walk into, interact with. It's so cool because it's so immersive, you can chat with folks from the company, you can watch videos, you can check out product information, download PDFs, look at notes. It really is... it's not a website where they're lists, it's actually an exhibit hall that you walk into virtually. So it's really a fun way to experience the exhibit hall all year round. So you can definitely sign up for that today and start looking through and talking to some of your favorite exhibitors and seeing what they have that's new.


We'll start dropping some links as we go through this. We'll drop some links in the comments that people can click on and use to go to some of those demos of it and get in there. Also, in December, you'll be having a free Hospital Design preview event. Is that right?

Yeah, so this is something that we're trying completely new this year. I shouldn't say completely new because if you've come to VMX before, we've had a hospital design event. It's been through so many different changes, it's been in the exhibit hall, it's been a separate event, it's been a combined event. So it's such a unique event though because we invite folks who help veterinarians either redesign a hospital or design a hospital from the ground up with everything from financing to materials choices to color choices to tile to kennel solutions to... it goes on and on. It's such a special event because even if you're not doing a redesign of your hospital, it's a great way to find out about what other people are doing to change their hospital design to make it more efficient, to add in some new features.

So we've decided to do it as a standalone event this year. We felt like it deserved its own place in the world. Again, free for attendees, which is very exciting. It's going to be the first weekend in December, December 5th and 6th. It's another opportunity for some free CE, so you can learn about some of these cool things that are going to change how hospitals look probably really soon. Some of them probably already have, actually. So it's a great chance to just fill out your CE for the year and try something a little different too.


Can you tell us a little bit about NAVC Institute? What is it? What are the benefits and features? Who is it for?

NAVC Institute I think is one of the... it's not a secret, so it's the worst kept secret, but it's one of the... yeah, it's one of the neat things that NAVC offers that is very unique. So NAVC Institute is a smaller event, it takes place in May in Orlando. It is intended to be a very immersive event. So we have anywhere... I think this year we're having eight different courses, and unlike VMX where you bounce around from subject to subject, at NAVC Institute you choose your course. We do things like ultrasounds, small animal surgery, orthopedic surgery, the ABVP exam prep course. We've done cardiology, we're doing behavior. You choose your course and you stay with a small group of participants, again, typically between 30 and 40, four or five days. You have a dedicated group of instructors that work with you and help you with lectures, hands-on experiential learning. Really, it's a time to immerse yourself in one subject and become an expert in that subject, especially if it's something that you don't feel real confident in. You will leave with so much more hands-on time doing that particular skill.

Dentistry is a great example. It's always a pain point, it's hard work. It's a part of so many general practitioner's everyday life. They have to make good dental recommendations and have good dental skills. So, how do you become good at it if you feel like you just don't have enough time in school or you don't have a good mentor, how do you become good at it? This is how. You come and for a week you do only dentistry with some of the best instructors in the world and you immerse yourself in dentistry. Everyone I've talked to at the end of it feels so much more confident in whatever skill that they've chosen, they feel really ready to go out and apply it in practice. So it's such a unique course for that reason. It's fun and it's in Orlando and you get to stay at a great resort. It's a really unique experience.

The other thing that's different about it is it's, we say it's almost all-inclusive. So it includes things like your hotel and most of your meals. So all you have to do is pick a subject and we take care of almost everything else.


Tell us about some of the publications.

I can't keep up with them because there are so many NAVC publications—Today's Veterinary Nurse, Today's Veterinary Practice. Oh my gosh, again, just so, so busy. So we always produce Veterinary Advantage, did I mention Today's Veterinary Nurse? It's a hugely popular publication. They really are each very unique in their target audience. If you're running a practice, highly recommend Today's Veterinary Business. Remember, subscriptions are complimentary. So if you're in the industry you should really be reading Veterinary Advantage all the time, but again, for all of your support staff, Today's Veterinary Nurse just covers so much of what they can do. So it's just the amount and breadth of

We've gotten into some great series. Again, some of them offer CE. Today's Veterinary Practice has a portion that is peer-reviewed, so it's a great opportunity for you to have these free subscriptions.

If you haven't checked out our TV channel yet, Spark, so much fun, great content on there. Some very unusual stuff that not a lot of folks are covering. Things like what veterinarians did in the Australian wildfires last year. We had some great, great footage from some veterinarians that our team was able to put together in a great little video to help you understand how they were impacted. There's nothing like a video to make you really understand everything that they went through.


There are a lot of hot topics that have been talked about a lot recently. Staffing is a huge thing right now but also compassion fatigue, telehealth, etc. What is NAVC looking to focus on in the coming months?

We try and provide so many resources because we realize that needs are so very different. One size fits all doesn't help anyone in those things. So a couple of things to look for there, if you haven't looked into NAVC Retriever for job posting, it's an app that you can download for free. If you're a job seeker, it's a great place to look for new opportunities in the veterinary field. If you're a business, you can post some job opportunities there. If you are a student, it's a great place to look. If you have opportunities for students to work in your practice or extern, you can post those for free in NAVC retriever, so that's a great resource.

But one of the things related to that is we're looking at very closely, how we're utilizing our support staff. We have some great sessions on VMX coming up on this and there have been some great articles in Today's Veterinary Nurse because it serves all of us better to utilize our support staff even more efficiently. Can free up doctors to do doctor things, I say. It helps with our... veterinary technicians that are incredibly credentialed, incredibly amazing professionals, have so much training. Nothing helps them feel more appreciated than being able to use their skills to their advantage. Being able to really utilize all their training, but it also helps our hospital staff in the sense of our administrators, our practice managers, really help to understand everything that they can do too to support the practice.

I even say, those folks that are coming in very entry-level, a lot of whom are young, it gives them something to aspire to. If they see us using our support staff to their highest abilities and even maybe sometimes asking more or teaching them more a bigger way that they can contribute. I think it really helps with the perception that veterinary professionals can have job satisfaction long term. This is a job we want to stay in for more than a few years, that there's a future for you here.

As someone who worked in emergency, the value of having good support staff around you changes your capability so very much. The more competent, amazing, trustworthy team that you can put together that you have and that you develop, and it is something that you have to develop, the more efficient you can be. If anything, Tales From the COVID-19 Front Lines, has really stressed with this transition to curbside, the importance of using our professional staff in the most efficient and in a way satisfying way possible. Satisfying again, for doctors and for the technicians and nurses. The better off we all are and the better we're serving our clients because with curbside, we've really learned, we've gotten limited as far as doctors, what we can do. We can only spend so much time on the phone with each client, so we really have learned to hopefully rely on our staff to do some of those communications and client education pieces more and more.

But I know I've been using mine even more and more to do some diagnostics to help me read slides and look at fecal exams and do so much more because we have to be more efficient now. We've been forced to.

David: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, hey, if you go see your own human doctor, mostly what you're saying is the support, you get doctor's time, they're in and out pretty fast. They're really utilizing, they've got the model really nailed down. So I'm very glad to see this being a topic that's... I mean, this has been talked about in recent webinar Wednesday interviews that we've done from Dr. Peter Weinstein to Dr. Adam Christman brought it up. It came up with Dr. John Tait, it's really been talked about a lot. So I feel like there's a growing consciousness about this and identification of this as the issue. Coming from people such as yourself who are knowledgeable, who are respected, who people will listen to, hearing that saying, okay, all right, I got to get better in this area. I think it'll happen.

Dr. Varble: It’s nice to hear that it's coming across through multiple sources because again, I just feel like it's so important not just for our veterinarians, but for our staff too. There are so many reasons.


One of the things that we do to get to know every one of our guests just a little bit better is we have a silly game that we play called, would you rather. I've got this book. So would you rather spend time on the sand or in the water?

Oh, no, I'm going to go with in the water. The reason I'd rather spend time in the water is that I actually am fascinated with marine life as well, just being a part of exotics, I feel... not that there are not great things happening on the beach because there usually is, but I feel a lot of times there's this whole other wild, amazing world happening below the surface that we aren't really a part of. I just love that, I love looking at things like coral. I could happily watch aquariums all day as a background on TV.

Veterinarians always fascinate me. People are like, why... they come to VMX and then they sit in the puppy playground area. I'm like, yeah, why wouldn't they? My friends who don't work as veterinarians are like, well, isn't that what you do all day? I'm like, well, no, not really. I want to sit with puppies. I give medicine to puppies. I would much rather sit with healthy puppies over here. That's so calming. So, the same thing at the ocean, yeah.


Would you rather have eyes like a frog or a tongue like a snake?

I'm going to be honest with you. I would rather have a tongue like a snake because frog eyes aren't that well... this is going to be a nerd answer. Frog eyes are not that well developed. That's not a huge, cool thing. I mean granted, some of them have some pretty cool visual cues that they can follow on but I'm like, tongue like a snake sounds fascinating. The chemoreceptors in there. I guess you'd have to a Jacobson's organ to sense, to get all those chemoreceptors up to your brain. So I guess the caveat to that is, I want a snake's tongue but I want to have a Jacobson's Organ in the roof of my mouth for chemoreceptors too.


Window seat or an aisle seat?

Because I've traveled so much and get to go to so many veterinary conferences, as a matter of fact, one of my friends was like, "You're just a professional conference attendee. That's your job, stop giving it a fancy name. You're just a professional conference attendee and you sort of write." But I was always, and I still am, I'm a window seat person because I like to be able to lean and I also like to work on planes. In a way, planes are that weird extra space that's quiet time and you can put your headphones on and be really focused because there are very few distractions.

So actually, the one thing that I miss about with the pandemic is, I really miss traveling. I'm like, I miss airline rides to get through big projects and emails and things like that.

I flew back with a friend from a veterinary conference in Romania a few years ago. I forgot it was Romania to Brussels and Brussels to Chicago. Well, Brussels to Chicago is a long flight. I almost went crazy because there was no internet on that flight and all I wanted to do was get through my emails. So I did a few projects on my computer and then I basically spent the next six hours of the flight going crazy because I had this big plan to work on the flight and could not. It was so disappointing, it was the strangest thing, and I had a middle seat too if I remember on that flight. It was not the best travel experience.

It was really funny because I was with the friend and she was like, "Well, you can just relax and watch movies." I was like, oh no. It felt like a crisis, it was not a crisis. I realize now, grand scheme of things, this is not a crisis, not even close to a crisis but at the time I was like, this is a crisis.


I think we're all looking forward to traveling again, except some people are going to be just scarred and they're not going to hug people ever again or shake hands.

Yeah, well it's funny because I've been in organized veterinary medicine for long enough and I remember about in 2008, 2009, when economics were again, not looking good. There was a recession and people were like, oh... and there was this big movement, in-person conferences are going to die. We have internet now, in-person conferences are going to die. At the time I was like, gosh, I hope not. It seems like we always enjoy them, but that's just it. We do always enjoy them. So there is a face to face options for those that are comfortable and can take advantage of it as soon as January, hopefully. For those of us that can't, I mean the beauty of COVID, and what's happened right now is we've learned how to make the online, the virtual experience with conferences much better. I think with what we can offer, as far as interaction and speaker experience and attendee experience, there's still something really to be enjoyed in that.


Before we go, do you want to give any extra advice? Where do people go to sign up? Where do they go to sign up for VMX? What should they be following and doing next?

Well, check us out at NAVC.com, there's some great information on what's happening with VMX. We're releasing schedule and session information all the time. You can already start planning your experience, so join us there and you can register there as well.

Awesome. Well, thank you so much, Dr. Varble. It has been an absolutely pleasure. Great talk with you today. I look forward to seeing you at VMX in January. For everybody who is out there who is watching, thank you so much for stopping by. If you are in a veterinary practice, you already right now, you have a full-page profile about your practice that's on GeniusVets.com. So full page about your practice. All of this information on there, go check it out, look yourself up. Make sure the information is correct. We can fix it, and you can claim it for free. It's an amazing resource that you should have, so go check it out at geniusvets.com.

Join us next Wednesday for another webinar Wednesday when we will be interviewing Steve Curvey from VMG. That's going to be a fun one. See you later, everybody.

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