2012 vet of the year describes his winning experience

Posted by Dr. Alan Stewart on Oct 11 2013
Missing file.

Honestly, before being nominated for the Petplan Veterinary Awards, I had not heard of any award called Veterinarian of the Year. Nor had I even heard of Petplan. As a specialist, I only hoped and prayed that clients would come in with their pets already insured. Once they got as far as our hospital it meant that they had a pre-existing condition and at that point, some felt that pet insurance no longer made sense. (I was to learn the error of that later!) If they came insured, it often meant that I got to do the work-up and provide the care that animal deserved; no need to cut corners due to financial constraints.

I had only vaguely paid attention to the pet insurance world out there, when out of the blue came an email saying that I was one of the top ten finalists for Petplan’s prestigious award. I was extremely flattered and excited. I read about the award and about Petplan and I got more excited. I still really had no idea how this happened, but I filled out the appropriate questionnaire and sent in a picture of myself with our dog, Murphy, a Standard Poodle (far more handsome than I!).

I began to get excited and also a bit reflective; I had dedicated nearly 25 years to not just the profession, but really my patients and clients. I mean I really LOVE what I do. I LOVE my patients, or as I often refer to them, “my charges” or “my kids.” The reward was always giving them the best quality of life I could and upholding what I consider a sacrament: the human-pet bond. I never expected a global thank you, but the thought of it was quite nice. After the top ten were announced I told a few friends and clients. Little did I know that after that, there would be a surge of clients and colleagues voting for me online.

When I found out I made the cut to the top three, the excitement grew. Apparently so did the voting!

But I still did not really understand the award or the pet insurance industry and what was in store for me. When Dr. Jules Benson called me at work to tell me I won, he did it in such a coy and professional manner that I simply was all a-twitter and totally flabbergasted. Not to mention temporarily speechless (imagine, me speechless). I was thrilled!

As the first North American winner, I was to receive my prize at the UK ceremony. The UK has had Petplan pet insurance for more than 35 years, and these awards are their signature event: by invitation only, black tie and gowns! The event was incredibly well orchestrated, beautifully executed and loads of fun (it was probably as close to the Oscars as anything in this profession will ever come).

While memories and recognition are always wonderful, it was what I began learning that night that really excited me. My partner and I sat at the table with the owners, employees and funders of Petplan USA, and from them I began learning about the pet insurance industry, and began to recognize what it could mean for the future of the veterinary profession. That was exciting.

I was around when the first pet insurance company started decades ago, and I have been around to listen to clients complain about that particular company’s coverage for decades. I really did not know it could or would be different! But the Ashtons and their company set out to make a difference. It was exciting to learn how inclusive the policies are. There were no breed-specific disease exclusions, and no predetermined limits. And – one of the most exciting things for me to share with my clients – even if a pet has a pre-existing condition, Petplan will still cover them for all the other future problems!

As a specialist, even I am amazed at the price tag on veterinary services, but these costs are rooted in real-life expenses: the cost of doing business increases, medical costs increase faster than inflation, and so on. An MRI machine costs one million dollars to purchase, then the annual service contract for it costs another $250,000. Realities like this drive veterinary fees higher and higher. We all love our pets, and we want to give them access to the same quality medical care that we wish for ourselves.

So here at the Petplan Veterinary Awards were people building an entire company dedicated to doing just that. Perfect! Now, with pet insurance, more people will be able to afford basic care, care for severe and catastrophic conditions – the care our pets deserve. How could I not be excited to be a part of that?

Even more than receiving the title of Veterinarian of the Year, I was (and continue to be) honored to be affiliated with a company working so hard to make vet care affordable to everyone, and to give pets the very best lives they can have.

If you have a favorite veterinarian you’d like to see given this honor, nominate them for the 2014 awards!