2024 Veterinary Leadership Conference

Dr. Lacie was honored to be chosen to represent the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) as a Rising Leader at the 2024 American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Veterinary Leadership Conference. Her insightful summary of this experience has been published on AAFP's website and newsletter here. We are incredibly proud of Dr. Lacie for her leadership and dedication to feline medicine!

By Lacie Lee, DVM

Hello, everyone. I want to begin by expressing my gratitude to all of those in AAFP leadership who selected me to represent this organization as a Rising Leader at the January 2024 American Veterinary Medical Association Veterinary Leadership Conference (VLC). To say I was nervous would be an understatement. This was uncharted territory for me, and I had no idea what to expect. Remembering advice from a mentor—when nervous, focus on service—I embarked on this journey with that mindset, taking deep breaths and believing I was in the right place at the right time, bound for Chicago.

To summarize my experience, the word that comes to mind is “inspiration.” Being part of a conference with some of the most influential leaders in our great profession and witnessing delegates work to implement policies and resolve situations our profession faces left me feeling hopeful and eager for the future of veterinary medicine

The leadership conference began with a Rising Leader luncheon describing what to expect at the VLC and how to maximize our experience. We delved into the workings of the AVMA governing body, committees, the board of directors, and the House of Delegates—a fascinating process for someone passionate about leadership and governance. The following networking event brought all the Rising Leaders together for meet and greets, coffee and snacks, and an opportunity to give back as we made treat bags for a children’s hospital. We all came together to focus on service! The afternoon was filled with lectures on various topics aimed at developing effective leadership skills. I learned the value of “radical candor” - mean what you say and say what you mean - for effective communication. I learned negotiations are best implemented when we are working on common ground for the common good, and to be aware of when perfectionism can be positive and when it can be debilitating. The first day of the conference concluded with district caucus meetings where various delegate proposals were announced, and respectful discussions on controversial topics commenced. The evening ended with an informal gathering of conversation and fellowship among the AAFP representatives present. 

Day two's highlight was the keynote speaker, Dr. Richard Boyatzis, addressing "The Science of Inspiring Learning and Change." I learned that there is now scientific evidence that activities such as dancing will engage our parasympathetic nervous system, evoking positive emotions, and placing us in a compassion-oriented frame of mind. From this mindset, our “neural empathic network” is activated, and we can be open to the possibilities, hopes, and dreams that maintain open-minded communication, innovation, and motivation for sustained change.

On the final day, the winter meeting of the AVMA House of Delegates held its official session, making significant strides in casting votes and fostering awareness of pivotal issues our great profession faces today. Following the House of Delegates session, attendees broke into round table discussions where invaluable experiences were exchanged by diverse voices and were met with attentive participation. Reflecting on my AVMA VLC sojourn, I am genuinely humbled by the proactive engagement of each sector. Their dedicated listening, collaborative idea-sharing, and insightful concepts have unequivocally contributed to the successful implementation of policies, plans, and ideals, fortifying the foundation of our remarkable profession.

Amidst the business of the conference, I savored the offerings of Chicago—indulging in deep-dish pizza, strolling the iconic Michigan Avenue, and even experiencing a bit of light snow. While I absolutely have respect for the windy city, it truly makes me realize just how much I love my southern roots and warm climate, y’all!

I met so many inspiring leaders and have made forever connections and friendships. I am eager to do my part with the AAFP and all the members of this organization. I deeply admire the AAFP leaders who have worked wholeheartedly to pave the way as a respected organization in the veterinary profession. Departing with a heart brimming with gratitude, a passion for tackling challenges in feline veterinary medicine, and an eagerness to contribute through innovation, authenticity, and compassion, I am convinced - the future is bright, y’all! 

This photo is of the Rising Leader Networking for a Cause Social! All pictured are Rising Leaders.