Dr. Bill Tyrrell
This is the latest in a series of interviews with veterinary specialists connected to the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM) to share insights, knowledge and expertise about career opportunities, growth and development. Today we hear from ACVIM Diplomate Dr. Bill Tyrrell.
Dr. Bill Tyrrell is a 1992 graduate of the VA-MD College of Veterinary Medicine (VMCVM) at VA Tech. He spent four years in private practice before starting his cardiology residency at Angell Memorial Animal Hospital. He finished his ACVIM credentials with then Chesapeake Veterinary Cardiology Associates (now dba as CVCA Cardiac Care for Pets) where he is now one of the original founding partners of their 16 locations, five-state practice with 35 cardiologists and residents. Bill is active within organized veterinary medicine as a past president of the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association and past Alternate Delegate from Virginia for the AVMA House of Delegates. He remains active with his alma mater serving on the Dean’s Advisory Council and is an active participant with their mentor/mentee program. He currently serves on the Specialty Medicine Awareness Committee, Cardiology Residency Training Committee (Chair), and is a member of the Finance and Audit Committee (FIAC). Bill was awarded with the VA Distinguished Veterinarian in 2015 and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the VMCVM in 2019. Bill lives in Leesburg, VA with his wife, Jen, and daughters, Avery (19) and Ella (16). In his rare free time, he enjoys golfing, collecting wine, and restoring vintage sports cars with his brother.
1. What made you decide to choose veterinary specialty medicine as a career path, and specifically your specialty?
Upon graduation in 1992, I immediately started out in a very large private practice in Fairfax, VA. Ultrasound machines were finally at a price point where some hospitals could afford this technology. The owners of the practice did end up purchasing one as I had expressed a great deal of interest in both abdominal and cardiac ultrasound. Over the first several months, I became fascinated with all aspects of cardiac ultrasound/echocardiography which led to a fascination with all thing’s cardiology. Believe it or not, I actually did not like cardiology in veterinary school and had thought I might want to do neurology or surgery, if I were to ever specialize. I quickly learned in primary care practice that I was not that talented of a surgeon and neurology was far more complicated than I thought in veterinary school. Ultimately, I had learned as much cardiology as I could on my own and I elected to pursue a residency in cardiology. In 1996, there were only four programs available in the U.S. Thankfully, I matched for Angell Memorial Animal Hospital’s program with Drs. Harpster and Laste.
2. What does a typical work day look like for you?
We typically arrive at the hospital between 7:30 a.m.-7:45 a.m. We have a quick round with the ICU regarding hospitalized patients and/or patients that have come in overnight that need consultation by cardiology. Patients usually have a one-hour appointment with the owners present throughout including the echocardiogram. Obviously, COVID-19 has put a damper on having owners in the hospital, but I am hopeful as the Omicron variant starts to subside, we will be able to go back to business as usual with the pet owners being present. Board-certified cardiologists will usually see seven to eight regularly scheduled appointments along with in-house consultations and some squeeze in urgent appointments. Many of our offices have cardiology residents that are being trained along side our cardiologists.
3. What do you consider one of your career successes? How did you achieve it?
Cardiac Care for Pets (CVCA) has a large residency training program. We have trained 14 residents to date with 12 of these cardiologists remaining with CVCA and we have eight current residents in training. Our training program has come a long way due to the dedication of many of our current cardiologists and past residents (now boarded cardiologists), who dedicate themselves to the training of our future cardiologists. With our training program, we have been able to create our own cardiologists given how difficult it is to attract outstanding talent in specialty medicine.
4. What do you consider a challenge you’ve faced in your career? How did you overcome it?
I think COVID-19 has been the biggest challenge in my career thus far. Overcoming this pandemic has been achieved with the support of every member of our CVCA family from our CEO and her team to our doctors and our amazing staff. My own family has also been incredibly supportive during these crazy times. However, all 14 of our locations have worked together to continue to provide outstanding cardiac care to our patients, clients, and primary care veterinarians. Without everyone’s contributions, patience, ideas, dedication, and diligence, I know we would not have come through this pandemic as well as we have.
5. How did the global pandemic affect your day-to-day working life?
On March 15, 2020, my family and I were supposed to go on a vacation over my two daughters' spring breaks. We all know what happened. All 14 of our offices had to quickly pivot to curbside service. We also had no idea that COVID-19 would prove to be such a propellant to veterinary medicine. I don’t think anyone would have predicted that all of veterinary medicine would remain so busy throughout the entire pandemic. This brought with it many challenges that we all continue to face today. However, our staff quickly adapted to the new way of doing business. I still preferred face-to-face interaction with my clients and I can still count on one hand the number of clients for whom I did not go out and have an in-depth conversation about their pet in the parking lot, regardless of the weather. In June 2021, we did have clients back in the building but that changed back to curbside service at the end of December. Hopefully, as mask mandates are being relaxed and Omicron is hopefully decreasing in prevalence, we can transition back to clients being back in the hospitals.
6. Where would you like to see your career path going next?
Ideally, I would like to transition down to a day or two a week seeing patients and bring more focus into the continued growth of our practice. What this looks like is continuing to morph but will hopefully allow more mentorship of our younger cardiologists and working with our individual offices to enhance overall teamwork.
7. What membership benefits offered by the ACVIM have helped you in your career?
I think the ACVIM Forum is likely the best membership benefit, as this provides so much incredible continuing education, but at the same time fostered many long-term friendships and professional connections.
8. What impact has the ACVIM had in shaping your career?
I think the relationships and networks that I have formed over the past few decades have been instrumental in shaping my career. I have made countless contacts across the country and even the world in both cardiology and other disciplines. This has helped our practice with recruiting and research and allows us in private practice to occasionally experience the research side of veterinary medicine.
9. What is a piece of advice you would share with job seekers or offer a new Diplomate just beginning their career?
Be certain to work with a good mentor. This pertains to someone working in academia as a new faculty member to being in private practice. You need someone that can help guide your development and someone you can depend on in all facets of your young career.
10. Is there a particular area of specialty medicine you enjoy working with, such as research, private practice or industry? Why?
I have been in private practice since graduation and have thoroughly enjoyed this aspect of specialty medicine. I hope I have been able to improve the lives of the pets I have treated and supported the pet owners through that process. I have also enjoyed recently getting involved in some clinical research. CVCA is a collaborative research partner with the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. We have been extremely fortunate to interact with the cardiology group at VA Tech on many different research projects and continue to do so.
11. Finally, what is something unique about your career, or career path?
Along with some co-investors, I was one of the primary co-founders of a large emergency and multi-specialty facility in Leesburg, VA. We started from the ground up with purchase of raw land, constructed over 27,000 square feet of medical space in two buildings and recruited the specialists or specialty groups as tenants. We remain as one of the few multi-tenant specialty groups in the country.
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