SAWA and VMAE collaborate to make 1 + 1 = 15.

One of my sons gave a speech yesterday in an effort to win a seat on his high school’s student council. As an ice breaker, he included the following joke:

There are three reasons why math is not truly appreciated; One, we don’t really understand the everyday role of math and two, we don’t dedicate ourselves to getting better at it.

Looking back at the SAWA | VMAE Collaboration Summit which took place in Tempe, AZ over two days in March, the equation for success is pretty obvious: When two groups get together with the goal of finding common ground on important topics, good things tend to happen. The 31 attendees, including Board members and staff leadership from SAWA and VMAE, set out to chart a course that will enable us to work together more effectively to address issues of common concern to the industries we serve – veterinary medicine and animal welfare. Inspired by presentations by Dr. Roger Haston and Dr. David Haworth of Petsmart Charities (the primary sponsor of the Summit) and led by a professional facilitator, the combined group landed on 15 statements of commonly held goals to enhance the health and quality of life of companion animals through improved access to medical care.

Identifying the goals was just the first step. Step Two was to identify members from both organization to serve on Joint Action Teams with a big assignment:

  • Draft a summary report from the Summit
  • Create a white paper for circulation in both the veterinary and animal welfare communities
  • Lead joint educational efforts
  • Develop an action plan containing additional strategic opportunities identified during the Summit.

The Joint Action Teams are hard at work on their assignments, ready to deliver recommendations aimed at improving the lives of animals and the people who care for them. Putting the two groups together may have originally looked like an addition equation. In reality, when two groups like SAWA and the VMAE come together, it’s more like multiplication. And something not easily divided.


Tom Tholen

Tom Tholen is SAWA's Senior Vice President of Marketing & Development. The SAWA member has served as President of Companion Channel, a cloud-based digital screen media service that streamed into partner shelters. Tom is perhaps best known in the animal welfare industry as the former President & Chief Marketing Officer for Callahan Creek, which was the agency of record for Hill’s in the early days of their shelter program. Over the years, he has worked for several agencies, as well as major corporations including Hallmark, Sprint and General Electric. A Colorado native, Tom received his BS in Journalism from the University of Colorado at Boulder, and he lives with his family in the Kansas City area.


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