Peter Weinstein, DVM, MBA; and Phillip Nelson, DVM, PhD

San Diego Fetch dvm360® keynote speakers describe their joint speeches, professional achievements and more

The first day of the San Diego Fetch dvm360® conference begins with a joint keynote titled “Courageous Conversations: Change Through Communication,” led by Peter Weinstein, DVM, MBA, PAW.
Consulting and President of General Solutions for Vets in Irvine, California; and Philip Nelson, DVM, PhD, recently retired dean, professor of immunology at Western University College of Veterinary Medicine in Pomona, California. in anticipation, dvm360® sat down with Weinstein and Nelson to get their insights
Discuss and describe special moments in their careers.

Weinstein earned his undergraduate degree from Cornell University before earning his DVM at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine. After graduating, he moved to Orange County, California and worked as an associate for a few years before starting his own hospital, when he realized he knew very little about business. In response, he went back to school at the University of Redlands and worked to earn his MBA at night while running the business during the day. This inspired him to transform, relocate and expand his practice before selling it to a corporate consolidator.

Since then, Weinstein has been involved with the California Veterinary Medical Association, the American Veterinary Medical Association Veterinary Economics Strategy Committee, and the Southern California Veterinary Medical Association (SCVMA), serving as its executive director for 14 years. Additionally, she has worked in the pet health insurance industry and expanded into consulting and coaching. Last year, he left SCVMA to teach at Western University College of Veterinary Medicine.

Nelson graduated from Tuskegee University College of Veterinary Medicine in 1979. He then completed an internal medicine residency at Mississippi State University (MSU) College of Veterinary Medicine and earned a PhD in comparative immunology from North Carolina State University. He has been involved in the veterinary education profession since graduation, first joining the MSU College of Veterinary Medicine in its second year of operation. In addition, he was a founding faculty member of 2 veterinary schools, MSU and Western University. Most recently, he resigned as dean of Western University after serving in that position for 15 years and accepted a faculty member position at the college.

Which of the roles you have played is your favorite?

Weinstein: When I take over as Executive Director [SCVMA], I didn’t really know what to expect or how long I’d be interested in it, and it grew on me. I really enjoyed the role…because it put me in a position to be an advocate for the profession. This has allowed me to create continuing education programs for my membership from that perspective. It allowed me to focus on college and friendships and…collaboration, which are so important in the profession. And that allows me to be an influencer for the profession, not just in Southern California, but in other parts of the industry as a whole.

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I think the SCVMA role, which has allowed me to touch on so many different things, has been my most rewarding in many ways. [It] Helped me gain a broader understanding of the veterinary profession… especially since I was a leader during the biggest part of it [the COVID-19 pandemic], which really tests your leadership skills. Overall, I like to influence and disrupt the profession with the hope of making it better in the future, and I think we’ve been able to do that with the SCVMA.

Nelson: When I went to veterinary school, my plan was to practice with my mentor, Dr. Roland Powell, in Jackson, Mississippi, as it happened, or God intervened in my life. Because when I graduated, Mississippi State started a veterinary school. Powell was an active participant in establishing that veterinary school and recommended me for the faculty there because he thought another year would help spice up the partnership. Little did he know that I had become so interested that I would never go into private practice with him because…I saw an opportunity to be involved in establishing a veterinary school and I thought at the time I would never have the opportunity to be in a veterinary school again. A part of the establishment. To see how it happens, to be in the room when it happens… to be honest, I couldn’t turn my back on it… to be part of the establishment. [veterinary] The faculty at Mississippi State was probably one of my favorites and I have to say it became a part of the establishment [veterinary] As well as the faculty of Western University.

What is your proudest moment professionally?

Weinstein: I can look down the hallway and see a bunch of glasses that I’ve received and plaques at other times, but I think the recognitions that I’ve received as Speaker of the Year, both at the Veterinary Meeting and the Expo and the Western Veterinary Conference, really touch me because they’re about my profession. Reflects the ability to communicate holistically – to veterinarians, to managers, to technicians, to team members…on a personal level, [I am proudest of] I have 2 daughters, one of whom is less than a year away from graduating from Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine.

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Nelson: My proudest moment professionally was when…Western [University College of Veterinary Medicine received accreditation] Because I was the dean at the time… and because of the uniqueness of the curriculum that we recognized. At the time, Western sailed against the winds of politics and expectations, much more so than Mississippi State, and the inclusion of problem-based learning, the inclusion of distributive methods in clinical training, and the public consensus that we no longer needed it. Westerners are established during the time. These 3 things combined into significant headwinds. And there was a large consensus that Western University was not needed. And the pedagogy we have adopted will destroy veterinary medicine and destroy graduates in the West. We were able to meet the standards [College of Education] and satisfy [them] That we had a quality program.

What is the significance of your main statement in bold conversation?

Weinstein: Communication is a human weakness in many areas, and a significant weakness in the veterinary profession. And we are involved in communication every day with our team, with our clients, with family members, with friends. Many of those conversations are pretty memorable. However, in the world we live in, the news that comes on TV, through newspapers, through the Internet, [or] In radio…there are issues that call for tough, or bold, conversations.

The premise of the keynote is to encourage such conversations. To find individuals [with whom] You can engage in those conversations…whether it’s social issues or work performance, build the skills and confidence to ask tough questions. Also be prepared for difficult questions to be asked to you. So brave the conversation you start or whatever [which you are] reached up to [about], to discuss topics you’d rather avoid, the so-called “non-negotiables.” I think the significance of our keynote is this focus on being comfortable being uncomfortable in such conversations.

Nelson: The significance of the presentation is that [Weinstein] And I’m going to make a recognition that our country needs to reevaluate and relearn how to have a public conversation. I am very concerned about our inability to share our views without retribution…. [We will] Encourage members of our profession to reach out to people who don’t feel the same way they do…and to first find the courage, to share [their] opinions and secondly, listen to the opinions of others. Then thirdly, to disagree in a consensual manner.

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Being an African American, the purpose of this is so that we can move forward in the recognition that we are all human, that race is a myth, and that…our laws and practices are structured to deny certain populations within our country. The only way we’re going to get past that is to understand how each of us arrived at our perspective of what America is supposed to be. This presentation is designed to gently prompt the audience to see the perspective from which they are approaching an issue they feel is important.

What inspired you to give this joint lecture?

Weinstein: For over 2 years Dr. Nelson and I have had courageous conversations. It all started with me reaching out to Dr. Nelson after the killing of George Floyd and asking him for some help in understanding what was going on in the world. I just couldn’t reconcile the issues and felt that society was going backwards. The whole thing disturbed my psyche.

So, we started talking, and from our conversation, we created a podcast called “Courageous Conversations” (, during which we share our thoughts not only on veterinary medicine, but on life and other things – very Less is veterinary medicine. We challenge each other and our unique perspectives on problems. Dr. Nelson is from Mississippi. I’m from New York. And because we come at things from a different perspective [his] Raised in the South in the 60s and [mine in] North in the 60s and 70s. Courageous conversations will allow us to have collective discussions [not only] To share our vision with the audience, but also the benefits and importance of these difficult conversations.

Nelson: Shortly after George Floyd died, Weinstein called me and was so disturbed by the incident that he called me with several intrusive questions. Questions that I didn’t feel comfortable answering, but because of that interaction, we created the podcast and it eventually led to this presentation.

I am always involved in diversity [and] Bringing diversity to the profession, mainly because of my experience as a minority in the profession…[and] My experience as an educator and administrator in education and observing the practices that occurred in the 70’s and 80’s within this profession. History is important and the history of our profession as it relates to inclusion is not a pretty picture, so my inspiration for this discussion has evolved over time.


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