As the veterinary profession gets set to gather at the AVMA convention in Indianapolis, we introduce the community to Judy Korman, VMD, MBA, a veterinarian who has successfully blended the worlds of veterinary medicine and business. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine and the Wharton School of Management, Korman has consulted in human healthcare with the Wilkerson Group and launched her own private house-call pet practice. Now, she joins Assisi Animal Health as the Chief Business Officer introducing new products for delivering innovative and effective clinical solutions for our pets.
Every veterinarian has a story to tell about how they decided to become a veterinarian, what’s yours?
I wanted to work with animals for as long as I can remember. I was animal crazy as a child. When I was growing up, I could not wait to watch my favorite TV shows, all, of course involving animals. There was Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, Flipper, and my all time favorite, Lassie. My family and I lived in a small apartment in NYC, and we could not have pets. This probably fueled my passion even more. I would get my “fix” by playing with, any animals that I could find. These mostly included my relative’s pets. I was always most excited to go on family trips to visit relatives who had dogs or cats.
Then, when I was in eight grade I remember my aunt asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. My answer, a veterinarian, of course. I was especially talented in math and science so the scholastic part came relatively easy for me. I think I just knew my love of science, math and animals would all come together in a career as a veterinarian
After receiving a veterinary degree from the University of Pennsylvania, you went on to pursued an MBA. What motivated you to do so?
I became interested in business while attending the University of Pennsylvania as an undergraduate. U of P has a very strong undergraduate business program. In my freshman year as an undergraduate, I heard about a joint degree program between the Vet School and Wharton Graduate School. As soon as I heard about the program, I knew that was the direction that I wanted to go in. During my second year of veterinary school, I applied and was accepted to sub-matriculate into the Wharton Business School. I took Wharton classes to meet my vet school elective credits and was able to graduate with both degrees in five years. The two schools were literally across the street from one another but were worlds apart in their philosophies and culture. I suppose I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit and knew that learning business basics would be fundamental to my future.
You worked in the human health field for a number of years. How will that work in human medicine benefit Assisi now that you are in the veterinary industry?
In my career at The Wilkerson Group, I assisted medical product companies, both small and large, to develop and implement winning strategies for business development, product development and global expansion. I conducted and led assessments of the opportunities for pharmaceutical products and devices on a global basis and helped R&D departments prioritize their programs. All of these projects and experiences, combined with my veterinary training and clinical practice experience, give me the depth and breadth of perspective necessary to optimally help the Assisi team build the business.
What was your experience like running a mobile pet practice? How did the idea come about?
My husband and I decided to move down South about 12 years ago. At that time, our children were still young (in 2nd and 4th grade). I was thinking about types of jobs that I would both enjoy and that gave me the flexibility to tailor my schedule to fit in with the family’s needs. Being the entrepreneur that I am, I decided to look into running my own veterinary practice, but I knew that I did not want to make the large financial investment that purchasing an existing practice entails. I saw a need in my new community for a mobile pet veterinarian, and the idea was born. As soon as we moved I started working on getting my veterinary licenses for NC and SC. I designed and outfitted my own mobile unit and I was off and running.
I loved being a mobile vet. It was like a James Herriot existence. Every day brought a new adventure and a new set of challenges. Seeing people with their animals at their home setting brought a whole new light to understanding the needs of my patients. For example, if the case were a dog with arthritis, I could evaluate the home setting and make specific recommendations, such as adding carpeting or rug runners to bare floors. Simple changes such as these really improved the quality of life of my patients. Treating the patient in my mobile unit, at their home, gave me the perspective needed to help the whole patient, not just treat the disease. Owners really loved the personal attention and level of service I was able to provide.
Do you have any interesting cases to share with our community?
Every case was interesting, in its own way. However, my very first case as a mobile vet taught me an important lesson about the human-animal bond.
Midnight was a black, mixed breed, older dog. He lived with his army veteran owner in a run down mobile trailer in an old trailer park. The dog was just about all that his aged owner had left in life. The two were inseparable.
Midnight had several health problems and was very lethargic. The worst of his woes was what appeared to be a very large abscess on his neck, probably from an infected bite wound that he must have acquired in a fight with another animal. I treated Midnight on site as best as possible. However, when it came time to discuss the antibiotic needed to continue the healing process, the owner, bless his heart, said affording the medicine would mean not being able to afford food for several weeks. Looking around the shabby shack, I believed him. Even though it was a big sacrifice, Midnight’s owner was willing to spend the money to save his companion. We worked out special pricing and the biggest reward for me came when I saw the owner months later. He said Midnight was doing great and acting like a pup again. This case really struck me as an example of the sacrifices that people are willing to make to help their pets and the intense bond that is possible between pets and people. Being able to help people help their pets is an honor and a privilege that I never take lightly.
What interested you in joining Assisi Animal Health now?
It is perhaps a “perfect storm” situation for Assisi and me. Assisi is at a very interesting juncture with a great deal of potential for growth in the future. I believe my skills, knowledge and expertise in the crossroads of veterinary medicine and business are uniquely suited to helping Assisi reach its potential and objectives. As a practicing veterinarian, I am able to help hundreds of animals each year. However, in helping Assisi bring novel and much needed therapies to veterinary practitioners, I can help tens of thousands to millions of pets and owners. Expanding my ability to help is very exciting to me. Doing so while working with the very talented and energetic team at Assisi is the icing on the cake!
Tell us what interests you most about Assisi Loop technology.
The very essence of the Loop technology is fascinating to me. The technology on which the Loop is based is grounded in science and has well-characterized and documented cellular mechanisms of action. I see the Loop not as a single product, but as a platform technology that can be used in a variety of applications in new products to help treat specific conditions in animals and help improve their quality of life.
Can you tell us more about what is on the horizon for Assisi Animal Health?
There are a lot of exciting things on the horizon for Assisi. This year we will see the launch of two new products aimed at treating dogs and cats with chronic and multi-focal pain and inflammation. In addition, Assisi is supporting an initiative led by NCSU College of Veterinary Medicine to build awareness in cat owners and screen cats for signs of musculoskeletal pain. This online tool is expected to also be launched later this year.
Assisi has supported several double blind, placebo controlled clinical studies using the Loop to treat selected conditions involving pain and inflammation in pets. These studies are underway at major veterinary teaching institutions across the country. Results from two of the studies are expected to be released soon. Assuming the study results are positive, the Loop will have the unique position as the only veterinary non-pharmaceutical anti-inflammatory device to have positive efficacy results published in peer-reviewed journals. In this day and age where veterinary medical practice is increasingly evidence based, having clinical study results that support use of a therapy is a key driver of practice adoption and implementation.
I expect that in the more distant future we will see Assisi launch more new therapeutic products based on its core targeted PEMF technology as well as expand into new geographic markets.
You are an avid dog agility competitor who has personally used the Assisi Loop to compete. Can you explain?
I have been involved in the sport of dog agility for the past twelve years and have trained over 10 of my own dogs and countless others. Unfortunately, as is the case with any sport, agility can be hard on a dog’s body. Injuries are common both in the agility competition arena and while training. The Loop is ideally suited to help relieve pain and inflammation due to injuries in agility dogs. It is easy to use and portable so handlers can take it on the road when they compete or train and they can use it when the dog gets injured. Many times the injuries are identified right at the time of competition or in training when the dog pulls up lame or has a bad fall or misstep that is likely to cause some inflammation and soreness. I use the Loop in these situations to help the injury (even minor ones) heal faster and give my dog faster relief from the pain. I think the Loop has a central role in treating sports injuries in agility dogs when combined with rest and ice (post acute injury) or heat (for more chronic injuries).
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Yes, Assisi’s flagship product is the Loop, which, though used in cats, horses and exotics has primarily been used to benefit canine patients. I think the remainder of this year and into the next will be “The Year of The Cat” for Assisi. There is such a limited array of approved therapies to treat pain and inflammation in cats. With expected growth in cat owner awareness of signs of pain in their cats, Assisi will be in a good position to help address the needs of these cats and their owners with the launch of new products targeted at the feline population. By helping relieve these cats’ pain and inflammation I am sure Assisi will give these kitties something to purr about.