Bridging the Conversations


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The Bridge Club aims to promote good communications among animal health professionals.

The idea started informally. For animal health industry veteran Brenda Andresen, it was a way of connecting and meeting with the many talented women Andresen says she had been fortunate to meet and become friends with over the years in the veterinary industry. “Women who’ve earned professional respect, have achieved positions of authority and responsibility, and who place a high value on supportive and sincere relationships,” she says.

For about five years, an original group of 10 regularly gathered together over drinks and dinner at veterinary conferences. They discussed trends in the industry, challenges that kept them up at night, and personal as well as professional development. The time spent together was valuable for both professional and personal development. It was also something Andresen and her colleague Catherine Haskins thought the industry could use more of.

“Good communications are 93 percent nonverbal and seven percent verbal, but in today’s world of social platforms, apps and texting, good communications is quickly becoming extinct,” the duo stated for their industry initiative. To solve this growing challenge, in early 2018 at VMX, Andresen and Haskins launched The Bridge Club, the first video-based, professional community created to connect the industry’s best in just 25 minutes.

The secret sauce

Since its launch in February 2018, more than 1,100 veterinary professionals have participated in 40 virtual and live events. A Bridge Club conversation is set to be 25-30 minutes maximum and is done through virtual conversations via video conference. Participants must turn on their video cameras and are invited to join the discussion.

The delivery of each event is a sort of mashup, a “Ted-Talks meets LinkedIn + book club” concept. “It combines the intelligent, slightly educational, and unscripted sharing of information a la Ted Talks, the connections that people seek on sites like LinkedIn, and the sincere engagement you find in a book club group or at a dinner party with friends,” says Andresen.

“The idea is to take part in interesting conversations with interesting and informed people.”

According to Haskins, founding partner of The Bridge Club, “Our goal is to bring back old-fashioned communications, but in a modern way that works with everyone’s schedules.”

The secret sauce, Andresen says, is prioritizing conversations, not presentations. “The key is to bring our hosts and their topics down to that ‘gathered around the table’ level. Get it out of the traditional “presenter at the podium and audience in the dark” space and connect them with each other.

What’s on the menu

Event content is based on a 30-30-30-10 approach: 30 percent professional development, 30 percent veterinary medicine, 30 percent personal growth and 10 percent on topics impacting society (e.g., the new tax plan or sexual harassment).

Popular discussions have ranged from innovation to industry initiatives. Anything related to telehealth has been well attended by industry and practicing professionals, Andresen says, and conversations on the Veterinary Nurse Initiative tend to draw a crowd. A conversation on ageism and finding a job after 50 was also a big hit with members. “But depth of engagement is a more true barometer to us – we’re not after large crowds,” she says. “So from that perspective, every Bridge Club conversation is ‘popular’ with those who choose to attend.”

In June 2018, The Bridge Club launched the Veterinary ICON Series. Kristin Peck, Executive Vice President and Group President of U.S. Operations, Business Development and Strategy for Zoetis, was the first to be honored as a Bridge Club Industry ICON at a special Bridge Club Event during the AVMA Convention. The series presents an opportunity for Bridge Club members and veterinary professionals to connect with and learn directly from the women and men who, through their perspectives, leadership, and vision, have impacted the trajectory of the veterinary industry. Another aim of the series is to help members connect with the next generation of leadership.

“Catherine and I learn something ourselves from every single conversation and we love drawing out the interest of our members,” says Andresen. “I’m not making it up when I say there are nuggets of value in every single Bridge Club conversation. From the very first Bridge Club, hosted by Dr. Jeff Werber, to our recent weeklong focus on topics of interest to veterinary technicians, the hosts and members we bring together lead to quality and often intriguing discussions.”


As we head into a new year, based off of insights from previous Bridge Club events and conversations, Andresen provided a few suggestions on how animal health business professionals can invest in themselves in 2019:

• “Reach out.”

• “Ask questions.”

• “Share what you know.”

• “Don’t assume that you know everything or, alternatively, that you have nothing to share. Catherine and I sincerely believe that The Bridge Club will positively impact individual careers and lives and benefit the profession.”


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