Episode 71

Published on:

22nd Mar 2023

Ep 71: Dr Robert Hilsenroth - Leadership, Community & Conservation

On today’s show, I’m joined by Dr Robert Hilsenroth. Dr. Hilsenroth was born and raised in the Washington, D.C. area and graduated from the University of Georgia in 1971!

After a year in practice, he took the bold step of moving to Colorado and opening a small animal practice as a relatively inexperienced vet and businessman. Things clearly worked out, as he owned the practice for the next 19 years.

There were highs and lows, including frustration with how the media handled veterinary issues. As such, Dr Hilsenroth was drawn to develop his media skills to better contribute to and improve the quality of reporting on important local and national veterinary issues. This investment paid off, and for a decade, he was employed by the ABC television affiliate KUSA as their “pet health expert,” producing weekly reports on pet and animal issues.  In addition, he hosted radio talk shows and wrote weekly newspaper columns.

In 1991, his career changed course quite dramatically and sold his practice and began a 13-year tenure with the Morris Animal Foundation, an organisation funding health studies for dogs, cats, horses and wildlife. 

Initially joining as the Staff Veterinary Communications Officer, Dr. Hilsenroth’s skills allowed him to be identified and successfully appointed as the Foundation’s Executive Director.

When he began this role, the Foundation was funding only two studies in the Zoo & Wildlife Division, while there were 10 or more studies in each of the other Divisions. When he got done more than a decade later, the same division was funding more than 30 studies.

Dr. Hilsenroth “retired” from Morris Animal Foundation in April 2004 and moved to northern Florida to enjoy fishing and the quiet life. Or so he thought… Talent, however does not often get the luxury of going quietly into the night… and it wasn’t long before the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians, a group he had worked closely with while at the Morris Animal Foundation, came calling on his leadership experience. 

Those calls, while initially rebuffed, were, in the end, effective and in 2005, Dr Hilsenroth was appointed to the role of Executive Director of the Association. A position he still holds nearly 18 years later! Quite possibly a record in delaying retirement.

Aside from the enormous impact on zoo animals and conservation Dr Hilsenroth has made, he has made just as significant an impact on people -  amassing a wealth of learned and taught leadership experience during his career. Including completion of Harvard’s Executive Education program “Strategic Perspectives in Non-Profit Management”.

But before we jump into today’s episode, here is a quick word from today’s show sponsor…

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Now back to the show...

The only way to become a guest on this Blunt Dissection is to be someone I am really curious to learn more about. Sometimes guests appear on my radar due to listener recommendations; other times, I find them through publications. But in Robert’s case, it was an entirely random meeting at lunch while preparing for my sessions at VMX ‘23 that resulted in an almost instant connection.

Within a few seconds of listening to Dr Hilsenroth, my ears were wide open. Within five minutes, I cursed myself for not having my recording equipment rolling! His career is fascinating, but his story-telling ability and life experiences are up there with the best. I hope very much you have a similar reaction as we dive into his story, both human and animal. 

So without further ado, I invite you to sit back and enjoy my conversation with the fantastic Dr Robert Hilsenroth.

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About the Podcast

Blunt Dissection
The best minds in veterinary medicine, academia & business profiled so you can learn from their experience.
The Blunt Dissection Podcast exists because everyone has a story worth listening to. It's the original and best interview podcast in veterinary medicine where the best minds in the various subcultures of veterinary medicine (and sometimes outside) are profiled/deconstructed so you can listen to their remarkable stories, and also learn the habits, routines, thought processes and anything else that makes these individuals so good at what they do.

What’s in it for you to listen? For some, it's entertainment, for others the show offers inspiration. My hope is that once you’ve seen the pathway to success all you have to do is follow the breadcrumbs. Simple right? So what are you waiting for? Let's jump in and get to know some amazing people better. :)

Sometimes funny, sometimes dark but always entertaining - welcome to the hidden world of veterinary success.

Your host is Dr Dave Nicol, a veterinarian, occasional CEO, multiple time author, international speaker and mentor/coach to countless vets, nurses and managers in veterinary leadership roles across the world through VetX International.

About your host

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Dave Nicol