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PEOPLE: THE HEART OF THE CVM
When the College of Veterinary Medicine recently built a new reception area in the Veterinary Medical Center’s Small Animal Hospital and added seven exam rooms, one of the biggest challenges was accommodating the flood of pets that people bring in for care. Last year alone, the Small Animal Hospital saw 37,426 appointments.
“We have to provide excellent customer service in order to get them to come and keep coming,” says Pat Berzins. As director of operations for the Veterinary Medical Center, Berzins shoulders much of the responsibility for keeping things moving.
In addition to the Small Animal Hospital, Berzins role includes operational oversight of the Large Animal Hospital, Leatherdale Equine Center, West Metro Equine Practice in Maple Plain, and the Veterinary Referral Center at South Metro Animal Emergency Care in Apple Valley.
“It’s very similar to a hospital administrator. So I do a lot of different things,” she says. That includes serving as project manager for the new linear accelerator for radiation treatment of cancer in animals, and overseeing the recent remodeling of 16 exam rooms in the clinic.
As the chief financial officer for the medical center, Berzins works on large capital equipment purchases. She also oversees about 80 budgets for specialties such as anesthesia, cardiology, medical imaging, and oncology. Besides that, she deals with personnel—“hiring, firing, discipline, coaching the supervisors on what to do next.”
Despite the difficulty of juggling responsibilities, she says her biggest challenge is that the VMC is a nonprofit veterinary hospital that receives less than 10 percent of its funding from the state. “We educate the next generation of veterinarians, develop new knowledge, and run a clinical service, and we use every dollar to support these three missions.”
Berzins has a long history with veterinary medicine. A Wisconsin farm girl who came to the University of Minnesota in 1975, she completed a degree in animal science.
“At the time I thought I’d go back to farming, but I married a city guy and stayed in the Cities,” she says. She began to look for opportunities, and in 1980 was delivering paperwork and cleaning cages in what was then called the Veterinary Teaching Hospital.
“Then I moved to the operating room and was an operating room technician for about 15 years,” she says. She got her veterinary technician certification. She took a job as manager over surgery and anesthesia in 1995.
“From then on, they just slowly added more services under me until I had them all,” she says. She became director of operations in 2005.
“I came here in 1975 and haven’t left,” Berzins says with a smile.