10 min read
The Journey of Papaya Veterinary Care
Published on Sep 10, 2023
Papaya Veterinary Care’s Beginnings: How It All Started
In a world where veterinary care often comes across as clinical and impersonal, Papaya Veterinary Care is a beacon of warmth, compassion, and expertise. The operating model founded by Genevieve Borso, affectionately known as Gen, is a remarkable establishment that has been rewriting the playbook on pet care since its inception. In this exclusive interview with Gen, we delve into her journey and the values that make it truly exceptional.
Gen’s Journey: From Medical Scrubs to Leading Papaya
An Early Passion: Gen’s Love for Veterinary Care
Gen’s path to Papaya Veterinary Care was paved with a profound fascination for the world of medicine. Her journey in the medical field began as a child with a mother who worked at the local community hospital as a surgical technologist. Young Gen often found herself captivated, watching surgeries and absorbing the intricacies of surgical procedures. “When we were out running errands together, she would get called in, and I would get to watch a surgery. I was hooked,” reminisces Gen.
This early exposure to medicine ignited her passion for the field and set the stage for an extraordinary career. Gen pursued a degree in physical chemistry with the goal of medical school. While in school, she held two jobs: a pet nurse at Banfield and a Unit Clerk in the Emergency Room (ER) at her local community hospital. After three years working in the ER, Gen began questioning her career path. The bureaucracy of human medicine was worsening, impacting the job satisfaction of healthcare workers. She remembers one surgeon being burned out after only 4 years. Ultimately, this led to her decision not to take the financial risk for a career in the human medical field that felt more restricting and less rewarding.
Behind the Scenes: Gen’s Shift from Surgery to Business
After college, Gen was introduced to business management by starting a role as a Hospital Director for Banfield in the Southern California market. She then worked for VCA briefly
before transitioning to the dynamic world of multi-unit operations at PetDrx. Her portfolio at PetDrx was primarily specialty, and the most significant purchase was California Animal Hospital in Los Angeles, a move that placed Dr. Steve Ettinger into the CMO seat. Gen acknowledges the influence of Dr. Steve Ettinger, a true luminary in the field. “Dr. Ettinger showed me the importance of connecting with individuals and making them feel valued,” Gen reflects. This mentorship was pivotal in developing her leadership skills, a quality that would prove indispensable in her future endeavors. From this, mentorship is now a gift Gen offers her staff daily.
Formative Years at NVA: Discovering the Power of Mentorship
In the spring of 2010, Gen began her tenure at National Veterinary Associates (NVA), which was then transitioning under the leadership of Greg Hartmann. At this entrepreneurial phase, the company had around 130 hospitals and lacked formalized SOPs, offering Gen an invaluable business learning environment.
Fortuitously, Gen found herself under the guidance of an individual aspiring for the COO position, positioning her as a high-potential employee. This pivotal moment marked the beginning of Gen’s first genuine mentorship experience. Her mentor, deeply invested in her growth, provided the essential critical feedback that Gen needed to flourish. This experience revealed to her the profound impact of mentorship and the transformative power of personal investment in nurturing leadership potential—core principles Gen passionately embeds in Papaya’s ethos today.
Revolutionizing Pet Care: Papaya’s Integrated Approach
Gen’s journey through the medical field led her to a profound realization: the potential for holistic, comprehensive care. Drawing from her experience in the human healthcare system, she observed the advantage of offering multiple services under one roof, fostering continuity of care.
The Downside of Segmentation: A Challenge Awaits
Challenging her vision, Gen witnessed a concerning trend emerging in veterinary and human healthcare: segmentation. Specialization led to fragmentation, leaving patients and pet owners with disjointed care experiences. Gen expressed concern when asked about her challenges: “We are now seeing care being segmented more than ever.”
A Solution Takes Shape: Papaya’s Integrated Operating Structure
Gen’s response to this challenge was nothing short of visionary. She implemented an integrated operating structure at Papaya Veterinary Care that would bridge the gaps in pet care and offer a seamless experience. This was a departure from the norm, a paradigm shift aimed at treating pets as whole beings, not just a set of symptoms.
Benefits of a Unified Operating Structure
Whole Pet Care: Beyond Symptoms to Wellness
At the heart of Papaya’s holistic integration is the well-being of pets. Gen emphasizes the importance of an interconnected approach, where every aspect of a pet’s health is considered. She affirms, “It’s about treating the whole animal, not just their symptoms.”
Efficiency & Capacity: A Game-Changer for Pet Owners
The benefits of unified care go beyond better pet health, providing improved convenience to pet owners. By streamlining processes and utilizing resources effectively, Papaya ensures pet owners can access care when needed. As Gen puts it, “Including this model into all of our GP hospitals provides better balance to our staff while adding capacity to address a care gap that has been emerging.”
Papaya Veterinary Care’s unique approach is a testament to Gen’s commitment to revolutionizing pet care, offering a model that sets a new standard in the industry.
Career Progression: Nurturing Growth
For the dedicated professionals who choose Papaya, this structure also opens up a world of opportunities for career progression. With exposure to complex cases, professionals find ample opportunity for growth. This progression is seamlessly paved, extending from doctors to technicians and even encompassing the transition to emergency care. Overall, this allows for ample career advancements, propelling veterinary professionals toward their full potential.
Leadership Opportunities: Empowering Voices
Many companies often fall short of offering meaningful development opportunities. Conversely, Gen sees the value in empowering her team to lead and make a difference. That’s why Gen and her team leave no stone unturned when it comes to preparing their staff for success, offering a comprehensive pre-opening course that covers everything from standard operating procedures and workflow to equipment usage and maintenance, alongside CPR training and troubleshooting equipment failures. As Gen passionately states, “We believe in empowering our team with the skills and knowledge they need to thrive, not just survive.”
Leadership development is a top priority, with specialized courses for hospital leaders, including financial training, data-driven decision-making, and various leadership modules. But the journey doesn’t stop there; Papaya is actively constructing the “Papaya Pathways” program, a career roadmap complete with training modules designed to empower staff to advance their careers and become leaders in the field.
Equity-Based Compensation: A Stake in the Future
Equity distribution serves as a game-changer for Papaya’s compensation structure. It’s not only an opportunity to increase compensation without affecting support staff but also a means to empower doctors to influence the company’s direction. This innovative approach fosters consistency in care, outcomes, and business decisions.
Accord Capital’s support in valuing early contributors’ roles and vision has enabled Papaya Veterinary Care to provide Medical Directors with a share in the business. “They understand the importance of rewarding the early people who pave the way for the company’s future,” Gen explains.
Papaya’s Compass: Core Values
At the heart of Papaya Veterinary Care is a set of core values that define its culture and guide its every action:
Feedback & Empathy
Feedback and empathy are foundational elements of Papaya’s culture. Drawing from her early experiences at NVA, where she first truly experienced the impact of constructive criticism and mentorship, Gen passionately expresses, “At Papaya, we give feedback every day. We put aside the discomfort in not wanting to hurt someone’s feelings to ensure we provide them with the information they need to grow.” This commitment to growth-oriented feedback and a supportive atmosphere that acknowledges challenges create a nurturing environment for continuous improvement.
At Papaya Veterinary Care, a culture of shared experiences and mutual support thrives. Here, everyone, including veterinarians, acknowledges challenges and areas for growth, fostering resilience through collaborative efforts.
This support network extends beyond the clinic’s walls, creating a haven within learning and development meetings where personal concerns and challenges are openly addressed, free from judgment. The holistic approach includes practices like meditation, comedy, and gratitude discussions, recognizing the humanity of veterinary professionals beyond their roles.
This approach is central to veterinarians’ well-being, directly influencing all aspects of clinic life. By promoting balance and offering support, Papaya enhances the quality of medical care, elevates client satisfaction, and bolsters overall productivity.
Growth & Collaboration
At Papaya Veterinary Care, learning is a continuous journey guided by curiosity. The regular leadership training sessions are more than mere checkboxes but serve as gateways to exploration. These sessions cover diverse topics, enrich personal and professional growth, and transcend workplace boundaries. As a current Executive Medical Director reflects, “Genevieve has continued to find a way to simplify the most complex topics into easy-to-understand language. Beyond business talk, Papaya has successfully created a safe environment to address personal concerns, challenges, and input. I also should add we have a good time during our learning and development meetings!”
Papaya’s commitment to growth doesn’t stop at clinical excellence but extends to seeing veterinarians as unique individuals. This culture prioritizes personal development as much as professional advancement, fostering an environment built on self-reflection, personal growth, and collaborative teamwork. This holistic approach transforms daily routines into a collective journey where everyone’s development contributes to the whole.
Team Resilience & Commitment
Gen attributes much of Papaya Veterinary Care’s success to her team’s resilience. This core value fuels determination and empowers them to navigate challenges by learning from mistakes, adapting, and ultimately achieving their goals. Gen proudly states, “First, my team is awesome! They don’t let challenges stop them from pursuing a worthy goal… We all believe in the idea behind Papaya, and we remain focused on the overarching goal of wanting to create a better experience for everyone.”
Growth can sometimes lead to dilution of purpose, but not at Papaya. While each team member has a unique “why,” the collective goal remains the same—to serve the community by providing the best care for our beloved pets and supporting their owners with empathy. This commitment fuels the passion that drives Papaya forward, even through growth and evolution.
Fostering a Positive Work Environment
A positive work environment is essential for delivering exceptional care. Papaya empowers Executive Medical Directors (EMDs) to create an environment where well-being takes center stage. This approach has far-reaching effects, uniting the team under a shared vision and fostering curiosity and growth beyond traditional roles.
But don’t just take our word for it. Here’s what Dr. Tindall, an existing Executive Medical Director at Papaya Veterinary Care, has to say about her experience:
“As an Executive Medical Director at Papaya, my first and foremost concern is the happiness and health of my team. I have been given all the tools to create the environment I feel will attract the right people and retain them.”
Papaya understands the interplay between personal lives and work performance, valuing collaboration, celebrating joy, and cherishing authenticity. The result is a workplace where people genuinely enjoy working together, and this positive energy permeates the care provided to patients and their owners.
Amid life’s hustle, Dr. Tindall created a beloved new tradition of Gratitude Fridays, a cherished moment to pause and appreciate the big and small things. It’s about recognition and cultivating a healthier and happier mindset. By acknowledging the positives, Papaya nurtures a culture of appreciation and balance.
Papaya’s Pursuit of Excellence
Enhancing Accessibility & Warmth
Recognizing the growing difficulty and stress associated with accessing veterinary care, Papaya takes a proactive step, including introducing urgent care services. This addition aims to improve accessibility by offering timely and efficient solutions to pet parents in their moments of need. Moreover, the team’s positive attitude towards urgent care cases acts as a reassuring balm, alleviating stress for both pets and their concerned owners.
At Papaya, nurturing growth isn’t confined to four-legged patients alone. Committing to invest in team members’ personal growth is a cornerstone of the organization’s ethos. “Papaya has developed a support system that allows me to address my personal and professional development to provide top-notch care to my patients and clients. As a result of this prioritization, the business succeeds,” reflects a current Executive Medical Director. Beyond honing clinical skills, Papaya emphasizes holistic development, recognizing the importance of fostering well-rounded professionals. Providing resources for personal and professional advancement underscores Papaya’s dedication to cultivating a team that thrives within and beyond the clinic walls.
Papaya’s vision for comprehensive veterinary care encompasses not only its present but also its promising future. The plan includes opening three new locations in the coming year: West LA, Culver City, and Encinitas. These milestones mark significant steps toward realizing Papaya’s mission. Collaboration and the team’s unwavering commitment underpin these expansion goals, underscoring the collective effort required to drive positive change within the industry.
A Call to Veterinarians: Be Part of the Papaya Legacy
A year into the COVID pandemic, Gen found herself at a crossroads yet again. Having left her position at NVA, Gen experienced veterinary medicine from a pure client’s perspective and saw firsthand the challenges brought on by years of consolidation in the sector. Recognizing that mere acquisitions didn’t equate to progress or better service, Gen embarked on a more daring and rewarding journey: establishing Papaya Veterinary Care.
The story of Papaya has been one of evolution, innovation, and unwavering dedication—and it’s just getting started. The insights from Genevieve Borso, the CEO & Dr. Tindall, Executive Medical Director, have shed light on the heart and soul of Papaya’s culture, which is committed to holistic development and community empowerment.
If Gen’s vision and commitment resonate with your ideals, if you share a fervor for pets and believe in integrated care that breaks away from the traditional mold, then you have an extraordinary role to play at Papaya Veterinary Care.
Be the change, join the legacy, and let’s redefine veterinary care together!