Making service his business

He’s a practicing veterinarian specializing in cardiology, a grantee of Diplomate status from the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine, a co-owner of the booming CVCA: Cardiac Care for Pets (formerly Chesapeake Veterinary Cardiology Associates), a past president of the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association, and an active alumnus of Virginia Tech and the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine.

portraitBill Tyrrell (DVM '92) was selected to recieve the college's 2019 Lifetime Achievement Alumni Award.

And still, despite his solid resume, William “Bill” Tyrrell (DVM ’92) was surprised to learn that he’d been selected to receive the college’s Lifetime Achievement Alumni Award.

“I was flabbergasted, to be completely honest,” Tyrrell said in response to news of the award. “I got the email—and it was on a pretty bad day—and I just couldn’t believe it. There are so many graduates from our college who’ve done so many amazing things across the spectrum of veterinary medicine. To be given this award, I couldn’t express it in words.”

To be eligible for the award, nominees must have earned a doctor of veterinary medicine degree more than 10 years ago, possess high veterinary medical ethics, and exemplify the Virginia Tech motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), through deeds and actions that have demonstrably impacted their local communities, the commonwealth, and the greater world for a sustained period of time.

Back in the early ’90s, life as a vet student looked somewhat different from the academic path that students typically walk today. For one, Tyrrell was admitted after his sophomore year at Virginia Tech. “Despite being the president of my undergraduate class, I never graduated with them,” he joked. “It was a little ironic.”

In light of the larger class sizes and the changing faces of faculty—a bittersweet truth that, he said, can make him feel a bit old)—Tyrrell feels that the bones of the program remain strong. “It hasn’t lost focus on the clinical training,” he said. “The graduates coming out of the vet school are some of the top in the country, and I will always tell students, ‘The vet school will prepare you to be an excellent clinical veterinarian from the first day you graduate, and you can feel confident about that.’ Our graduates are sought after as new hires across the commonwealth and across the country.”

The reason for the program’s sustained strength? “The leadership,” Tyrrell said. “The leadership of the college has been stellar over the past 25 to 30 years, and that’s the reason it’s still in such a fantastic position and why I continue to support it. I’m happy—and I’m eager—to come back every time; I try to come down as much as I can.”

Tyrrell sticks to his word. In fact, while providing remarks about his award, he was making a four-hour drive down I-81 to give a talk to the Veterinary Business Management Association.

Such a routine isn’t rare. Since graduating, Tyrrell has served as president of the VMCVM Alumni Society, chair of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine’s National Marketing and Communications Committee, and member of the Virginia Tech Alumni Association Board of Directors—the first representative from the college. In addition, he has remained active in the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association’s expanding mentor workshop since its inception more than 15 years ago. He continues to lecture nationwide and serves as a committee member of the Veterinary Memorial Fund and as a planning committee member of the Potomac Regional Veterinary Conference, for which he was the chairperson at the time of its inception.

“VMCVM, Virginia Tech, and veterinary medicine have given so much to me,” Tyrrell said. “I feel sort of compelled to give back to the profession, as well as to give back to the university and college as a thank-you for all they’ve done for me. I’ve tried to maintain the university’s motto of Ut Prosim through my life and to set an example for my kids and the folks I work with to give back to whatever’s been good to you.”

Along with his service to Virginia Tech and VMCVM, Tyrrell’s business, CVCA: Cardiac Care for Pets, collaborates with the school via the college’s Collaborative Research Network. “We’ve been extremely fortunate to work with Dr. Abbott and Dr. Borgarelli, two cardiologists at the vet school,” Tyrrell said of the relationship. “They end up taking a lot of our data from our electronic medical records, and we now have arguably one of the largest studies on canine degenerative mitral valve disease. Dr. Borgarelli had been in charge of that. Being in private practice, we don’t have the time, and I wasn’t trained in a research-type position, so being able to work with those guys has been completely rewarding for me in my practice to be able to grow in a different direction and give back to science.”

Among Tyrrell’s and his other partners’ efforts, CVCA has grown exponentially, sizing up from three offices to opening its 14th office at the end of April, effectively becoming the largest private cardiology practice worldwide, with offices stretching from the Virginia/Maryland region to Texas. Tyrrell credits his team of around 100 people—including VMCVM alumni—for allowing him to no longer have to work until 11 p.m. every night and to instead focus on medicine and service.

“We have tried to grow slowly and intelligently and have tried to maintain a good quality of life. We try to be a fun place to work while at the same time providing top-notch and advanced care for our patients, their owners, and our referring veterinarians. That’s what we’ve built our large practice on and how we’ve been able to retain our employees: by providing that level of care, both for our patients and our employees and doctors.”

On a similar note, Tyrrell’s advice for practitioners is to leave room for personal time and identify a dedication outside of veterinary medicine. “It’s a stressful position,” he said, “but if you maintain a well-balanced life and lifestyle, you’re going to thoroughly enjoy the profession. And because you’re enjoying the profession, you’ll be willing to give back to the profession.”

In mid-August, Tyrrell will be on campus to present a 50-minute lecture on practical cardiology, during which he plans to lead a case-based discussion that will allow practitioners to take home what he calls “pearls of wisdom,” some practical advice to put to work on Monday when they return to their hospitals.

In the meantime, away from serving his employees, school, and community in seemingly myriad roles, Tyrrell spends his time participating in his daughters’ passion for swimming, serving as a stroke-and-turn judge for their meets. Not surprisingly, his daughters have helped at his hospital and with his research. He also collects wine and plays golf. “I’m horrible,” he said of his game. “Hopefully, I’ll be able to improve one day when life slows down a bit.”

Written by Leslie Jernegan (M.F.A. ’19)