Dr. Hilsenroth was born and raised in the Washington, D.C. area. He left in 1964 to start his pre-veterinary curriculum at Oklahoma State University, and moved on to the University of Georgia for veterinary school, where he received his DVM in 1971. He did a summer intern program at what was then called the Atlanta Zoo while a student at the university. Following graduation, he became an associate veterinarian at a small animal hospital near Baltimore for a year.
In 1972, Dr. Hilsenroth moved to Denver, Colorado, where he opened a small animal practice that he operated for 19 years. In the early 1980’s, after experiencing the parvovirus epidemic and having frustrations with the media, Hilsenroth decided to get involved in the media in an effort to provide credible reporting on veterinary issues. For ten years, starting in 1985, he was employed part time by the ABC television affiliate KUSA as their “pet health expert,” producing weekly reports on pet and animal issues. In addition, he hosted radio “ask the vet” talk shows, and wrote weekly newspaper columns.
In 1991, Morris Animal Foundation decided they needed a Staff Veterinary Spokesperson, someone with “television, radio, newspaper and public speaking experience.” Dr. Hilsenroth applied for the job, and was successful in landing it. He sold his practice and began his new career with the Foundation. Ten months later, however, the Foundation’s Executive Director left, and Hilsenroth was asked to sit in as Interim Executive Director. The Foundation executed a six-month search, and named Hilsenroth as Executive Director in September, 1992. It was challenging to learn all he needed to know about fund-raising, management, investing, governance, grant management and working with Boards, but Hilsenroth credits his great mentors for helping him along the way. During his 13-year tenure at Morris, he successfully completed Harvard’s Executive Education program “Strategic Perspectives in Non Profit Management.”
Morris Animal Foundation funds health studies for dogs, cats, horses and wildlife. At the time Dr. Hilsenroth came on board, 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. After consulting with his Board, Hilsenroth took the Foundation’s display booth to the AAZV meeting in 1993, in an effort to solicit grant proposals. He worked closely with Board members and members of the Foundation’s Wildlife Scientific Advisory Board in efforts to build the Division. When he retired from the Foundation in 2004, the Zoo & Wildlife Division was funding more than 30 studies costing more than $1.4 million annually, and the Division was the second largest as far as annual grant expenses.
Dr. Hilsenroth retired from Morris Animal Foundation in April of 2004 and moved to northern Florida. Shortly thereafter, he read a copy of the AAZV’s 2002 Strategic Plan. “I was pleased to see such an ambitious Strategic Plan, and felt that it would be challenging and fun for me to go back to work,” said Hilsenroth. “I have had a special place in my heart for the members of the AAZV, and am thrilled to be able to contribute to their goals and become a member of their family.”
Dr. Hilsenroth started with AAZV in October, 2005, and is happy to contribute what he can to both the members and the animals they serve.