Dr. Judy Korman of Assisi Animal Health: “One of the biggest drivers of a company’s success can be its sense of purpose”
Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
My work at Assisi is the cumulation of all of my education, previous work experience and hobbies, most notably, my passion for animals.
My undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania is in Biological Basis of Behavior. It was, at that time, a new curriculum that essentially combined Psychology and Biology. This curriculum allowed me to further my basic interest in both fields and provided the fundamental basis for understanding the areas that our products were intended to address and, ultimately, make an impact in the lives of many pets.
My further education at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine and The Wharton School of Management helped give me the specific knowledge and in-depth expertise that I use on a daily basis to manage and grow Assisi Animal Health and the Calmer Canine brand. This, in combination, with my early career as a Management Consultant, provided practical experience and a platform for me to broadly apply both my veterinary and business training as my career trajectory progressed.
Through my veterinary house call practice, Mobile Pet Veterinary, I was able to see first-hand the daily issues that pet owners face with their animal companions and the challenges and rewards that veterinarians experience in providing high-quality care for their patients.
Even my hobbies have relevance to my career. As a dog agility trainer and competitor, I have a deeper understanding and appreciation of the impact that anxiety and other emotions have on the ability of dogs to learn, perform, and lead quality lives.
What do you think makes your company stand out?
More than one in seven dogs in the U.S. suffer from separation anxiety, experiencing the human equivalent of a panic attack when their owners leave the home. We developed Calmer Canine as a safe solution — one that is much safer than medications and their potential side effects — to help dogs negatively impacted by separation anxiety regain some balance and be able to cope with being left alone. Our motto is “Where Science Meets Love.”
Developed by our team of veterinarians, neurobiologists, and engineers, the Calmer Canine device has been shown in clinical studies to significantly reduce the signs of separation anxiety, including excessive barking, whining, howling, destructive behavior, panting, pacing, obsessively watching the door and windows, and having potty accidents.
The Calmer Canine Anxiety Treatment System includes the device and a comfortable, easy-to-use vest that holds the device in the proper position over the dog’s head (at the base of their neck) during treatments. The Calmer Canine device is also available without the vest. With just two 15-minute treatments a day for four to six weeks, Calmer Canine has been shown to have lasting effects.
One of the most wonderful parts of the device is the science behind it. Calmer Canine stimulates the brain’s natural ability to restore emotional balance by utilizing a specifically tuned, micro-current signal targeted at the amygdala or the “anxiety center” in the brain. We are grateful to be improving the lives of dogs with Calmer Canine.
At Assisi, we talk about operating at the intersection of where science meets love, and that’s important. We are defined by our uncompromising commitment to improving the lives and wellbeing of animals, and our innovative solutions are designed to do just that.
The FDA does not require veterinary medical devices to have any clinical research supporting the product’s claims. We want to do better than that. At Assisi, we fund and participate in rigorous research conducted by elite teaching institutions, such as the Animal Medical Center in New York City and The NC State College of Veterinary Medicine. We do this not because we have to, but rather because we believe in evidence-based medicine and we are interested in sharing this clinical information with our customers.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting?
When I was starting my mobile, house call vet practice, my first appointment one day was with a cat in need of care and treatment for pain management. The appointment went wonderfully, but as I headed toward my next house call appointment, I overlooked a sign that warned of a road closure and asked for cars to take an alternative route. I ended up getting stuck for the entire day and wasn’t able to get to my other patients. Clearly, this wasn’t ideal. I had just started my business and wanted to ensure I established a good rapport with my new clients. Thankfully, I was able to triage several of these cases over the phone, provide suggestions to those who needed more immediate attention and reschedule appointments, all while having a good laugh about the whole thing.
Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
In my case, it’s to look down the street while driving! This experience helped me realize that every day there would be wins and challenges. As humans, we’re born to make mistakes, especially when it comes to the smallest of details. What I realize as I reflect back on my worst mistakes is that we all have the potential to bounce back from those moments. It’s ever more important to be able to problem-solve in the moment and take life as it comes.
If you could go back in time and talk to your younger self, what would you tell her and why?
Enjoy life, work hard, play hard, and don’t take it all too seriously.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful to for helping you get to where you are?
John Wilkerson, Assisi’s Chairman, and Founder.
John is one of the most impressive business executives that I have had the pleasure of knowing. Over the 25 years that I have known him, he has developed and maintained the highest morals and business values. Wherever he goes, he creates a culture that is simultaneously fun, energizing, and motivating for the team of smart people he attracts. He hired me to join the management consulting firm that he started with some partners over 25 years ago, and he has been a great business role model ever since.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
We understand there are many dogs in need of treatment for separation anxiety. Sometimes these needs are multiplied during emergencies, such as wildfires, which impact a massive number of families and their pets. We recently provided free Calmer Canine Anxiety Treatment Systems to several veterinarians in California whose patients were affected by the wildfires and are currently doing the same in Australia.
We also love hearing from families about how their dog’s lives have significantly improved with Calmer Canine. That kind of feedback gives my team and me the desire to continue innovating.
The first step is educating dog owners about mental health and separation anxiety. We created a quiz to help owners understand if their dog has separation anxiety and what they can do about it.
“A company can have an enormous impact on the quality of life of people and the animals that share their lives. One of the biggest drivers of a company’s success can be its sense of purpose. Having and communicating a great purpose are key attributes of success and can become the common cause that everyone rallies around.”Dr. Judy Korman, WMD, MBA
Our mission is to continue to help dogs receive treatment in a non-medicated and comfortable approach. It just takes two, 15-minute treatments a day for a four- to six-week period to help dogs significantly reduce signs of their separation anxiety and ultimately help them achieve long-term results.
Some recent customer testimonials we’ve had the joy of receiving include one about a Bulldog named Eggnog, whose human also suffers from separation anxiety as she does. Eggnog has experienced separation anxiety since she was a puppy, and it worsened each time her owner had to leave the house. After trying a variety of treatments, Eggnog’s owner learned of Calmer Canine and gave it a try. Six weeks ago, Eggnog began using her Calmer Canine device twice a day. We recently received her progress update and were thrilled to learn that Eggnog’s pacing and panting symptoms are much less and that she has been removed from her anxiety medications. This is such an exciting report to receive! You can learn more about Eggnog’s journey on her Instagram page /eggnogthebulldog.
Other testimonials come from veterinarians, including Dr. Rebecca Moland, whose patient, Riggs, was diagnosed with separation anxiety. Following Riggs’ treatment with Calmer Canine, Dr. Moland confirmed that Riggs’ quality of life had improved. She summarized, “Riggs showed fairly dramatic improvement within seven days of starting his treatment. He used to pace obsessively and pant heavily in the clinic, but he was sleeping in the clinic within a week of starting his treatments. He has also been able to settle near the owner’s young baby. I am now recommending Calmer Canine for thunder phobia, noise sensitivity, and all sorts of anxieties, including general, strange, travel, and situational anxiety in our veterinary clinic.”
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
Live outside your comfort zone. Try new things and build capabilities that could make you more valuable to any enterprise. We knew with Calmer Canine that we were creating a new type of treatment for dogs that had not been done before. We knew we were addressing a problem that needed to be brought to the forefront. We needed to educate, and we were determined to help dogs in need combat their separation anxiety one diagnosis at a time. I truly believe that the greatest innovations come from thinking that is not limited by convention.
Every day brings new challenges. We are never DONE solving a problem or identifying new opportunities to make an impact as our world and our society continue to evolve. Continuing to improve and face each new challenge with energy and optimism can significantly affect the outcome and our ability to achieve goals.
The devil is in the details. Paying attention to the little details can often make or break a business or transaction. When my team and I began developing Calmer Canine, we knew it was ambitious, but our focus was clear from the beginning: help as many dogs and families around the world to combat a condition that is often left undiagnosed and untreated. Mental health is a serious issue, and one we knew we could help treat in our furriest, most loyal companions.
Success will cost twice as much and take twice as long, so plan accordingly. Often, too little too late is the downfall of a company or program; realistic goals and appropriate funding are crucial to survival.
How has it inspired you in business today?
Most opportunities are fraught with difficulty. Getting beyond each hurdle and succeeding despite the challenges defines who we are as individuals. Optimism is the key to unlocking golden opportunities.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
To teach and inspire people to be tolerant and acceptant of other people’s ideas, religions, ethnic backgrounds, races, and differences. We all have so much to learn from one another and our backgrounds.
If you could meet anyone either living or no longer with us for breakfast or lunch, who would it be and why?
Leonardo Da Vinci because of his great inventions and his great mind. He clearly was born to think outside the box!
How can our readers follow you on social media?
While I’m not actively sharing my daily life updates on social media, the best way for readers to follow me and, more importantly, learn stories of the many dogs and their families whose lives have improved by the science and technology that enabled Calmer Canine is to follow our social media channels. These are: calmerk9 on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. For more details about Calmer Canine, including the unique science involved in creating it, and to learn from dogs whose lives have been transformed by this treatment, visit calmerk9.com