Entrepreneur Ben Shaw, founder of Vets First Choice, was hailed last week by Ernst & Young as a New England Entrepreneur of the Year.

Shaw, whose growing company provides veterinarians with online pharmacy services, was among 17 regional winners selected and the only one from Maine.

“It was really exciting, and I have to say it’s pretty flattering recognition for what is really just a lot of hard work,” Shaw said Wednesday as he was returning from a trip overseas. “I look at this as a recognition for our whole team, and I’m very proud of what we’ve done.” That “team” is in the process of doubling from 400 employees to 800 by year’s end, Shaw said, as the Portland company prepares to tap new markets both domestically and globally.

“Vets First Choice is in the early stages. … I’m very bullish on our company. We are growing fast,” he said.

The company was founded in 2010 as a way to give veterinarians more control over how medications are dispensed for their clients’ pets, turning on its head the typical distribution network in which people order their pets’ meds from an online pharmacy such as 1-800-PetsMeds. By dispensing medications and custom diets through veterinary practices, pet owners and pet care providers are better connected, improving management of a pet’s health.

The entrepreneur award, which celebrates innovation, corporate culture, financial performance, risk-taking and perseverance, is granted annually by Ernst & Young, an international professional services firm.

“These honorees not only create and build market-leading businesses, but also help take the standard of excellence to new heights, transform the face of the industry, create jobs and contribute to the vibrancy of communities,” Ernst & Young said in a media release about the award.

FAST-TRACK TECH DEGREES

Husson University is offering a combined integrated technology and MBA degree starting this fall. The program, which also offers associates and bachelor’s degrees in integrated technology, anticipates an increased demand for employees who can create computer information systems, develop software, and engage in web design and development.

“In the past, many students would enroll in our software development or web media programs. Unfortunately, these programs didn’t give students the option to graduate with a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in five years,” Michael Knupp, an assistant professor of information technology at Husson’s School of Business and Management, said in a media release announcing the new degree program. “Now, with the new Bachelor of Science in Integrated Technology/MBA program, students can get two degrees that will provide them with advanced technology and business skills.”

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, job opportunities for computer and integrated technology professionals are expected to grow 12 percent from 2014 to 2024, higher than the average of all other occupations in the department’s annual outlook. Median wages were $82,860 as of May 2016.

In an effort to help fill this need for qualified professionals, Husson University has been collaborating with the New England School of Communications to develop integrated technology curricula, and with organizations such as Project>Login, which is trying to increase the number of technology graduates.

“Students that take a computer science course in high school are six times more likely to major in a computer science-related field at the post-secondary level,” said Jason Judd, program director for Educate Maine’s Project>Login.

At the master’s degree level, students can obtain additional concentrations in biotechnology and innovation, health care management, hospitality and tourism management, risk management, organizational management or athletic administration. Shorter certificate programs are available for working professionals who want to gain skills in cloud computing, the collection and storage of big data, and connecting to the “Internet of Things.”

DORA ANNE MILLS HONORED

Dora Anne Mills, former head of the Maine Bureau of Health who now is the vice president for clinical affairs and research at the University of New England, was recognized this week by her alma mater, the University of Vermont.

Mills received the university’s Service to Medicine and Community award for “an outstanding record of community service” not directly related to medical practice.

She was recognized for her focus on implementing clinical interprofessional education, public health programs, and the nexus between public health, health care and health professions education in her work as director of UNE’s Center for Excellence and Health Innovation.

Mills also was the director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention for 15 years, including time spent as state epidemiologist during the H1N1 pandemic in 2009 and 2010. Her service to Maine is extensive, and her global service includes clinical and teaching experience in Africa, Mexico, Nepal and Alaska.

Mills received her medical and public health degrees in 1987 from the Larner College of Medicine at UVM. She is a pediatrician.

Business Editor Carol Coultas can be contacted at 791-6460 or at:

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