A President’s Primer

Dear Colleagues,

It’s probably back-to-school time in your neighborhood, and, even though one might think things would be winding down a bit here at the AVMA after our Annual Convention, we’re actually in full swing, gearing up for the fall round of council and committee meetings.

And speaking of “going to school,” there’s plenty of learning going on here, as well.

You’d think that after more than 30 years of AVMA membership and numerous leadership positions, I would know all I need to know about how this association works.

Well, even I have some learning to do. I’m one of the new faces in a new position – even though I’ve been around for a while – and there’s plenty for me to learn now that I have assumed the role of AVMA president. That’s why I will be one of several AVMA Executive Board members who will be visiting AVMA headquarters in Illinois next month for New Officer and Board Member Orientation.

It’ll be a jam-packed two days, as we dig deep into AVMA operations and learn more about our responsibilities and about what makes this fine association tick.

We’ll probably be blown away when we learn just how complicated it is for our staff to juggle the logistics and keep track of the more than 500 volunteers who serve on more than 50 AVMA councils and committees. These councils and committees are critical to shaping AVMA policy and positioning the association for the future. Over the next few months, hundreds of volunteers will spend countless hours away from their families and their professional responsibilities to conduct important business on behalf of our members and help set policy in areas ranging from disaster and emergency preparedness to environmental issues and the human-animal bond.

We’ll also be reminded of the serious fiduciary responsibilities we as board members have, not only to the association and its bottom line, but also to you as dues-paying members. The Board is responsible for managing the association’s $28 million operating budget and overseeing its investments, including $10 million in fixed assets.

As part of our “education,” we’ll walk the stacks in our own AVMA Library, tour each of the AVMA divisions, and we’ll have open and frank discussions with each of the division directors about what their staffs are doing to help meet the objectives of the AVMA Strategic Plan.

Speaking of the AVMA library, did you know that if you visit the association, you would have access to more than 5,000 books and more than 700 journals, magazines and newsletters? If you’re looking for information, Librarian Diane Fagen can assist you in many ways. She can help you search the veterinary literature databases; locate materials you may need from other libraries, even those near to you; and assist you in locating historical information from our journals and our business sessions. We can’t loan you books or journals, but we can help you find out which library will have what you want and how you can go about getting it.

(Diane also wanted us to sneak in a request. With our 150th anniversary approaching in five years, she’s trying to get her hands on as many AVMA artifacts as possible. She’s especially interested in acquiring directories and AVMA journals that pre-date 1960, as well as unusual items for display, such as convention pins, films and other memorabilia. So, if you can help, or if Diane can be of service to you, e-mail her at dfagen@avma.org, or give her a call at 800-248-2862, ext. 6770.)

Another stop we’ll make during our orientation will be with the folks in the Animal Welfare Division, where we’ll learn about our revamped efforts to position the AVMA as the pre-eminent source on animal welfare issues. I am making animal welfare a top priority during my time as president because all too often, the public, the media, our elected officials, and even some of our own members, don’t look to the AVMA as an invaluable resource on animal welfare issues. We are working hard to change that, and we will continue to reach out to people around the country so that we – the members of the AVMA – are identified as the primary source for animal welfare science and information.

One of our newest initiatives helps educate parents and their children about dog bite injury prevention and thereby protects both ends of the leash. A partnership with The Blue Dog Trust, a nonprofit organization based in The United Kingdom, was announced at our convention in New Orleans, and we’re excited about the educational opportunities it provides. Geared toward children ages 3 to 6, The Blue Dog is a tool directed toward an age group for whom targeted dog bite prevention education has been lacking. Packaged as a Parent Guide and interactive CD for children, The Blue Dog is a wonderful product that allows parents to learn the “whys” behind canine behavior and lets children play a fun game of choice-making to learn what to do – and what not to do – to avoid dog bites.

If you want more information on The Blue Dog, contact Dr. Gail Golab, director of our Animal Welfare Division, at 800-248-2862, ext. 6618, or at ggolab@avma.org. To order The Blue Dog Parent Guide and CD, call Lori at 800-248-2862, ext. 6655.

I’ll also be focusing a lot of my energy on the veterinary workforce shortage and animal identification. Having just returned from the Council of State Governments Eastern Regional Conference, it’s clear to me that the shortage, particularly in the food-animal field, is a national concern. I spoke to council representatives from all 50 states, U.S. territories and commonwealths about the near crisis point we have hit and the shortage’s impact on animal agriculture and food safety, and we agreed that it’s important for all of us to look for solutions to the problem.

We have already made progress in implementing a program that will make more veterinarians available in underserved areas, particularly in rural America. The AVMA and its Governmental Relations Division were instrumental in bringing the program, known as the National Veterinary Medical Service Act, to reality. Thanks to a congressional mandate, language to advance the program was inserted in the Farm Bill approved this spring, and it requires the U.S. Department of Agriculture to move forward on loan repayments for veterinary school graduates who pledge to serve not only in rural areas and work with food animals, but also those who set up shop in any geographic or professional area that’s underserved.

I’ll be working alongside Governmental Relations Division Director Mark Lutschaunig and his team to make sure the USDA follows the timetable to get the program up and running. Congress has already appropriated about $1.8 million for the program, and we will continue to push for more funding on Capitol Hill to ensure that the program remains financially strong and stays viable in a changing professional landscape.

We also will continue to push for the establishment of a single source for companion animal microchip database information recovery, available 24-7, that can work with all microchip frequencies to help identify lost pets and reunite them with their owners. Although we have made some progress in this direction, more needs to be done. We need to redouble our efforts to encourage the microchip industry to work together to provide the most effective companion animal identification system possible.

As you can see, we are always learning at the AVMA, and we are regularly sharing our knowledge with a variety of audiences. This commitment to lifelong learning is critical if we, as veterinarians, want to maintain the trust and the respect the public has bestowed upon us.


Cook signature DeHaven signature
James O. Cook, DVM
W. Ron DeHaven, DVM, MBA
Executive Vice President

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