It’s rarely safe – or smart – to stand on the sidelines when the situation calls for action. When veterinary medicine is in the crosshairs or when the health and welfare of our nation’s animals and people may be at risk, we need to act. Indeed, it is our duty to act.
Two recent situations presented themselves that called for us to get involved to fulfill our role as your voice for veterinary medicine. One – the publishing of an article critical of companion-animal veterinarians – generated disappointment and frustration that will most likely be short-lived. The other – publication of a report by the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production – has potentially far greater impact on the safety of our food supply and our ability as veterinarians to protect animal and human health. Regardless of their level of impact, however, both required our attention.
Not so ‘Smart’
When Smart Money magazine published an article entitled “10 Things Veterinarians Won’t Tell You,” we immediately responded by posting a comment on the magazine’s Web page and on our AVMA home page, and by mailing a letter to the magazine’s editor. While there may be kernels of truth sprinkled throughout the article, there’s no doubt that it also carries a negative tone that impugns veterinarians, what we stand for and the profession as a whole. We haven’t heard back from the magazine, but if you check out the reader comments at the bottom of the article, it’s pretty clear how most people who read the piece feel.
Calling on the Commission
As you can understand, our response to the Pew Commission wasn’t so immediate. After wading through the 2008 report, entitled “Putting Meat on the Table: Industrial Farm Animal Production in America,” members of several AVMA entities, in addition to staff members from our Scientific Activities, Communications, Governmental Relations and Animal Welfare divisions, as well as the Office of the Executive Vice President, weighed in on what they read and prepared a strong, science-based response to the Pew report, which, we believe, is light on science and heavy on scare tactics.
But putting together the response was just the beginning of what is a strategic effort to make sure that our concerns are heard. We hand-delivered our response to members of Congressional agriculture and public health committees, and we also sent it electronically to the remaining members of Congress. It’s important that we reach our elected officials because they may use the Pew Commission report during their deliberations on legislation pertaining to the use of antibiotics in food animals. We sent it to leading members of the mainstream, agricultural and industry press, and we have assembled a team of expert spokespersons to assist in media inquiries. We published an article about our response in JAVMA, and we have created a “Chew on This” podcast and an AVMAtv video featuring Dr. DeHaven.
And, to help you and others easily find our response and other complementary materials, we have posted the items on our AVMA Web site. We urge you to help us take action to address concerns raised in the Pew Report, and to help us protect our food animals and our food supply.
As you can see, we took great efforts to let people around the country know that we have great concerns about the Pew Commission report and what it might mean for all of us – from producers to consumers and, ultimately, veterinarians.
Disposal of Pharmaceuticals
The Environmental Protection Agency has concerns about drugs going into the nation’s waterways. So when the EPA was concerned about how veterinarians dispose of unused pharmaceuticals, they planned on including us in a survey of medical professionals to gauge our impact on potential environmental pollution. We had some concerns with the survey idea from the get-go, most notably the fact that veterinarians are responsible for minimal amounts of pharmaceutical disposal and that the survey would take about 40 hours to complete.
With those concerns in mind, our Scientific Activities, Membership and Field Services, and Governmental Relations divisions acted quickly. They gathered experts from our Council on Biologic and Therapeutic Agents, the Committee on Environmental Issues, the Council on Veterinary Services and the Clinical Practitioners Advisory Committee to get to the bottom of the matter.
What they decided was to put together a Best Management Practices for Pharmaceutical Disposal for veterinarians that we strongly urge you to review and follow to help us decrease drug waste into water. We also are hopeful that these BMPs will negate the need for the veterinary profession to be surveyed. We are awaiting word from the EPA as to which health care components will be included in the survey, and we’ll keep you posted on any developments.
This effort is reflective of how AVMA staff, along with council and committee members, stay on top of the issues, rely on expertise to formulate responses and advocate on your behalf.
Shelter in Seattle
Even though the AVMA has left Seattle after an incredibly successful convention, the American Veterinary Medical Foundation has left a lasting impression behind. Through the efforts of individual AVMA members, and even entire families, two animal shelters and a horse sanctuary are better off now than when we arrived.
This dedicated group of AVMA volunteers spent long hours at the Seattle-area facilities to make them better places for the people who work there, the community as a whole and the animals that need attention, affection and tender loving care. At the animal shelters, the volunteers cleaned, painted, planted, helped prepare for a big “adoptathon,” and built and enhanced an exercise area for dogs. At the horse sanctuary, our volunteers were joined by a group of Seattle-area volunteers, and together they painted a large barn, repaired fences and stall doors, and gave the place a good cleaning up.
In the end, we left behind more than improved facilities; we showed the Seattle area that veterinarians are caring people who are dedicated to helping those in need. We also planted seeds in the community that we hope will germinate into more people showing support for the shelters both financially and through volunteer efforts.
Protecting Your Interests
Another exciting aspect of the Foundation’s convention involvement was its hosting of several estate planning seminars for our members. In all, more than 300 people attended the programs and learned about how to alleviate their tax burden, how to pass on the family business intact, establishing trusts for their family, preparing powers of attorney and how to support their favorite charities.
Dr. DeHaven and I are confident that these valuable volunteer and member-service programs will continue to grow, and our hats are off to everyone who made them such a huge success.
In These Times
We’re all watching our budgets closely these days and spending only when we need to. And things aren’t any different here at the AVMA. Our current budget reflects the fact that we have to watch our spending and prioritize. Led by our treasurer, Dr. Bret Marsh, and our Finance and Business Services Division, arriving at our most recent budget was an involved process that affected each and every association division. We scrutinized every line item, every program and every commitment we had in terms of spending.
Dr. Marsh laid out the entire process – as well as our philosophy behind the budget – at the AVMA Convention in Seattle, doing so eloquently and effectively. In an effort to get his message out to as many of you as possible, our Communications Division videotaped a version of Dr. Marsh’s budget address to the House of Delegates so that we could get the message out to more than just those who were able to come to Seattle. We hope it enlightens you as to how much work and thought went into the budget process during one of the association’s – and indeed the profession’s – most difficult budgetary years.
In closing, you can see that it’s been a busy month, and it looks like it’s shaping up to be an even busier year, full of challenges and opportunities for all of us.
|Larry R. Corry, DVM
|W. Ron DeHaven, DVM, MBA
Chief Executive Officer