It’s been a week since the Executive Board approved the recommendations I summarized in my email to AVMA members, and I wanted to share with you some of the responses we received. This is a long blog post, so please bear with me because I want to keep you informed and up to date. All quotes below are used with the members’ permission.
We certainly expected some skepticism and concern that this is “yet another bureaucracy in action.” One member responded, “As a concerned member, I would like to know what real impact we would expect from these changes. I am skeptical that the resources needed to fund this will truly yield useful and practical changes…” To this member, and to our colleagues who share his concerns: we hear you. There is no doubt there have been multiple warning signs and reviews over the past 20-30 years indicating that there might be difficult times ahead. Many of those reports made recommendations– some were implemented, some were not. It is a complex issue. This initiative is a commitment by the AVMA to take this on head-on, not with isolated patch jobs, but with a comprehensive look at our economic situation and at possible solutions, done cohesively and with member involvement. This needs to be a coordinated grassroots movement and campaign from our members to the public on many fronts using a variety of mediums and forums. There are certain organizational processes we need to follow to get that organization and cooperation so we can move forward effectively. This is not another Task Force. This is a new permanent structure within AVMA to focus on this issue. We agree with you that useful, practical and REAL actions must be taken. We acknowledge your skepticism and we will use it as motivation to prove we’re committed to finding and implementing solutions.
One member replied, “I think the people at the AVMA are really out of touch with the veterinary profession as a whole if you are thinking your vision statement is going to make anything different in the next 50 years.” We realize that a vision statement isn’t going to make anything different – it’s what we do toward achieving that vision that will make the difference. A vision statement is simply the expression of the ultimate goal we want to achieve. It gives us that brass ring to aim for, and keeps us focused.
Some members expressed their concerns about specific areas and their impact on the economic state of the profession. Dr. Lynn Hagood replied, “The current trend in veterinary education is to fund the declining state supported budgets of veterinary colleges with increased enrollments and tuition income…could this trend of increasing the number of graduating veterinarians be beneficial to your goals and vision statement?… I don’t think we can ignore this trend and it must be addressed.” Dr. Jan Spitsbergen responded, “Those of us who had the vision to want basic biomedical research careers as veterinarians decades ago need to be heard… Somebody needs to highlight this problem before things will change. Young veterinarian scientists observing the situation in academia today rarely think that the situation is promising for a research career.” To Drs. Hagood and Spitsbergen and other colleagues who share their views: we assure you there will be a number of “elephant in the room” discussions such as these as we move forward.
Keep in mind, however, that the AVMA has no authority to tell any business, veterinary medical college or otherwise, to decrease its client base and business revenue as the “noble thing to do” for society, any more than it could tell me to see less patients because I am making too much money. As long as people want to enter this prestigious and noble profession, and are willing to pay the price for that privileged degree, colleges will gladly provide that education for them as as you would service your clients. It is simple supply-and-demand economics. What we have to do is pull together as a profession and convince the country and the world that what we do for a living for animals, humans, and society is valuable enough to continue. If we truly believe this ourselves, we will have a tremendous future. What we have to do is educate our future colleagues what it costs, how to plan for that investment, and how it will be beneficial for them and the profession if we know how to market and value our own services.
The AVMA must work to ensure that veterinary medicine as a profession remains strong and relevant long into the future so as to be able to continue providing the services we offer to protect animal and human health. There is no other profession with equal knowledge, compassion, and dedication for the work at hand in addressing animal health and welfare, food safety and security, and public health as it relates to our food supply and zoonotic disease. No other profession. We must assure it continues with the same kind of people, who are knowledgeable, compassionate, and dedicated to that cause or humanity will suffer.
I think that Dr. Peter Eyre summed it up well when he replied, “In my view there has never been a more threatening time for veterinary medicine than the present recession. I wish you the very best as you tackle the professions future. I cannot imagine anything more important or more urgent.” We couldn’t agree more.