President’s Update – NAVC & our Meeting with AAVMC Deans

As any of you know who attended the North American Veterinary Conference, it is a great meeting (although I must say I know you will also enjoy the AVMA convention even more in San Diego in August, but I could be a bit prejudiced!).  I will highlight two specific events during my attendance at the NAVC .

  1. On Sunday, January 15 during the NAVC , AVMA hosted a historic meeting.  In attendance were all AVMA Executive Board members and 35 Deans representing all 28 colleges U.S. colleges of veterinary medicine and 7 foreign AVMA Council on Education accredited colleges.   Just the tremendous attendance alone signified the tremendous priority given to this meeting.   The objectives were to:
  • Gain a common understanding of the economic issues, pressures, and stresses felt by the membership of AVMA (veterinarians, employers, and students) and the membership of AAVMC (academic teachers and researchers led by their Deans), and
  • To seek solutions to the most pressing issues.

It was a very collaborative and productive meeting with much discussion, however, this meeting was really looked upon as “our first cup of tea” together to begin a long relationship of regular communication on issues that affect the future of veterinary medicine. We did agree on several points even during this very early stage of our scheduled discussions:

  • A foundation for dialogue and commitment to work together on behalf of the broader profession;
  • A broad spectrum of economic issues, pressures, and stresses as being critical to the veterinary medical profession;
  • A joint review of the anticipated (but often delayed) National Academy of Sciences veterinary workforce study which is now promised for release in the very near future;
  • A number of potential actions to address the top priority economic issues;
  • Participation in additional meetings, the first in March 2012, to develop and implement economic solutions; and
  • Commitment to jointly create and release progress reports periodically to the AVMA and AAVMC memberships.

We are committed to working together to assure “veterinary medicine is a personally and financially rewarding profession” and education is a big part of that process.  We all have dreamed of becoming a veterinarian, we have all endured the rigorous education to achieve that degree, and we are now working as veterinarians for the benefit of animals, people, and society as a whole.   AAVMC and the AVMA have committed to meeting again at the AAVMC meeting in March to further our discussions. It was a good day!

2.   On Tuesday evening, Dr. Karen Felsted gave a presentation on the Economic Trends in Veterinary Medicine followed by me on the AVMA’s Strategic Plan to address those economic concerns.  Even though we competed with free food and prizes next door, we had a good turnout and a lot of questions showing a lot of interest in this topic.  We will be presenting the same material at the Western Veterinary Conference in Las Vegas, so if you are attending the WVC, please be sure to come and engage in the dialogue.  Again, we need and want your input.

Finally, it was great to see Dr. Laurel Kaddatz as President of the North American Veterinary Conference as we went to veterinary medical school together in Minnesota (he is one year ahead of me).  He and his Board were very accomodating to the AVMA Executive Board for our meeting with the Deans at the NAVC.  Thank you, Laurel.

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14 thoughts on “President’s Update – NAVC & our Meeting with AAVMC Deans

  1. I personally believe veterinarian is really good and an honorable profession. A good professional can save lots of animals suffering from several diseases! There are so many good students who make their future bright with a veterinarian degree, save life of our beloved pet animals! I really appreciated their effort.

  2. You are absolutely right, as long as there is demand for those spots, the applicants meet the admission requirements, and people are willing to pay the price of tuition, school’s will continue to fill those spots. That demand for seats and the loss of government support financially for the schools drives the increasing class sizes and even the establishment of new programs. However the applicant pool is stagnant, meaning the ratio of the total number of students who apply to the total number of seats available across the country is only 2:1. That low of a ratio causes some concern about whether the quality of the total applicant pool will diminish. Our goal is to be sure we help students understand the debt, manage it, and help students be as confident and competent as possible once they graduate to be more productive so as to have better income potential. In addition, we must educate the public on the value of veterinary medical consultation and services to increase demand. We are working hard in all areas.

  3. As long as there are people willing to pay the price for a DVM degree, and they meet the qualifications of the admission process, can we expect the schools to not accept them if there is a spot available?

  4. We are continuing our good dialogue with AAVMC as we identify common challenges. In March we had a second meeting and focused on 1) workforce issues, 2) educational debt, and 3) how we might improve new graduate confidence and competence for entry level general practice to improve earning potential in their first year. We are making good progress.

    We have commissioned a high quality and focused AVMA workforce study over the next 12 months. We authorized an advisory committee to work with the vendor of that study that will include representation from AAVMC. This will give us actual current data on current and future potential workforce opportunities rather than speculation.

    AAVMC has appointed a Task Force on Educational Debt to look at immediate actions that can be taken to help students manage their debt. This TF will include a member of AVMA’s Veterinary Economic Strategy Committee (VESC). Escalating student debt is a highly discussed topic in all fields of higher education, not just for veterinary medicine. We need to look at how to help our students manage the educational cost of a DVM degree.

    And third, the VESC has started planning for an Educators/Employers forum or workshop to have employers and educators start talking about what entry level competencies will help graduates become more efficient in their first year and improve earning potential, including emphasizing the new Partnership for Preventive Pet Healthcare guidelines.

    We are making excellent progress in collaboration with our academic colleagues.

  5. So sir Dr. Rene that you sayed the conference made by aavmc ixecut5e members and 35 deens is fantastic to gat a solutions for the longlasting problems. So there is always good solution for veterinary medicine students. They all are getting dreamed to achieve that degree….

  6. so, that i have to tell that there is lots of vetarinarian proffesions and we know that we care our about our pets and animals.without veterinarians it’s immpossible.the AAVMC know that a lots of students flooded to study and take a veterinary professions.this will make our nation good.so,they tells us the good one the way of i take it……………

  7. @René Carlson, AVMA President
    Dr. Carlson,

    I think you may have mistaken what I said. I did not say that I think you have the view of an AAVMC lobbyist. I said that the question that you asked was one I would expect from an AAVMC lobbyist and not that of the AVMA president. Huge difference. I really don’t entirely know your view, as it appears to me that it varies.

    You talk alot about all of this concern with regards to over supply as “speculation”, when in reality there have been several studies, some even funded by the AVMA. Twenty five years ago there was a study that showed a surplus, one that would likely require a 20% reduction in new graduates in order to balance supply with demand. Instead of a reduction, we have added more schools and increased the class size of the others. That is not speculation, those are facts.

    As far as avoiding your question, I guess I am not sure what your question was. If you wish to restate it, I will do my best to answer it. As it stands, you did not answer either of my questions in my initial post.

    HOLD THE PRESSES! I agree with you in that we have not done well with the improving the demand side of the equation. I believe that there is both a huge responsibility to improve this and a huge opportunity to do so.

    Finally, as to what I would ask of my AVMA. One, lets work on a way to actually get our member’s input on things. As I have said many times before, I don’t recall being asked anything ever and I have been paying dues for 15 years. Thanks for being the first to ask. I believe that our organization needs to get back to the basics and remember why we even have an AVMA, which is to represent those of us that pay dues. To me, this means curbing foreign and new accreditation and putting less emphasis on global affairs until we get a handle on our own backyard.

    I am not the only one that feels this way and I am not afraid to get involved to help. It all starts at the top.

    I do respect and admire your enthusiasm.
    Greg

  8. Dr. Carlson, I urge you to take the time to read the comments of over
    200 veterinarians from all walks of life discussing these very issues. I think you will find that MANY of your constituents are very very far from your rosy outlook of the profession’s future. I know you are trying to change things, and we all appreciate that fact, but there seems to be a big disconnect betweeen the AVMA leadership and the vets in the trenches. Of course we can’t allow every kid who wants to go to vet school to have a degree. Obviously standards are being lowered– 1 in 3 candidates are now accepted rather than 1 in 6 20 years ago. The market is not infinite. Many professions limit their member numbers so the value of their degree is maintained. That is not unAmerican at all.

    If you have the time, the discussion I am referring to can be found on VIN in the “In the trenches” folder. Paul Pin’s 2012 New Year’s message.

  9. @Greg Nutt
    Greg,
    In regard to your first response, nothing has changed from my or AVMA’s commitment to our national economic strategy developed to further the Economic goals of our Strategic Plan to serve our members. The workforce issue is complex and cannot be summed up simply or by speculation, but rather needs focused and accurate data for us to be of any influence in a particular direction.

    In regard to your comment that you think I have the view of an AAVMC lobbyist rather than the AVMA President (no offense to the AAVMC lobbyist)… that doesn’t even deserve a response. You obviously don’t know me very well.

    Third, I do appreciate the expression of your frustration and your perspective. I have spent my entire 34 years in private clinical practice, both as an associate and as a practice owner in both urban and rural areas. I, and your AVMA, will continue to work positively on these issues taking into account the complex relationships of the many issues affecting our profession at this time. BTW, I believe you effectively avoided answering my questions.

    We need to learn from those with growing and successful practices even in these difficult times, including use of current technology (social media and marketing), and promotion of preventive care. Demand is increased by the value consumers attach to products and services. Let’s work on broadening our consumer base and increasing the value we offer to our clients. Today’s consumer and environment is different than the clients and environment of the 1800’s and 1900’s. We need to increase the value of veterinary medical services to the 21st century consumer. Value is what drives your and my purchasing choices, that is what drives our clients’ priority for their purchasing choices. Let’s work on demand and value.

    Fourth, your AVMA leadership and staff is working literally around the clock for our members almost beyond capacity based on what was reported from input to our Strategic Plan. What would you like your AVMA leadership to do when you say “instead of continuing to accredit”? What does that mean exactly? As to accurate job opportunities, we are working on collecting and updating that information.

    I truly believe our profession has a bright and significant future, still as one of the most noble and cherished professions on earth, especially this next few decades, and if we work together, it will be a “personally and financially rewarding profession” as our economic vision states. However, nothing is automatic. WE have a lot of work to do. WE shape the future and determine if it continues to be a great one. Adversity from within (meaning pitting education against practitioners) will not help. Camaraderie and cooperation within, working toward one vision for success and relevance will be more productive in the long run. The tortoise will win this race!

  10. 1. Greg, first it was great to meet you in person at the VLC earlier this month. As to our meeting, we had a good general discussion on the need to balance the supply of veterinary medical services with the demand and need for those services, both now and into the future. This initial meeting looked at several stresses on our current situation with limited time to delve deeper into those topics. Workforce was one of those topics, and quite frankly, there are a lot of factors affecting workforce. We hope to have further discussions in March. This meeting did engage an outside facilitator which kept us focused on our initial agenda.

    Dr. Carlson,
    I was encouraged by your opening speech at the vlc with regards to changing cultures, addressing problems, and turning the ship around. Unfortunately, in reading your latest post, it appears we are back to deflection and vague answers. I thought we were moving past this! What happened? Did anyone from the AAVMC agree that there is a surplus of practicing veterinarians at this meeting? Did anyone from the AVMA?

    That said, and totally separate from this particular meeting, and at the risk of raising some eyebrows, may I ask a hypothetical question for the sake of discussion?

    I would expect this type of question from an AAVMC lobbyist, but not from the president of the AVMA. My colleagues and I have discussed this question several times. I realize that the schools can and do pretty much what they please with regards to building new facilities and increasing class size, regardless of the consequences to the profession as a whole. All they need is AVMA accreditation and for the rest of us to do nothing about it. The fact that taxpayer money is involved in this should not be understated.
    So, in theory, they can do what they want. The big question remains; what are you and the AVMA going to do? What responsibility do you have to the 85% of your AVMA members that are and will be severely affected by this? How long can the workforce study be delayed before the whole study loses all credibility?

    If we feel like we have too few clients for the number of practicing veterinarians (which seems to be what I am hearing), would it be fair for me to ask you to see fewer clients or to not take any new clients so there would be more clients for me down the road?

    This statement deflects from the whole truth. While it is technically true, saying that our problem stems from TOO FEW clients is like congress saying our debt problem is because we lack enough revenue generation. In reality, congress spends too much. If you look back to the Wise and Kushman synopsis, you will see that we have added a small number of clients since that study was undertaken. Unfortunately, we have what? Doubled the number of practicing veterinarians!
    So, that statement is not entirely accurate. We lack sufficient numbers of clients only because the numbers cannot keep up with the additional veterinarians entering the workforce.
    And, I am seeing fewer clients because the pie continues to get smaller and smaller. I really don’t have a choice in the matter.

    OR if you wanted to open another practice, would I be able to tell you that you shouldn’t do so because we already have too many practices? This is America after all, the land of opportunity, where the free market drives free enterprise. As long as there are people willing to pay the price for a DVM degree, and they meet the qualifications of the admission process, can we expect the schools to not accept them if there is a spot available? I do have a concern that as class size increases, and faculty numbers decrease, and as interns and resident numbers increase, this may be adding to the lack of confidence issue in our graduates as perceived by employers and even some graduates since they would get less hands on experience during the curriculum unless they get it elsewhere, certainly relative to previous years at least.

    At last count, it seems about 60,000 physicians and 100,000 attorneys graduate per year (which many would argue is also too many!), so it seems 3000 DVMs per year should not begin to fill the potential (I admit potential is not real) need that should be available in a country of 311 million people or a world of 7 billion people. We need expand the national marketplace and be part of the emerging global marketplace. We need to drive the demand for the value of veterinary medical services in a variety of areas. We have never had to drive that demand before. It is a different world. We will continue to work to shape a better future from several directions.

    Dr. Carlson,
    It is not about what we expect from the schools, it is about what we expect and deserve from our leadership. Fully 85% of the AVMA engage in some sort of private practice. Instead of continuing to accredit, why don’t we take a step back and make sure that prospective students have accurate information regarding job opportunities. I think that that would be a good start.
    Thank you
    Greg

  11. 1. Greg, first it was great to meet you in person at the VLC earlier this month. As to our meeting, we had a good general discussion on the need to balance the supply of veterinary medical services with the demand and need for those services, both now and into the future. This initial meeting looked at several stresses on our current situation with limited time to delve deeper into those topics. Workforce was one of those topics, and quite frankly, there are a lot of factors affecting workforce. We hope to have further discussions in March. This meeting did engage an outside facilitator which kept us focused on our initial agenda.
    Dr. Carlson,
    I was encouraged by your opening speech at the vlc with regards to changing cultures, addressing problems, and turning the ship around. Unfortunately, in reading your latest post, it appears we are back to deflection and vague answers. I thought we were moving past this! What happened? Did anyone from the AAVMC agree that there is a surplus of practicing veterinarians at this meeting? Did anyone from the AVMA?
    That said, and totally separate from this particular meeting, and at the risk of raising some eyebrows, may I ask a hypothetical question for the sake of discussion?
    I would expect this type of question from an AAVMC lobbyist, but not from the president of the AVMA. My colleagues and I have discussed this question several times. I realize that the schools can and do pretty much what they please with regards to building new facilities and increasing class size, regardless of the consequences to the profession as a whole. All they need is AVMA accreditation and for the rest of us to do nothing about it. The fact that taxpayer money is involved in this should not be understated.
    So, in theory, they can do what they want. The big question remains; what are you and the AVMA going to do? What responsibility do you have to the 85% of your AVMA members that are and will be severely affected by this? How long can the workforce study be delayed before the whole study loses all credibility?
    If we feel like we have too few clients for the number of practicing veterinarians (which seems to be what I am hearing), would it be fair for me to ask you to see fewer clients or to not take any new clients so there would be more clients for me down the road?
    This statement deflects from the whole truth. While it is technically true, saying that our problem stems from TOO FEW clients is like congress saying our debt problem is because we lack enough revenue generation. In reality, congress spends too much. If you look back to the Wise and Kushman synopsis, you will see that we have added a small number of clients since that study was undertaken. Unfortunately, we have what? Doubled the number of practicing veterinarians!
    So, that statement is not entirely accurate. We lack sufficient numbers of clients only because the numbers cannot keep up with the additional veterinarians entering the workforce.
    And, I am seeing fewer clients because the pie continues to get smaller and smaller. I really don’t have a choice in the matter.
    OR if you wanted to open another practice, would I be able to tell you that you shouldn’t do so because we already have too many practices? This is America after all, the land of opportunity, where the free market drives free enterprise. As long as there are people willing to pay the price for a DVM degree, and they meet the qualifications of the admission process, can we expect the schools to not accept them if there is a spot available? I do have a concern that as class size increases, and faculty numbers decrease, and as interns and resident numbers increase, this may be adding to the lack of confidence issue in our graduates as perceived by employers and even some graduates since they would get less hands on experience during the curriculum unless they get it elsewhere, certainly relative to previous years at least.

    At last count, it seems about 60,000 physicians and 100,000 attorneys graduate per year (which many would argue is also too many!), so it seems 3000 DVMs per year should not begin to fill the potential (I admit potential is not real) need that should be available in a country of 311 million people or a world of 7 billion people. We need expand the national marketplace and be part of the emerging global marketplace. We need to drive the demand for the value of veterinary medical services in a variety of areas. We have never had to drive that demand before. It is a different world. We will continue to work to shape a better future from several directions.
    Dr. Carlson,
    It is not about what we expect from the schools, it is about what we expect and deserve from our leadership. Fully 85% of the AVMA engage in some sort of private practice. Instead of continuing to accredit, why don’t we take a step back and make sure that prospective students have accurate information regarding job opportunities. I think that that would be a good start.
    Thank you
    Greg

  12. @Greg Nutt
    Greg, first it was great to meet you in person at the VLC earlier this month. As to our meeting, we had a good general discussion on the need to balance the supply of veterinary medical services with the demand and need for those services,both now and into the future. This initial meeting looked at several stresses on our current situation with limited time to delve deeper into those topics. Workforce was one of those topics, and quite frankly, there are a lot of factors affecting workforce. We hope to have further discussions in March. This meeting did engage an outside facilitator which kept us focused on our initial agenda.

    That said, and totally separate from this particular meeting, and at the risk of raising some eyebrows, may I ask a hypothetical question for the sake of discussion?

    If we feel like we have too few clients for the number of practicing veterinarians (which seems to be what I am hearing), would it be fair for me to ask you to see fewer clients or to not take any new clients so there would be more clients for me down the road? OR if you wanted to open another practice, would I be able to tell you that you shouldn’t do so because we already have too many practices? This is America after all, the land of opportunity, where the free market drives free enterprise. As long as there are people willing to pay the price for a DVM degree, and they meet the qualifications of the admission process, can we expect the schools to not accept them if there is a spot available? I do have a concern that as class size increases, and faculty numbers decrease, and as interns and resident numbers increase, this may be adding to the lack of confidence issue in our graduates as perceived by employers and even some graduates since they would get less hands on experience during the curriculum unless they get it elsewhere, certainly relative to previous years at least.

    At last count, it seems about 60,000 physicians and 100,000 attorneys graduate per year (which many would argue is also too many!), so it seems 3000 DVMs per year should not begin to fill the potential (I admit potential is not real) need that should be available in a country of 311 million people or a world of 7 billion people. We need expand the national marketplace and be part of the emerging global marketplace. We need to drive the demand for the value of veterinary medical services in a variety of areas. We have never had to drive that demand before. It is a different world. We will continue to work to shape a better future from several directions.

  13. Dr. Carlson,

    Can you share with us whether any of the Deans were able to face the reality that there is a surplus or are they all sticking to the fact that we need more veterinarians to make sure there is not an outbreak of foot and mouth disease?

    Aside from the fact that everyone showed up, which is encouraging, is anyone on the AAVMC side able to work around the fact that it is in their best interest to continue flooding the market with new graduates?

    Thank you
    Greg