New Staff Position to Coordinate International, Diversity Activities

Each day, our world is growing smaller, more complex and more diverse. That’s why the AVMA has increased its presence on the international veterinary scene. It’s also the reason why the association is dedicating more time and resources to advancing diversity in the veterinary profession. 

To strengthen the AVMA’s role in global veterinary affairs, and in an effort to enhance diversity in the veterinary profession, the association recently created a new staff position that focuses on both issues. 

The AVMA’s associate director for international and diversity initiatives is responsible for planning and coordinating international and diversity-related activities for the association. Dr. Beth Sabin, formerly of the AVMA’s Education and Research Division, took the reins of the new position last month. As the former staff coordinator of international affairs, Dr. Sabin has already established many professional relationships with veterinary colleagues across the globe, from Europe to Asia and the Middle East. 

“Efforts to ensure that the U.S. veterinary profession’s voice is heard in the international arena are intimately connected to the AVMA’s national efforts to advance its strategic plan and to propel veterinary medicine into the heart of the 21st Century,” Dr. Sabin said. “Just as the issues we face globally are becoming more diverse, the face of our country itself is also changing in many ways. The creation of this new position reflects the AVMA’s commitment to assuming a vital position and playing a major role in helping our world and our nation adapt to dramatically changing times.”

21 thoughts on “New Staff Position to Coordinate International, Diversity Activities

  1. I would also like to comment that it is sad if people assume that the only way minority students get into vet school (or any other institution of higher learing) is through affirmative action. I don’t agree with affirmative action in its present form, at least how it relates to race, but many students earn their spots outright academically and it is terrible to take that accomplishment away from them.

  2. I think it is erroneous to equate “diversity” with affirmative action. Diversity involves learning how to be culturally competent in regards to different races and ethnicities and not just in regards to who is hired but also for clients. Based on U.S. Census Bureau statistics, it is projected that by 2050 half of the U.S. population will be non-white. Our client base will change and our profession should be poised to respond to our nation’s quickly changing demographic instead of being asleep during those years and scrambling to react to it (like we have with the job shortages and student debt). I attended some of the lectures at the AVMA’s diversity symposium at the annual conference in San Diego this past August. I learned that minority groups have a large buying power, especially the Hispanic communities whose buying power is on the rise. With declining annual vet visits, tapping into these groups can help not only their pets but also our revenue.
    I also think it is important that our profession is racially diverse. Having someone on staff that can relate to a certain group can improve client relations, and trust. Reaching out to minority populations and teaching them about our profession can increase their interest in becoming doctors, techs, assistants, etc…I believe that will be important as the country undergoes its cultural transformation in the coming years.
    Diversity can also encompass the gay/lesbian/transgender community and maybe eventually men, since women now outnumber men in veterinary schools. I also believe diversity encompasses our involvement in international affairs and feel Dr. DeHaven made a good point in his response.
    I invite Dr. DeHaven, Dr. Sabin or any other AVMA leader/staff member to comment and provide details regarding this new position.

    • Running a practice to help interact properly with your clientele and their needs is nothing new. I”ve had Black, Hispanic, Gay, Asian clients for years and treat them with the same respect I give to all clients. Having someone on staff who is bilingual makes sense also and is nothing new. If you practice in an area with many Asian clients does it not make sense to learn about their culture…of course, isn’t this obvious? Why do we have to waste money to hire someone to run a department in the AVMA to tell us what we already know and do. Is it to increase the bureaucracy which guarantees jobs for those who work for us? It seems so…similar to our obese Federal Government. Let’s get rid of this department and keep our annual fees down.
      And please read back issues of JAVMA reporting on those annual veterinary diversity meetings (I forgot the eponym). The comments by Greenhill and others for affirmative active are very radical. The openly call for acceptance of students who aren’t qualified. At the last meeting, affirmative action was justified by the need to have someone on the other side of the exam table that looks like the client……What nonsense! Why are Asian students rarely considered for affirmative action? Because they are usually academically superior. Why are men not considered for affirmative action to achieve diversity? Because they shouldn’t. Besides, White males aren’t considered members of a victim group.
      And as you say in your other post, affirmative action stigmatizes minority members who are qualified.

  3. Dr Dehaven’s response to the Grey Man is classic bureaucratic prestidigitation. 2.5% of the budget is quite substantial for what seems to be politcally correct nonsense. Apparently Lisa Greenhill is enthused about this new staff position. Ms Greenhill has some radical opinions on affirmative action. I suspect this position was created to advance affirmative action. It seems that in an environment when the profession can choose the most talented we should not accept students to veterinary college by the amount of melanin in their dermis.

    • Wow – I truly appreciate the responses to my earlier post but I’m struck by the negative tone of this exchange. I’m not sure constructive dialogue is possible, but I will attempt to respond to some of the comments from “CPT M” and “Grey Man.” I apologize in advance for the length of this post.

      When considering the relative value of AVMA’s international activities that ultimately result in a net cost of approximately 0.5% of our resources, I think one needs to consider 2 relevant things. First, what are those interntional activities and how do they benefit the profession as a whole (not just the practitioner in Alabama or Wyoming) and, second, what are we doing with the remaining 99.5% of our resources that might benefit that practitioner. As to the former, major issues affecting veterinary medicine are playing out in the international arena. These are issues such as continued access of antimicobials by veterinarians, animal welfare standards for production livestock, and minimum standards for veterinary education. As they say, you either need to have a seat at the table or you may find yourself on the menu. Globally within the veterinary community, the profession around the world looks to AVMA for leadership. Even at such a modest cost, we have a prominent seat at the table and the long term impact affects the entire profession.

      As for the latter (the remaining 99:5% of AVMA’s resources), consider some of AVMA’s activities that directly impact those practitioners from Alabama to Wyoming. AVMA has created a veterinary clinic locator database ( to help pet owners find a practice. It allows individual practices to market themselves – everything from their hours of operation to the specialties within their practice. We have a leadership role in the Partners for Healthy Pets – an effort to increase the focus on delivering and communicating the value of preventive care. This is a whole topic into itself, but this multimillion dollar effort is directed at improving the health of our pets by focusing on preventive care delivered by veterinarians. If we increase preventive care visits by just 3%, the net revenue increases to practices would be somewhere between $400-900 million per year. We are advocating for practitioners on Capitol Hill and working closely with state veterinary medical associations in state legislature. It is AVMA who is leading the charge in opposition to HR 1406 that would require veterinarians to write a prescription even if the client wanted the practice to fill the prescription. Because of AVMA’s intervention with EPA, every practice in the country was relieved of a requirement to complete a 40 hour survey and subsequent regulatory action on disposal of medical wastes. Instead, AVMA negotiated an agreement with EPA wherein we published proper waste disposal guidelines and distributed them through JAVMA. I hope you are looking to AVMA as a source of information about what is happening in the profession – whether it be from JAVMA, one or more of our 18 topic-specific e-newsletters, or our website. This are just a tiny sampling of the many things that AVMA is doing for practitioners using some of the 99.5% of available resources.

      Finally, let me comment on the workforce issues. We, too, have heard the anecdotal comments about the relative surpluses and shortages of veterinarians in various practice disciplines, e.g., too many companion animal veterinarians, shortages in rural areas and laboratory animal medicine, etc. AVMA has a powerfful voice on behalf of the profession and therefore we must use it responsibly. If we are going to make definitive statements about the veterinary workforce which could have a major impact on future students, our colleges, related industries, or even decisions by individual practitioners, then we must do so from a solid base of information and data. That is why we are in the midst of a supply/demand workforce study that will provide us with reliable informaiton on the current – and future – supply and demand for veterinary services. It is my hope that, come this spring when the study is completed, that AVMA will be able to make some significant statements about such matters. In the meantime, please remember that ours, thankfully, is a free-market society. Neither AVMA nor any other organization can control such things as the number of veterinary schools or the number of seats in those schools. We have strict laws that prohibit such actions, and rightfully so. On the other hand, with the reliable data we expect to obtain through this workforce study, we hope to be able to make some factual statements about the current and anticpated supply/demand for veterinary services and thereby influence the worforce-related decisions made by individuals or organizations.

      You are right that AVMA and the profession benefit from the loyalty of our members. 83.6% of U.S. veterinarians belong to AVMA and that membership has been consistently growing by 1 – 3% per year. I can assure you that we are not taking that loyalty for granted and we are re-doubling our efforts to retain and attract members that span 4 generations. A part of that effort is to do a better job of informing our members of all that we are doing for them while we initiate new efforts that will be relevant to our diverse membership.

      Again, sorry for the length. Perhaps I will postpone any comments on the pratical benefits of diversity in the profession to a later time.

      • Regarding the 45% who did not have jobs lined up just prior to graduation this spring ( The survey that was sent out to them in April. ), how many are fully employed now ? The fact that they did not report being employed yet is a new & frightening trend, especially with their student loan debt.
        Also, the shortage of DVMs in rural areas, has anyone studied those areas to see if they will support a DVM ?

      • Dr. DeHaven,
        just to clarify your background as our AVMA politician, you have spent more time at the USDA and AVMA than you have in private practice with us, correct?

        And please address UNAM accreditation by the AVMA. We as a whole consider it an underhanded act on behalf of our “national organization” that only serves to add a more diverse pool of veterinarians to compete with us in our own country.

        • CPT M:
          You are correct about my background – I have limited practice experience. My role at AVMA is to lead and manage the AVMA staff, with oversight from the AVMA Executive Board who sets the strategic direction for the organization. The skill set that is needed in my position is very similar to what I used in various senior executive positions while at USDA APHIS. The practitioner perspective is very well represented on the AVMA Executive Board and our many committee and council members. To that point, it is the AVMA Veterinary Economic Strategy Committee that is leading the effort to do the workforce study and recommend to the Board activities for AVMA to carryout to address the many economic related challenges we are facing in the profession. My job is to make sure we carryout those activities as directed by the Board and recommended by our committees and councils.

      • Dr. Dehaven,

        I am excited about some of the programs you are developing to help drive demand for our services. They are long overdue and I only hope it is not too little, too late.

        As a practitioner, in the trenches, I can tell you I am extremely concerned for our beloved profession. I cannot in good conscience recommend studends to pursue this profession, as it makes absolutely no financial sense to do so.

        The tone of many of these posts is that of disgust and distrust between those of us who pay dues to an organization that we feel is supposed to support our interests and the organization itself.

        As an example, you and every other person in a position of leadership is very quick to shrug shoulders and deflect when discussing workforce issues. The same explanation about free market and anecdotal evidence and lack of proof, etc. I get that. I understand, even though there have been studies in the past that had predicted this very issue we find our profession struggling with.

        What I can’t understand is how someone in your position can handout memos at an HOD meeting discussing work force shortages or showing up do discuss these shortages with our government without the studies and proof that you so strongly profess that we need before we can finally say that there is in fact an oversupply of veterinarians.

        This double standard leads to distrust and makes many of us feel that we are not on the same side here. Can you please explain this double standard?

        Thank you

        • Dr. Nutt – thank you for your comments. I understand that many will see the AVMA’s workforce study, currently underway, as a means to deflect, delay, or otherwise not respond to the concerns beinig expressed about too many veterinarians. All I can say is that I firmly believe that if AVMA is going to take a position, we must do so responsibly. That means we have to base that position(s) on current and reliable information – not on a workforce study done 10 years ago and not on anecdotal information coming from practitioners who are responding to their individual situation based on what is happening in their 25 mile radius of the world. AVMA’s shortcoming is not initiating the workforce study earlier.

          As for the materials that were provided to the delegates at the January 2012 meeting of the House of Delegates – mea culpa. That was outdated, should not have been distributed, and send entirely the wrong message. I take full responsibilitiy and blame for that. I was not aware that particular report was being included in the HOD materials – but I should have known and excluded it.

          • Dr. Dehaven,

            Thank you for your response. You failed to answer the question about you perpetuating the myth about shortages in practice when you stood before some of our politicians. How is it that you were able to do that without a completed work force study? That is the question I would really like answered. Thanks again.


          • Dr. Nutt,

            I honestly don’t know what you’re referring to regarding your statement about me “perpetuating the myth about shortages in practice when you stood before some of our politicians.” If you can clarify when/where this happened, I will do my best to explain.

            Ron DeHaven

          • Dr. Dehaven,

            Fair enough. If I am mistaken, I apologize. I thought that I saw a picture of you in a recent Javma where the caption was that you were in front of some government officials discussing the shortage of food animal veterinarians.

            I believe I have seen it a few times. That is what I am talking about with regards to double standards and perpetuating myths. Again, I apologize if I am mistaken but based on the captions, it certainly seemed like that is what you were doing.

            Now, if in fact the caption is correct and the picture is of you and you were discussing the need for more large animal veterinarians , I ask : based on what major workforce study?

            Thank you again for your time

          • Dr. Nutt,

            No apology necessary; thanks for clarifying the context for your concern; I can explain.

            I have testified twice before Congress on veterinary workforce issues; once at a hearing in the U.S. House of Representatives and once in the U.S. Senate.

            The first occurred on January 23, 2008, when I appeared before the Subcommittee on Health of the House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce to discuss and share the AVMA’s perspective on H.R. 1232, the Veterinary Public Health Workforce Expansion Act of 2007. This hearing focused on the Veterinary Public Health Workforce Expansion Act and the public health challenges facing our government, our society and the veterinary profession. This legislation would help create a competitive grants program for U.S. veterinary colleges designed to produce more jobs for veterinarians working in public health practice. It would also enhance our capacity for research on diseases that threaten public health and food safety. My comments before the Subcommittee were well founded in the facts, with portions of my testimony based on the following:
            • A 2006 study conducted at Kansas State University projecting a shortage in food-supply and food-safety veterinarians that would worsen by 4 percent to 5 percent annually for the next several years.
            • Government reports indicating that 50 percent of U.S. Public Health Service veterinary medical officers were eligible – at the time of my testimony – for retirement.
            • And reports out of the USDA predicting a shortfall of several hundred department veterinarians working in numerous food safety and public health roles.

            The act became law in August 2008.

            The second time was on February 26, 2009, before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia to address a report issued by the United States Government Accountability Office titled, “Veterinarian Workforce: Actions Are Needed to Ensure Sufficient Capacity for Protecting Public and Animal Health.”

            Much of my testimony before the Senate subcommittee echoed the concerns I shared a year earlier with the House subcommittee. I cited much of the same research and relied on some of the same government reports to help support the findings of the GAO report.

            I focused on several topics during my testimony, including:
            • The GAO report’s conclusions that our nation was – at the time the report was issued – ill-prepared in the event of a pandemic.
            • The GAO report’s findings that our nation lacks an integrated approach for assessing the current and future sufficiency of the veterinary workforce by many federal agencies that rely on veterinarians to fill critically important public health, food safety and animal health roles. Fundamental to my comments was that there was insufficient funding in federal agencies to employ an adequate number of veterinarians. Thus, the emphasis was on creating more jobs for veterinarians.
            • The GAO report’s concerns about inadequate pay received by veterinarians working for the USDA, FDA and the U.S. Army. Each of these agencies cited noncompetitive salaries as an area of concern when it comes to recruiting and retaining federal veterinarians.

            Our hope then, and now, is that by participating in such hearings we can effect positive change for veterinarians. I cited research from both academia and the federal government that was the best and most recent available at the time.

          • Thank you for your time clarifying that for me. Based on so many conflicting reports, some very well researched , others not so much, how do we, as an organization, decide which reports we will believe and therefore comment on?

  4. If indeed a “diversity” position adds to tangible benefits, exactly precisely how does it do so? Please give us a concrete example.

    I worry about the recent accreditation of UNAM and the entering of diverse non-American graduates into our already bloated pool of veterinarians here in the USA. Granted, they will be a Godsend to corporations such as Banfield who will enjoy employing them at less-than-competitive salaries. However, their entry into the US under “diversity” programs will only serve to make the environment of the solo veterinarian that much more hostile.

  5. The Grey Man poses an interesting question. Does this diversity activity include endorsing the acceptance
    of underqualified people to veterinary college due to the color of their skin? If yes, then this is just another
    back door affirmative action stunt.

    • The following reply comes from AVMA CEO Dr. Ron DeHaven:

      Thank you for your interest in the international activities of the AVMA. The Report on AVMA’s Current Role in Global Veterinary Activities has been posted online within the Veterinary Medicine in Today’s Global Community area of the AVMA website since December 2011. The Executive Summary is also available online. This report was developed in accordance with Resolution 9-2011, which was approved by the AVMA House of Delegates in July 2011. AVMA staff also presented the results of the report to the House of Delegates during its winter session in January 2012. Neither the House nor the Executive Board asked for any follow-up actions as a result of the report.

      The report concludes that international efforts of the AVMA both in terms of time (staff and volunteer) and money are a small part of the association’s overall resources expended to advance its mission (“to improve animal and human health and advance the veterinary medical profession”) and strategic plan. From a purely economic point-of-view, these efforts represent less than 2.5% of the association’s overall budget. At the same time, internationally focused activities contribute positively to AVMA’s budget; international income in 2011 and 2012 represents nearly 2.0% of annual income anticipated each year.

      Dr. Ron DeHaven
      CEO, Executive Vice President
      American Veterinary Medical Association

      • Thank you for your attempt at a reply. But how will this benefit the private practitioner from Alabama to Wyoming today in their practice? I sincerely doubt that any practitioner will, on this Wednesday morning, decide that international affairs or diversity issues are the most pressing problem for their practice.

        We live in a different economic model than you do. We rely upon the disposable income of our clients, and in very difficult economic times. We can not just decide we’d like to have something without justifying it’s cost. That is the standard I apply here. What will be the financial benefit to me of this new position vs. it’s cost? How much will this position pay in salary and benefits? What will the salaries of the support staff be? Their benefits? What will their travel budget be?

        In your post, you state that this consumes 2.5% of the budget yet adds only 2.0% to the bottom line. Mathematically, that is a losing proposition. You say nothing about the costs or benefits of the diversity side of this position. In practice, we must explain the risks/costs vs. benefits of what we do to our clients. I request and require the same from you.

        In the past, AVMA membership has been taken for granted. Today, we must carefully weigh each financial decision. We private practitioners must cut any expense that does not at least provide equal financial benefit if we wish to remain in practice. This includes AVMA membership. If AVMA has the spare cash to support staff engaged in activities that are of little benefit to its members, perhaps AVMA does not need my support.

        • Well said, Grey Man. I am considering resigning from the AVMA since it seems it is not helping me at all….in fact, it may be hindering my progress.