Even as our global population rises, our world is getting smaller. International travel by both people and animals from all corners of the world occurs every hour of every day, bringing both into contact with each other.
A Call to Action
While such rapid movement has increased global trade and has helped build powerful economies in countries both large and small, it has also helped spread disease. That’s why we’re hosting our first-ever Global Health Summit: A Call to Action to the U.S. Veterinary Profession, at our 146th Annual Convention July 11-14 in Seattle, Wash. We certainly hope you’ll be able to attend some of the programming.
The summit, which is being organized by the newly formed AVMA Committee on International Veterinary Affairs, brings together veterinary and public health experts from around the world in an effort to spread the message that veterinarians are critical players in the fight against disease, both locally and internationally. Their role in helping prevent, control, treat and eradicate disease is only going to grow. And their services are going to be needed both at home and abroad.
Whether local or international, large or small, it will take a global effort to advance animal and human health in our ever-shrinking world, and the time is now to capture global attention.
The Global Health Summit program lineup includes more than a dozen presentations over two days. Topics covered will range from veterinary education and its role in the global environment to how animals and people interact in the spread of disease, the importance of global partnerships in enhancing health and fighting disease, and global disaster response.
Down on the (Fish) Farm
This is no fish story. When it comes to the importance of veterinarians helping prevent, control and eradicate aquatic animal diseases, we don’t need to boast. Disease has emerged as the number-one problem facing aquaculture, and finding ways to prevent, treat and cure disease has attracted global attention.
Many international agencies, including the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), agree that aquaculture is the only sustainable means of providing enough seafood supply to meet growing world demand. Today, nearly half of all seafood products produced in the world is “farmed,” and diseases are seriously affecting national production and international trade. That’s why the AVMA has been working for many years on putting together advanced epidemiology, surveillance and biosecurity workshops related to aquaculture.
Working with veterinary organizations in several countries, as well as the World Organisation for Animal Health and the FAO, the AVMA, with the assistance of Dr. David Scarfe, assistant director in our Scientific Activities Division, is helping organize the first International Aquaculture Biosecurity Conference. This first-of-its-kind program is being held August 17 and 18 in Trondheim, Norway. Open to everyone with a “line in the water,” so to speak, the conference is geared toward veterinarians, producers, government agencies and policy makers. According to Dr. Scarfe, the conference brings together the leading experts to tell the story about how to develop, implement, audit and certify aquaculture biosecurity programs that will help prevent diseases in everything from clams to catfish.
The AVMA, as well as the entire aquaculture community, welcomes a conference like this, because we’ve reached an international level of awareness about the importance of farmed seafood products and how the veterinary profession can assist producers, industries, governments, and ultimately consumers.
Leadership Around the Globe
Dr. DeHaven and I had the honor of representing the veterinary profession during recent visits to Europe, and I was once again struck by how veterinary associations around the world share so many common goals, challenges and concerns. It seems clear to me that we are all working hard and staying focused on meeting the needs of our colleagues, our clients and the public.
During the Spring General Assembly of the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe, or FVE, a lot of the discussion focused on many of the same animal welfare issues we are facing here at home, including the housing and transportation of farm animals. A good amount of conversation also revolved around setting international standards for veterinary medicine.
Dr. DeHaven had a similar interaction with the international veterinary community when he attended the 77th General Assembly of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). His visit reminds us how valuable it is for us to have a seat at the world table.
Representation on the U. S. Delegation to the OIE is very limited, and the AVMA was very fortunate more than 10 years ago to be offered a place on the delegation. The OIE is an international veterinary organization that focuses on major issues affecting the veterinary profession, and we have a lot to offer when it comes to developing U.S. positions on OIE issues and initiatives. When you consider some of the topics on this year’s agenda, it’s easy to see why being involved directly with the OIE is critical to us as veterinarians.
It became even more important in recent years as OIE has engaged in animal welfare issues, and more recently, in veterinary education. There is no other organization in the U.S. that has a better handle or more expertise in these two areas than the AVMA.
International veterinary education has become a focus of the OIE, and we will be heavily involved as the organization works to develop minimum global standards for veterinary education, particularly as it applies to federal or national veterinarians whose job it is to certify that animals and animal products destined for export are meeting certain health requirements.
Dr. DeHaven will be traveling back to Paris – the site of the recent OIE meeting – in October to participate in a conference of veterinary educators from around the world to start the dialogue to establish minimum standards for veterinary education. We’ll keep you posted as news develops.
Rounding out our itinerary was my trip to Marseilles, France for the 55th International Military Veterinary Medical Symposium, where I was once again so impressed with the dedicated veterinarians who give so much to their country through military service. Our mission in Marseilles revolved heavily around global health, particularly on the One Health concept and the inescapable interconnection between animals, humans and the environment.
As I scanned the program for this symposium, I was awed by the breadth of knowledge being offered and especially cognizant of the fact that military veterinarians live and breathe One Health and global health on a daily – no, hourly – basis. From addressing combat stress in military dogs, to food safety, to bioterrorism intervention, to helping other countries prevent, detect and cure zoonotic diseases in their livestock and companion animals, these folks do it all in service to their country and our fellow man. That truly is a most honorable mission.
Chances are that you’ve heard quite a bit about the criticism we’ve received from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) about a motivational program we’re hosting at our Annual Convention in Seattle next month. The event is part of our Opening Session on Saturday, July 11, and includes the fishmongers from Pike Place Fish Market, who will present an energetic, educational team-building program for attendees. PETA complained about the fishmongers using real fish as part of their program, even though the fish are dead. Over the course of the past few weeks, we’ve had an extensive back-and-forth with PETA about the event and our reasons for hosting it. If you’d like to catch up on how the issue has been addressed, you can go to a Web page we created that contains all the correspondence we’ve had with PETA, as well as how we have helped share our side of the story with our members and the public.
At the Ready – When We’re Needed
I’m excited to let you know that the AVMA Veterinary Medical Assistance Teams (VMAT) are ready to roll. Having been recently retooled, these dedicated teams are once again poised to deploy to the scene of a natural disaster or other emergency. Dr. Heather Case, a former VMAT member and currently the AVMA coordinator for emergency preparedness and response, recently reintroduced the VMAT program during the Tri-State Veterinary Disaster Response Conference in La Crosse, Wis.
The AVMA established the VMAT program in 1993 as a public-private partnership with the federal government. In the past several years, changes in federal law prompted government officials to develop the National Veterinary Response Team as a program that operates entirely under government oversight.
Now wholly an AVMA program funded generously by the American Veterinary Medical Foundation, the VMATs are set up to respond to requests for assistance from state governments – and to offer training in disaster response. While disaster planning for animals should start at the local and state levels, these folks also need assistance in filling gaps during disaster response. The VMAT program complements other resources by bridging gaps between local, state and national assets, Dr. Case says.
A Wonderful Year
After this issue of AVMA@Work, I will be reading these newsletters instead of helping write them. I feel fortunate to have met so many of you at the meetings I attended this year, where we were able to interact, mingle and share our thoughts. It was a good chance to answer questions and personally deliver your concerns back to the AVMA leadership.
As long as our members stay involved and refer to AVMA as “My” organization, and refer to the AVMA’s actions as “what WE are doing,” our association will remain a strong, productive organization that truly represents the interests of its members.
It has been a wonderful year for Marian and me. We have not only seen many new places and met lots of new friends, but we have learned much from each of you. The way so many of you have made us a part of your veterinary family has made this year especially rewarding. Thank you for the opportunities to broaden our scope of love and friendship. I hope we will be able to keep in touch, and I want you to continue to feel free to contact me if I can be of any help.
|James O. Cook, MS, DVM
|W. Ron DeHaven, DVM, MBA
Chief Executive Officer