Engaged and Active: From the Board Room to Capitol Hill

As we approach the AVMA Convention in beautiful San Diego, I hope you have received your materials for a peek at what a great meeting this will be for our members and their families. Our Convention and Meeting Planning Division staff and the volunteer members of our Convention Management and Program Committee have done an outstanding job organizing this phenomenal event in a great city! Be sure to go to the AVMA Convention webpage to check out everything that’s being offered this year. And remember that we will also launch our new-and-improved AVMA website at the convention.

June started off with a bang. On June 6, officers from the AVMA and the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) met for the first of two annual meetings. This was a very productive meeting that built upon the foundation we established during two previous meetings with all the deans of U.S. veterinary medical colleges in January and March. We have developed a better rapport and trust through these larger facilitated meetings, where we discussed mutual economic and educational concerns for veterinary medicine. Through this collaboration, we have been able to initiate efforts to address some very urgent issues. We continue to focus on three topics: veterinary workforce issues; developing resources for students so that they can better manage their educational debt and their professional finances after graduation; and how to help build confidence and increase productivity in new graduates from the perspectives of employers, educators and the graduates themselves.

The AVMA workforce study should be completed next spring, and it should enhance the information already available from the recently released National Research Council’s study, “Workforce Needs in Veterinary Medicine.”

The AAVMC has agreed to lead the charge on the educational debt issue. They have hired a project manager to organize this Student Educational Debt Initiative, and she has already convened an advisory group of representatives with extensive experience in this area, including a member of the AVMA’s Veterinary Economics Strategy Committee. This initiative addresses the second of three specific priorities identified in our meetings with the deans, specifically that of helping manage the educational costs of attaining a veterinary medical degree.

The AVMA’s Veterinary Economics Strategy Committee is planning a facilitated, invitation-only focus group, entitled “Educating and Employing Successful Graduates,” during the AVMA Convention involving employers, educators and recent graduates to help develop conclusions and recommendations for publication. I wish we could make this an open forum, but it would not be as effective in such a large group.

The AVMA Executive Board met in Washington, D.C., the first week of June. One day was spent on Capitol Hill meeting with members of Congress to discuss the Fairness to Pet Owners Act, which we oppose, and other veterinary medical issues related to appropriations for agencies imperative to our national security. Other items of significance discussed at the Executive Board meeting included:

  • An initial report from the AVMA Task Force on Governance and Member Participation. The task force should have a final report for the Executive Board in November and the House of Delegates in January.
  • Establishment of an ad hoc Executive Board task force focusing on the American Journal of Veterinary Research, whose purpose is to develop a process to evaluate the quality and future direction of the publication.
  • Several federal legislative bills forwarded for prioritization by the AVMA Legislative Advisory Committee, and
  • A bold joint statement between AVMA and the American Association of Equine Practitioners on the elimination of action devices and performance packages to further efforts to enforce cessation of the already illegal practice of soring in Tennessee Walking Horses.

On Wednesday, June 20, I participated in a forum at the Capitol Hill Visitor Center called, “From Fido to Food Safety: Roles, Responsibilities, and Realities Veterinarians Face in Protecting Public Health. Sponsored by AVMA and the Animal Health Institute, the forum included four panelists and a moderator who fielded questions from a very large audience. The panelists included myself, Dr. Doug Meckes, from the Department of Homeland Security, Dr. Christine Navarre, from the American Association of Bovine Practitioners, and Dr. Terri Clark, from the U.S. Public Health Service and the National Institutes of Health. It was an excellent session, highlighting the importance and qualifications of our many roles in protecting public health.

Finally, I traveled to the Utah VMA meeting to visit with members there. I will have attended 11 state VMA meetings this past year, and I feel each one of them affords me a special opportunity to hear input and feedback from grassroots members. At the same time, the AVMA Executive Board District Representatives for the different geographic regions do an excellent job communicating with members at the state meetings on a regular basis over their six-year term. I see visits to state VMAs by the officers getting fewer and fewer as the president takes more active roles in regional, national and international meetings. I say that somewhat regrettably, but I also recognize that it is imperative for the AVMA officers to stay fully engaged in participation at these larger meetings. Leadership, to me, means having and sharing a vision and enacting influence to achieve the vision. That is urgently important for this profession, given the many challenges we face, so we can initiate strategies and solutions to further achieve priorities in our Strategic Plan.

Finally, thank you for being AVMA members and continuing to engage us! I am so proud to be a veterinarian!

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