Help Shape the AVMA’s Future

The AVMA’s Governance Engagement Team (GET) needs your input. Upon the release of the AVMA Task Force on Governance and Membership Participation Report, the AVMA Executive Board charged this seven-person volunteer entity to communicate with members about a far-reaching proposal to change the association’s governance structure and improve how veterinarians engage with the AVMA.

The report builds on the findings of the AVMA 20/20 Commission, which suggested that the association’s governance system is going to have to adapt in order to adequately lead the veterinary profession in the new century.

This is where you come in. By answering a few questions in an AVMA-produced survey, you can help shape the association’s future. The GET will use the feedback from the survey to create a final governance proposal later this year.

You can find the task force report, as well as a shorter executive summary, on our website. We have also prepared a Frequently Asked Questions document to explain the report’s key elements and likely next steps. We encourage and welcome your participation in the survey. It’ll only take a few minutes, and your input is invaluable to our efforts to make our association more nimble and more engaged with our members.

6 thoughts on “Help Shape the AVMA’s Future

  1. Dr. Teller,

    I would like to commend you and my other colleagues for working on this effort. In reading the report, I can only imagine how mind boggling it must have been to wade through all of the information and then put this together.

    I think that most of us can agree that the AVMA needs to change and improve. I have done my best to wade thru the seventy some odd pages of this report, but I am certain that I have missed some things.

    I would like to list some of my concerns and see if you can help me understand some of the proposed changes. My biggest concern has to do with consolidating power to the Board of Directors, which appears to be extremely similar to our current executive board. I do not feel that our current executive board is responsibe to its membership and I fear that with more power, they would be even less so in the future. I feel that the HOD has taken on the voice of the people, so to speak, and has kept the executive board honest. If only a few board positions are up for vote each year, changing one or two positiions on the board is not likely to amount to much change, as the culture of the board would likely remain intact.

    Another concern is the fact the the majority of the VRC is elected by the BOD. I fear that there would be potential for the VRC to put up like minded individuals for the membership to vote into the BOD, leading to another layer of self preservation.

    Why not make all positions at large and truly represent the wishes of the dues paying majority?

    Finally, how do we ensure that the voice of the interested bystanders is heard? If you look at NOAH or on this site and follow any of the “controversial” discussions, the leadership response rate, an honest and straightforward response, is less than 10 percent. Besides the possibility of being voted out when their limit is up, what assurance is their that they will listen and actually engage in dialogue with people that may disagree with them? I don’t see any.

    If possible, can you take the current example of Resolution 5 and break it down for me with regards to the proposed governance model. In this case, interested bystanders had concerns, brought those concerns to their local vma, which then brought the concerns to the HOD. Ultimately, the HOD passed resolution 5 to find out what the impact of foreign accreditation was/ is on the U.S. veterinary profession. Unfortunately, the AVMA EB stepped in and forbid the task force from evaluating the full impact , basically renderying the whole process worthless (possibly to the detriment of their members). How would this change with the proposed system?

    I appreciate all of the work you have all put into the process of trying to make the AVMA better. I, along with many of my colleagues, wish to ensure that any governance structure has the best interest of the membership at heart.

    Thank you

    • I appreciate that you took the time to read through what is a very long report. Yes, you are correct, it was mind-boggling work at times! I’m going to try to address some of your questions here, and I believe you will be attending the HOD meetings at the convention next week. PLEASE complete the question and answer form that was sent to the HOD and actively participate in your reference committee and district caucus discussions to make sure all of your questions are answered. The GET will be compiling all of the written feedback and the notes from discussions at the meetings to further refine the governance proposal. Then if you still have more questions after that, we can continue the discussion here.

      Right now I will address the questions about the Volunteer Resource Center. Currently the Executive Board makes all entity appointments except for Council positions. So all new Committee, Task Force, Working Groups, etc are appointed by some members of the EB and the Chair of that particular entity. Members of already established committees are also appointed by the EB. The Task Force on Governance and Member Participation (TFGMP) received a lot of feedback that the EB has too much on its plate. By establishing the VRC, the TFGMP hopes to accomplish 2 things. First, it would decrease the workload on the EB by removing entity appointments from their duties. Also, sometimes specific openings on committees (and Councils, for that matter), go unfilled because no one responds to the call for nominations, and the members of the EB don’t have the time to identify potential candidates. The VRC will have that as its main focus–to identify qualified individuals to fill open spots. The goal is to actually find a minimum of 2 candidates for each opening, so that each spot will be contested. This will help keep people on their toes and responsive to member needs. By removing entity appointments from the EB, the idea is to also lessen the opportunity for the “Good Ol’ Boys’ Network” to be in action because the EB members will not be handpicking nominees. Second, the VRC will consist of members who are not in any leadership positions. The original thinking behind its creation is that former leaders who understand the big picture of the AVMA would play a role, but since they’d have to be off the BOD or any other entity for a minimum of 2 years, they’d have less of a need to court favors from others. They’d no longer “have skin in the game,” so to speak. Neither the TFGMP nor the GET is married to the idea of 9 people being appointed and 6 being elected by the general membership. They were numbers that were agreed upon to get the discussion started. Currently no one is elected by the general membership, so this was a way for the AVMA to move in that direction. The GET, based on feedback it receives, is certainly open to having more members, if not all, of the VRC be elected by the members. This is one of the reasons we are seeking feedback from the member. The TFGMP had also suggested that all of the members of the BOD be elected at-large by the membership but feedback for that suggestion was overwhelmingly negative, so the geographic districts were restored in the final governance system proposed by the TF.

      I hope this helps answer some of your questions and that the GET will be able to further answer your other questions at the meetings next week. We can also address Resolution 5 at that time. I look forward to seeing you on Thursday and wish you safe travels.


      Lori Teller, DVM, DABVP (canine/feline), CVJ

      Member, Governance Engagement Team
      Member, AVMA House of Delegates

      • thanks Dr. Teller. Unfortunately, I will not be attending the HOD meeting. As time permits, I would appreciate you giving it a go to answer the other questions.

        Thank you

        • Greg,

          I’m sorry you will not be able to attend the meeting. Just FYI for others who may be reading these postings, the GET will also be speaking at 10 am on July 22 during the AVMA Hot Topics session, so for those who can’t attend the HOD session, there is opportunity during the convention to interact with members of the GET.

          I’ll address the voice of the Interested Bystanders here. The role of the Interested Bystanders is to directly participate in policy creation (or revision, as the case may be). They can certainly provide feedback to AVMA leadership through the existing channels, but the idea here is for the IBs to directly play a role with the Advisory Councils (or their task force/working group) in policy-making. The AC members will be members of broad knowledge, skill set, or interest in a given area (animal welfare, public health, legislative issues, just to throw out some examples). These are people who are interested in serving for 3-6 years and have to the time, energy, and resources to devote to the job. The Busy Experts will be people who may be interested and knowledgable in 1 specific area or policy and can devote several weeks or a few months to its development, but they don’t want to or are not able to serve as an AC member. As examples, these members could include swine veterinarians interested in sow housing or food animal veterinarians concerned about the policy on antimicrobial use and food residues. The IBs will be those who are not members of the AC, and they may not have been qualified or chosen for the TF or working group that is working on a specific policy, but they nonetheless are extremely interested in that policy. They can provide their input to the AC (or its working group) as the policy is being made. This feedback will go directly to the people working on the policy, not necessarily to the BOD. Also, the ACs will be meeting during the Veterinary Issues Forum, and possibly during the VLC. This will give the IBs the opportunity to interact directly with the members of the AC to provide face-to-face feedback and exchange ideas. Keep in mind too, that under the proposed policy, the ACs may create their own task forces and working groups to address policy issues that come under their purview. There are several different scenarios regarding policy development in the appendices of the TFGMP report.

          I hope this helps to explain the role of the Interested Bystander and the improved ability of the members to provide feedback on policy development. I will try to tackle your remaining questions as time permits, probably after the convention. If you don’t hear from me once the convention is over, please give me a nudge.

          Again, thanks for your thoughtful consideration and questions.


          Lori Teller, DVM, DABVP (canine/feline), CVJ

          Member, Governance Engagement Team
          Member, AVMA House of Delegates

  2. It looks as though the HOD will no longer exist. This that correct? If so, who or what takes over the representative section of our organization? Who will vote on policies, elect officers, represent constituent organizations? This appears to be a consolidation of power into the Executive Committee with only advisory positions from the membership at large.

    • Dr. Jones,

      Thank you very much for taking the time to read the report and provide feedback on the proposed governance system. The HOD will not exist in its current form under the new system. Instead it will evolve into the Veterinary Issues Forum. The best of what the HOD does is “environmental scanning.” That is, the members of the HOD identify issues, trends, and concerns that their constituents have about veterinary medicine, and then discuss and relay that information to AVMA leadership. Under the current structure, it is hard for the HOD to spend much time and effort on that. However, much more time and energy can be devoted to this type of discussion in the VIF. Also, by changing the format, the discussion can be more in-depth and focused. With the removal of the strict rules of parliamentary procedure, ideas can be further elaborated upon. This does not mean that the VIF will be a free-for-all, as it will be moderated, but it will allow for a more engaged and energetic exchange of thoughts, ideas, and concerns. Each constituent organization will still be invited to send 2 representatives to attend, and the VIF will be open to all members who would like to participate. The members of the Advisory Councils will also attend, so that the leaders of State VMAs and allied organizations can interact and exchange information with them. This will help to ensure that policies are made with the input of all interested members and constituent organizations.

      Currently, the vast majority of policies are submitted to the Executive Board for approval, and most never make it to the House of Delegates. The EB acts as a gatekeeper and selects some that do go to the HOD, and these are the ones on which the HOD votes. Under the new governance system the Advisory Councils will create or revise policies as needed. There will be much more involvement of members in the policy making via the ability for “Interested Bystanders” to play a role in the process. This means that individual members as well as members of stakeholder organizations will be able to comment and advise on any particular policy. An example of how this structure already is in place is the ECDC (Early Career Development Committee). Other examples of how policy has been made under this proposed system are the revisions to the policies on compounding. These were done by COBTA/CPAC with significant input from individual members and interested stakeholder organizations. However, because of the time-pressures involved, the HOD, as a formal entity, could not be a part of the process, as they weren’t meeting at a time that allowed for their consideration of the changes (certainly individual delegates and alternates could and did participate in the process as AVMA members).

      As far as elections, the President-elect, two At-large members of the Board of Directors, and the Treasurer will be elected by the general membership. There will be no change in how other BOD members will be elected (meaning they will be elected by the members in their respective geographic districts, as is currently done). There will be a change in how the election process is conducted though. The AVMA will provide guidelines and funding for the elections. This will significantly lessen the out-of-pocket expenses that many candidates currently must bear and provide all candidates with multiple forums to campaign and alert the membership to their strengths and ideas regarding the AVMA and the veterinary profession.

      Again, thank you for your thoughtful consideration of the report on governance.
      Member of Governance Engagement Team
      AVMA House of Delegates Member