In April 2007, the AVMA Executive Board approved formation of a Committee on International Affairs (CIVA) charged "to study global issues affecting the AVMA in areas such as the role of the Association in international affairs, forming partnerships in influencing the potential disruption of food supplies, accreditation of veterinary education, and other evolving international matters arising, and recommend to the Executive Board courses of action in international affairs of the Association." The new Committee, chaired by the AVMA Globalization Monitoring Agent and with representation from the AVMA Executive Board, Council on Education (COE), and the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC), has now met four times (October 2007, February and October 2008, and February 2009). During the first two meetings, CIVA members and invited representatives from the World Veterinary Association (WVA), Department of Defense Veterinary Service (DoD/VS), and US Department of Agriculture/Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service/International Services (USDA/APHIS/IS) reviewed the Association's history of involvement in global issues. This history, dating back to the 1990s, centered initially on accreditation of veterinary education at international institutions in accordance with the rigorous standards established by the AVMA Council on Education for US and Canadian schools, as well as building relationships with other veterinary associations. In 2001, the AVMA Executive Board also approved creation of a new volunteer position—the Globalization Monitoring Agent—who was charged to conduct surveillance of national and international education, accreditation, and licensing activities and initiatives. Until formation of the CIVA in 2007, no centralized infrastructure (eg, primary staff consultant/support, standing or ad hoc AVMA entity) existed through which the AVMA could become proactive and fully engaged in international efforts.
Despite not having a strong, centralized infrastructure throughout much of the first decade of the 21st century, volunteer leaders and staff were able to establish numerous personal networks that led to several successes and allowed advancement of the Association's international focus to its current position. Examples of these successes include:
During discussions at its first two meetings, the CIVA also recognized the synergy of its charge and objectives with activities on which the AVMA has embarked through the One Health Initiative. As such, the CIVA invited Dr. Roger Mahr, initially in his capacity as the AVMA representative to the Joint One Health Steering Committee and more recently, as the Project Director to that same Committee, to participate in its last two meetings. Dr. Mahr informed the CIVA that the Rockefeller Foundation recently awarded the Joint One Health Steering Committee $100,000 to help establish a National One Health Commission and a global One Health Initiative dedicated to attaining optimal human, animal and environmental health through the collaborative efforts of multiple disciplines working locally, nationally, and globally. A number of veterinary and animal health organizations outside the United States have already expressed interest in the global one health initiative. The CIVA believes that with the establishment of the National One Health Commission anticipated within the next 12 to 18 months, now is the time to strengthen the international infrastructure within the AVMA so that the national professional association is poised to collaborate fully with the National One Health Commission both nationally and internationally.
As Committee members reflected on AVMA's international successes and the One Health Initiative, they recognized that without provision of greater continuity, expertise, and coordination through a stronger, central infrastructure, the Association would be unable to move forward from a passive and monitoring role to a proactive and more fully engaged role in the international arena. Further, the CIVA believes that the AVMA—as one of the world's largest professional veterinary associations—must be sensitive to global issues and be actively involved internationally to promote the profession through collaborative discussion and action. Committee members reviewed the AVMA Strategic Plan, which was approved by the Executive Board in April 2008, as they considered what direction the AVMA should take to create its future in the international arena. The CIVA noted that globalization and international affairs are inherent in the Strategic Plan—with language indicating that "globalization strengthens our nation," and the "AVMA values … inclusiveness, unity, compassion." Further, core competencies of the Association include that as the leading advocate for the veterinary profession, the AVMA "serves its members at local, state, federal, and global levels," sets and preserves "…professional standards," and serves "the needs of all veterinarians."
Discussions of the Strategic Plan in light of past international successes and current challenges culminated in the development of this White Paper. The CIVA firmly believes that a strong and coordinated centralized infrastructure that expands on what is already in place is essential to allow the Association to take a leadership role in shaping the future of veterinary medicine both nationally and internationally. As such, this White Paper should not be seen as an end point, but as a beginning for the AVMA Executive Board to consider as it deliberates how best the AVMA can influence international policy and opinion and offer solutions to global challenges affecting the US veterinary profession.
The CIVA believes that only by strengthening the Association's international infrastructure and becoming a more active and fully engaged leader in international affairs can challenges be turned into opportunities for Association growth. The following are offered as only three examples of challenges facing the Association as it works toward achieving its strategic goals in a global environment.
The CIVA believes the economic impact and risk of duplication of effort inherent in increasing the Association's international presence can be minimized through well-coordinated and strategic interactions of volunteer leaders and AVMA staff. As a first step, and to reflect a new focus on action in the international arena, the CIVA is recommending an updated position description for the Globalization Monitoring Agent. This has been forwarded to the AVMA Executive Board as a separate recommendation. The CIVA is not only recommending changes to the charge, responsibilities, and qualifications for this position, but is also recommending a title change—from Globalization Monitoring Agent to Director of International Affairs—to reflect the more proactive role this position should play.
To coordinate strategic international activities, the CIVA encourages the AVMA, through the Executive Vice President and with necessary Executive Board action, to create an International Coordinator staff position, placed within the Office of the Executive Vice President, with primary responsibilities to include supporting and facilitating the activities of the CIVA, Director of International Affairs, US Councilor to the WVA, AVMA representative to the US delegation to the OIE, and AVMA delegation to the IVOC and NAVLM . This position will require an individual who is an excellent communicator and can represent the AVMA in myriad multi-cultural situations. The CIVA believes a highly-placed staff member, who is well-informed of cross divisional international activities and issues, will add the necessary continuity, expertise, and coordination to ensure the US veterinary profession's voice is heard—and listened to—as solutions are developed to best address global veterinary needs. As an initial step toward creation of an International Coordinator staff position, existing staff could be identified to first provide logistical support to the Director of International Affairs, with a full-time veterinary position being created over the next 12 to 18 months to take primary responsibility for coordinating the Association's international activities as outlined above. Administrative staff support will also be needed. The CIVA is not making a specific recommendation regarding staff positions, because it believes that the way forward toward creation of an International Coordinator position is best left to the expertise of the Executive Vice President and Executive Board.
As the AVMA moves into a new era of engaged international action, the CIVA suggests that not only may it become necessary to dedicate more resources to these efforts, but that embarking on new international activities may also result in new, and as of yet unrecognized, revenue streams for the Association. The CIVA also recognizes that the AVMA is facing increasing economic pressure as it ensures the needs of its members—primarily clinical practitioners within the United States—are met. Nonetheless, the CIVA firmly believes that the AVMA cannot afford to lessen its involvement in international affairs lest global decisions are reached that have the potential to inflict economic or professional hardship on the US veterinary profession. The AVMA must be actively involved in international efforts in order to ensure the continued high esteem in which the veterinary profession is held in this country. The CIVA is committed to ensuring the AVMA is prepared to shape the future of the veterinary profession in an ever-increasingly global marketplace, rather than only living in a future that others will create.