International Opportunities to Promote the AVMA Strategic Plan (2009)

Developed by the AVMA Committee on International Veterinary Affairs—March 2009

Accepted by the AVMA Executive Board—April 2009

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:

  • Strengthening the relationship between the AVMA, Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, British Veterinary Association, Australian Veterinary Association, New Zealand Veterinary Association, and South African Veterinary Association.
    • Through participation in the International Veterinary Officers Council (IVOC), officers and executive directors of the above associations meet annually to discuss issues of mutual interest, including animal welfare, veterinary education, workforce and economic challenges, and advocacy—the same five issues identified by the AVMA as the critical issues that form the basis of the Association's strategic plan.
  • Strengthening the relationship between the AVMA/COE with similar accrediting bodies (eg, Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons [RCVS], Australasian Veterinary Boards Council [AVBC]) to identify commonalities and differences among accreditation systems.
    • Meetings of International Accreditors, which began in 2002, are now held approximately every three years. These meetings will culminate in a joint accreditation site visit comprising the COE, AVBC, and RCVS at Murdoch University Division of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences in Australia in the fall of 2009. Although this program is accredited by all three accrediting bodies, the fall 2009 evaluation will be the first time the school will complete a single self-study document in preparation for evaluation by a multi-national team during a single evaluation visit.
  • Strengthening the relationship between the US and Mexican veterinary professions
    • In the late 1990s, AVMA officers and staff recognized the importance of building a strong and mutually respectful relationship between the Mexican and US veterinary professions. Trade agreements and proximity meant that many issues that affected one country would very likely impact the other. Early efforts at relationship building, led by AVMA officers and the Globalization Monitoring Agent, resulted in what is now known as the North American Veterinary Leadership Meetings (NAVLM), which are held approximately every two years and currently comprise AVMA officers and leaders from the AVMA, AAVMC, Canada, and Mexico. These meetings have allowed for regular discussion of cross-border issues and strengthened relationships among the veterinary profession in North America.
  • Strengthening the North American presence within the World Veterinary Association (WVA).
    • In 1999, the AVMA rejoined the WVA after an absence of many years. The AVMA appoints one of two WVA councilors from North America. In 2006, Dr. Leon Russell became the first US president of the WVA, and under his leadership, the WVA became a stronger, more cohesive organization.
  • Strengthening the relationship between the AVMA, AAVMC, DoD/VS, and USDA.
    • In January 2004, the AVMA, represented by the Globalization Monitoring Agent, officers, and staff, participated in the "Global Veterinary Opportunities and Responsibilities Workshop," together with representatives of the AAVMC, USDA, and DoD/VS. This was followed by the September 2004 International Veterinary Conference in Kuwait City, the goal of which was to engage representatives of the professional associations, colleges, and government agencies in discussions concerning rebuilding animal health infrastructures in Iraq and Afghanistan. From this meeting came a joint AVMA/AAVMC Task Force on Veterinary Infrastructure in Iraq and Afghanistan, chaired jointly by AAVMC member Dr. Joe Kornegay, then Dean of the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine, and the AVMA Globalization Monitoring Agent, Dr. Jim Nave. The strong relationship between the AVMA, AAVMC, DoD/VS, and USDA continues today. During 2008, the chairs of the AVMA and AAVMC international affairs committees participated fully in each other's meetings, which further helped synergize the activities of these two groups. The AVMA was invited to participate in a September 2008 DOD Veterinary Stability Operations Course to discuss professional association building as a means of advancing animal health infrastructure and facilitating stability. In addition, Dr. Dan Sheesley, Deputy Administrator, UDSA APHIS/IS and COL Gary Vroegindewey, Director, DoD/VS, serve as invited representatives to CIVA and provide invaluable expertise and insight to Committee deliberations.

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.

  • AVMA Strategic Goal: Animal Welfare—AVMA is a leading advocate for, and an authoritative, science-based resource on animal welfare.
    • Challenges and Potential Opportunities: As the leading advocate for animal welfare, the AVMA must not only be at the table, but also must be seen as leading discussions, debate, and decisions with its science-based animal welfare resources. Otherwise, the US veterinary profession may be forced to accept global animal welfare standards to which it did not adequately contribute.
    • Current activities suggesting a stronger AVMA presence is needed: Within Europe, animal welfare standards are already part of some trade agreements, with noncompliant countries being excluded. Also, the OIE (World Organization for Animal Health, formerly known as the Office International des Epizooties) has developed, or is developing, standards on, among others, animal transport, on-the-farm care of food animals, slaughter and mass killing (culling) for disease control purposes, laboratory animal use, and stray-dog control as a means of rabies control. The OIE comprises 169 member countries, including the USA, and one of its responsibilities is harmonizing the regulations for trade in animals and animal products among its member countries. The World Trade Organization also recognizes the OIE as setting international standards for animal health.
  • AVMA Strategic Goal: Education—The AVMA/COE accreditation process is the premier standard for veterinary medical education globally.
    • Challenges and Potential Opportunities: As the premier standard for veterinary medical education globally, the AVMA must not only be at the table, but also must take the lead in advocating rigorous standards in education and accreditation of individual schools rather than acceptance of a global accreditation standard. With global accreditation standards, the US veterinary profession may be forced to accept education standards that are lower than those of the COE. This would ultimately decrease the value of the diploma awarded by COE-accredited schools.
    • Current activities suggesting a stronger AVMA presence is needed: At its July 2008 President's Assembly, the WVA approved in principle a draft Minimum Requirements for Veterinary Education document. Much of this draft, which was developed with input from the US veterinary profession through then WVA president Dr. Leon Russell and the North American Councillor from the US, Dr. Jim Nave, is aimed at establishment of minimum veterinary educational standards that will provide some assurance that an individual with the title "veterinarian" has met certain minimum educational standards. The CIVA recognizes that the concept of minimum educational standards has real value across country borders in ensuring, for example, that an international health certificate issued by a "veterinarian" in one country will provide the receiving country some level of confidence that the certification was made by a qualified individual. However, the minimum standards document originally drafted by the WVA may form the basis for global educational standards being considered by the OIE. Minimum standards are the primary topic for discussion at an upcoming meeting hosted by the OIE in October 2009 titled "Evolving veterinary education for a safer world." According to the Web site, the meeting's main purpose is to "reach consensus in order to recommend an updated veterinary curriculum to the international community….The conference will also provide a forum for discussing the involvement of veterinary statutory bodies in the harmonisation of accreditation procedures for veterinary faculties, which would help foster recognition of the importance of veterinary activities for society as a whole at global level." To date, the US veterinary profession, through the AVMA, has provided little input to OIE discussions of either minimum educational or global accreditation standards. Although the AVMA may support minimal educational standards for awarding the title "veterinarian," adoption of global accreditation standards that may be far less stringent than current COE accreditation standards will negatively impact the US veterinary profession. As such, it is essential that the AVMA be poised to lead discussions in these matters at a global level.
  • AVMA Strategic Goal: Advocacy— The AVMA, through its members and leaders, is committed to be a leading force and advocate on veterinary-related issues in local, state, federal, and international legislation and regulation.
    • Challenges and Potential Opportunities: At the federal level, coalition building has proven to be an effective way for the AVMA to advance its legislative agenda. Similarly, at an international level, the CIVA believes that stronger coalitions will allow the AVMA to exert greater leadership to advance its strategic goals in a global environment. However, without a strong, centralized infrastructure, it will not be possible to adequately research and coordinate which coalitions would best suit the AVMA, and opportunities for collaboration may be missed. Additionally, a strong, centralized infrastructure will help ensure continuity of AVMA representation and facilitate the activities of AVMA representatives within various international coalitions.
    • Organizations with which a stronger AVMA presence may be needed:
      • The PanAmerican Association of Veterinary Sciences (PANVET) comprises eight member countries including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Mexico, Panama, Uruguay, and the United States. The AVMA joined PANVET in the early 1970s but discontinued membership in 1984 due to concerns regarding lack of organizational structure and financial issues. In 2003, on recommendation of the AVMA president, the AVMA rejoined PANVET. To date, although PANVET has invited the AVMA to be a member of its Board of Directors, the Association remains more as an observer. It should be noted that although the AVMA currently pays membership dues of $2,500 per year to PANVET, this line item has been zeroed out in the preliminary 2010 AVMA budget. The CIVA believes PANVET will continue to be an important organization through which the AVMA can build coalitions to better ensure the profession's voices from North, Central, and South America are heard as discussions regarding global veterinary standards take place across Europe.
      • The AVMA recently increased its involvement in the WVA, largely through the service of Dr. Leon Russell, who, from 2005–2008, served as the first WVA president from the US, and Dr. Jim Nave, who resigned recently from his position as US Councilor to the WVA. The main governance bodies of the WVA are the Presidents Assembly, the Council, and the Executive Committee (EXCOM). The Presidents Assembly comprises the Presidents of all member Associations and meets at least every three years at the World Veterinary Congress. As such, continuity of AVMA representation is not guaranteed. The WVA Council comprises regional and specialist associate representatives and acts on behalf of the Presidents Assembly between Assembly meetings. Because the AVMA appoints one of the North American councilors, and because councilors can serve three 3-year terms, this position does offer continuity of representation. The EXCOM, comprising the President, Past-President, and two Vice-Presidents, is responsible to the Council for the day-to-day running of the WVA. With Drs. Russell and Nave recently completing their terms as President and US Councilor, respectively, and Dr. Russell finishing his term as Past-President on the EXCOM in 2011, disruption in continuity of AVMA representation on, and participation in, the WVA can be minimized by strengthening the AVMA's international infrastructure. This may be particularly important now because of ongoing discussions related to animal welfare and education standards among international and regional veterinary and animal health associations that are largely headquartered in Europe.
      • The Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE) is a regional association comprising 36 member countries and four European veterinary sections representing vocational groups of the profession (European Association of State Veterinary Officers [EASVO], Union of European Veterinary Practitioners [UEVP], Union of European Veterinary Hygienists [UEVH], European Association of Veterinarians in Education, Research and Industry [EVERI]. The FVE recently joined the WVA as an associate member and works closely with the European Association of Establishments for Veterinary Education (EAEVE) to develop educational standards and policies affecting member countries. In fact, EAEVE is a member of the EVERI and thus, is an integral part of one of the fours sections comprising FVE. Although EAEVE assesses European veterinary education programs, its decisions may not carry legal authority throughout all European Union countries. Without further research by the CIVA, it is unclear whether the AVMA can directly join FVE as an observer or affiliate member; however, through relationship building with FVE member organizations who are also members of other international associations, the AVMA may be able to affect positive change within the FVE.
      • The Federation of Asian Veterinary Associations and the Commonwealth Veterinary Association are two other regional professional associations that the CIVA believes deserve further research to determine whether either or both may prove to be valuable allies for the AVMA in the international arena.

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.