AVMA conference features U.S. senator, delegates assembly, workshops
Some 377 veterinary leaders, including recent graduates, converged in Chicago for the sixth AVMA Veterinary Leadership Conference and House of Delegates Informational Assembly. Representatives from 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Canada, the World Veterinary Association, 17 veterinary organizations, and various AVMA entities came together for the Jan. 3-5 event.
Colorado Sen. Wayne Allard was the featured speaker Sunday, the final day of the conference. The veterinarian-turned-politician was reelected to a second term in the U.S. Senate in November. Allard looks forward to continuing to work with the AVMA on legislation important to the veterinary profession. Today, politicians are increasingly faced with challenges requiring a greater degree of technical skill and knowledge. This is where you come in, Allard told the assembly of veterinarians. "You've got to take an active role to keep your (elected leaders) focused on commonsense solutions ... and applying solutions that are supported by good research."
The Friday lineup included opening remarks, presentations by the insurance trusts and National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues, breakout sessions, a new delegate orientation, and a reception.
A Saturday general session featured AVMA officials and staff with updates on key issues and projects. Among other things, AVMA Executive Vice President Bruce W. Little reported that the AVMA Web site has become "an amazing thing," with 950,000 page views per month. His presentation on AVMA structure was studded with interesting "AVMA trivia."
AVMA President Joe M. Howell conveyed the positive feedback he receives about the profession when traveling for the AVMA, the importance of the model mentoring program the AVMA is developing, and the benefits that will come from the new AVMA/American Society of Veterinary Medical Association Executives joint committee.
Executive Board Chair James H. Brandt talked about new alliances the AVMA forged in 2002, such as with the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and small business community. Vice President Thomas A. Kendall reported on interesting developments at the veterinary colleges.
In his interim report summarizing fiscal news through November 2002, AVMA Treasurer James F. Peddie said, "The AVMA is running lean and tight," adding that membership services must not be allowed to suffer if economic factors require that this continue over an extended period. He mentioned the possibility he may find it necessary to recommend a $25 dues increase.
Looking at the balance sheet, and income and expense statements, Dr. Peddie reported a mix of good news and "other" news." In the good news column—dues revenue is on target, the Nashville convention was a major financial success, there was a substantial jump in revenue from fees generated by the Veterinary Career Center, and major savings were realized in publication and travel expenses. In "other" news—classified and display ad income dropped, and lower interest rates were earned by AVMA reserve accounts. Despite this, the AVMA finished the 2002 fiscal year with a positive variance in income over expenses of $733,430—even better than the $641,930 projected in the 2002 budget.
Dr. Peddie invited any AVMA members interested in possibly succeeding him as treasurer to visit with him. Even though he is in his fourth term as treasurer and is eligible for election to two more one-year terms, he said it is not too early to begin inquiring.
The candidates for elective office in July gave brief addresses—District VIII Executive Board member (and 2001-2002 chair) Dr. Bonnie V. Beaver, who is running for president-elect, and Dr. Kendall, seeking reelection as vice president.
Dr. Bret D. Marsh, Indiana alternate delegate and a member of the Indiana State Board of Animal Health, appealed to all veterinarians to learn what their state is doing to prepare for emergencies and how they can "plug in." He said, "You'd better know who the players are in case there's an emergency and how to deal with everything from euthanasia to disposal of carcasses."
As a resource, he recommended that veterinarians consult www.whitehouse.gov for direction with the following pursuits. First, find out who is your state liaison to the new Department of Homeland Security, and determine their interest in veterinary medicine. Second, ask what your state veterinarian is doing in your department of agriculture to prepare for animal health emergencies. Third, the state health departments have received tens of millions of dollars in grant programs to prepare for emergency response down to the county level, Dr. Marsh noted. Veterinarians need to learn how their state health department is using that money. Veterinarians in health departments across the country are involved in state smallpox vaccination plans and anthrax initiatives. Identify these veterinarians, learn how the grant dollars are being spent, and ask how you can help. Fourth, many states are working closely with emergency management agencies. Last November, Dr. Marsh said, the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced that nearly a quarter of a billion dollars would go for state preparedness initiatives. Identify "the players" and make sure that veterinarians are among them.
Saturday workshop sessions covered the congressional campaign process, media contacts, crisis management, energizing and activating committees, membership retention and recruitment, and interpersonal skill/conflict management and resolution.
The HOD Informational Assembly, held concurrently Saturday during the workshop sessions, brought members of the HOD up-to-date on issues, including those they will vote on in July. Delegates discussed proposals to change the rules for AVMA officers' election campaigns and revise the AVMA Model Veterinary Practice Act. Because this is an unofficial, informational meeting, the HOD took no actions. In reference committees, delegates discussed matters relevant to that committee as well as other areas of interest and concern. Presenters at the session reported on Executive Board actions and issues of a legislative and animal welfare nature.
Maryland delegate Dr. John R. Brooks told the HOD that recent occurrences in Maryland have brought concerns about suicide among veterinary professionals to the forefront. Dr. Brooks encouraged his fellow delegates to go back to their constituent associations and determine what assistance programs they have in place.
Reliable information is not available on the number of suicides by veterinarians or veterinary technicians, according to Dr. Janet D. Donlin, AVMA associate executive vice president and staff consultant to the Committee on Wellness. She noted that AVMA members can go to the AVMA Member Center, click on Resource Center, and select "Peer Assistance and Wellness" for a state peer assistance resource directory, model assistance program, stress checklist, and other wellness links. One of them is the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention, which includes good ideas that veterinary associations can use to help raise awareness of this public health concern.
Dr. Hugh Mainzer of the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, focusing on public health emergency preparedness and response, suggested resources such as www.bt.cdc.gov. He noted that the CDC will be recruiting for 30 positions in a career track that would be a great opportunity for new graduates.
Dr. Ron DeHaven of the Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service explained how creation of the Department of Homeland Security will affect APHIS, and reported on the outbreak of exotic Newcastle disease in California.