June 15, 2003
Executive Vice President Little on setting priorities
How does the AVMA prioritize issues?
We base our priorities on the needs of the Association as dictated by our membership. This is one of the most important things we as administrators and managers do—collate vast information, sift through it, and filter it to find the programs that will move us forward. Everything we do must be aimed toward our overall mission of improving animal and human health and advancing the veterinary profession, and lead us down the road to resolving the big-picture items. Many issues must be considered on a global basis.
Popular or fad issues must be taken into consideration but without making more of them than they deserve. There are times, for example, when the threads of movement in the profession are highly visible but do not impact heavily on the overall welfare or benefit to the membership. Most transitory issues fall within one of the four categories covered in our long-range plan—professional unity, communication, strategic alliances, and governance. Priorities also depend on our resources—financial, staff, and volunteers who serve on AVMA entities. One factor is a tendency for our volunteers to have less time to donate than before.
Over the past few years, AVMA officers have created a continuum by identifying the most important issues for the profession and carrying them forward from administration to administration, facilitating progress.
How does the AVMA keep in step with the needs of its members?
It's incumbent on the councils, committees, and other working groups of the Association along with staff to bring issues important to the membership to the table. Ultimately, the Executive Board creates the priorities. The board and Long-Range Planning Committee had two planning retreats in the past two years. Member surveys such as the one we conducted in 2002 also identify issues on the minds of our members, such as high student debt load and low starting salaries. We've more or less turned the economic issues over to the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues, but they remain a top priority for us. Surveys and other feedback from members and species or specialty groups are sometimes provincial, so we must not be misled into overestimating their importance.
Recently, we've seen a profound number of state legislative and regulatory initiatives involving challenges to veterinary practice acts and questionable animal rights/welfare proposals. Animal rights activists have broadened the scope of their involvement, bringing areas such as production animal medicine and the use of animals in education to the forefront. We'll need to deal with these on a state-by-state, case-by-case basis. Several state veterinary medical associations have submitted Resolution 4 to the House of Delegates, calling for the AVMA to provide more help with these mounting challenges. This will demand additional resources, both in terms of personnel and finances.
We will have to prioritize those needs to capitalize on our finite resources and channel our efforts where we can make an impact, deposit the materials developed in a central database, and establish a mechanism to distribute them to all our constituent associations.