July 15, 2003


 Officers on the road

Posted June 30, 2003

AVMA President Joe M. Howell offers a few parting insights

What lessons have you learned during your term as president?

Dr. Joe M. Howell,
AVMA president

I've learned that we are an extremely diverse profession in all aspects of our species specialties and interests. Even with such diversity, we have major common issues to address that affect all of us. Those issues include raising our economic level, addressing the changing demographics of our profession, and ensuring that veterinarians remain among the most trusted and respected professionals. To maintain that public confidence, we have to properly assess our public's perception as the cost of veterinary care rises to be sure they understand the value of our services. We also need to address animal welfare issues. We need to be sure that we remain the ultimate animal welfare experts. All of these issues affect every person in this profession, no matter what his or her type of work.

Also, we have a new and emerging role to play among the world veterinary community. The positions the AVMA takes and the leadership we show will make a difference in the level of veterinary education and reciprocity for practice from country to country for years to come. Our ability to respond to worldwide disease outbreaks, whether deliberate or unintentional, can affect not only animal health but human health as well. We have a new and emerging role in this country's biosecurity. The changes since 9/11 are bringing all veterinarians to the forefront of protecting our country, whether they are first responders to a biological attack or serving as the best source of science-based information to the public. We all have a part to play.

What concerns do you have about the challenges facing the veterinary profession?

It is vital that we adequately address animal welfare issues. We must remain strong in supporting all areas of animal use, making sure that animal welfare programs are of the highest level as well as veterinary health care being at the highest level. We must take the leadership in these areas. I see a potential for some groups to attempt to displace us as the experts in animal welfare. It's also very important that the AVMA accreditation process of veterinary colleges not be diminished. There must be an assurance to the veterinary profession, state licensing boards, and potential employers of AVMA-accredited-school graduates that all future graduates possess the skills and knowledge necessary to deliver entry-level veterinary health care.

Is there anything you would do differently?

I feel that we have identified the critical issues and we are doing everything with the resources we have to respond. I am confident that in a five-year period, we will be stronger as a profession and stronger as an association because of the insight and actions we have taken in the recent past. I feel that everything has been done to rise to the occasion and that the very best days of veterinary medicine are ahead of us.