During a recent visit to Washington, D.C., AVMA President Jack O. Walther and President-Elect Bonnie V. Beaver convened a meeting of top government and military veterinarians working on homeland security and defense-related issues.
During the dinner meeting at the historic Jefferson Hotel on Nov.11, 2003, Dr. Walther put into motion his pledge to study the role of veterinarians in homeland security.
"The AVMA is in a position to influence our profession by working with people who are movers and shakers in (homeland security and defense)," Dr. Walther told the seven veterinarians, five of whom are in the U.S. military.
There were candid discussions about how the AVMA can provide leadership in crises involving animal diseases by forming liaisons with the uniformed services and government agencies, such as the U.S. Public Health Service. Participants also talked about how the AVMA can encourage practitioners and students to pursue postgraduate work in research and public health.
Dr. Beaver inquired as to whether an executive branch fellow would be a good use of resources in positioning the AVMA to address homeland security issues. The participants all agreed the AVMA/AVMF Congressional Science Fellowship Program could be a valuable vehicle for getting veterinarians into high-level positions in the White House, where homeland security and defense decisions are ultimately made. Currently, the three AVMA fellows are involved in the legislative branch, but in May 2004, the Executive Board converted one fellowship to an executive branch fellowship.
On the morning following the dinner, Drs. Walther and Beaver visited with several members of Congress to promote the AVMA's legislative agenda. The agenda includes passage of such bills as the Minor Use and Minor Species Animal Health Act and another that would provide special pay for board-certified federal health scientists.
Following the Hill visits, Dr. Walther hosted the first of two lunch meetings he will hold as AVMA president. The AVMA President's Roundtable Luncheon at the Radisson Barceló Hotel brought together more than 25 veterinarians in federal regulatory and related positions.
The veterinarians expressed gratitude for the opportunity to address the AVMA leadership and commented that the luncheon is the only forum in Washington in which they are brought together for the purpose of sharing ideas and concerns.
The prevailing theme among the participants echoed that of the previous night's—veterinarians' ability to respond to emergencies involving public health, homeland security, and defense. Issues also of concern are research funding, student loan repayment programs, and animal welfare.