Walther, Beaver meet, hear from federal veterinarians, others
AVMA President Jack O. Walther and President-Elect Bonnie V. Beaver hosted federal and nonfederal veterinarians during a series of roundtable discussions May 26-27 in Washington, D.C.
The talks were a chance for Drs. Walther and Beaver to learn from their guests about the many nontraditional career opportunities available to veterinarians, while also a time to solicit advice for ways the AVMA can address the needs of this membership segment.
"The President's Roundtable offers a unique opportunity for the officers of AVMA and the Washington GRD staff to hear firsthand from those veterinarians who hold critical positions of responsibility in our government," Dr. Walther said.
"Washington, D.C., like most political entities, is about relationships," he continued. "The roundtable not only offers an opportunity for AVMA to develop personal relationships inside the Beltway, but also brings the various agencies together to discuss common problems."
Dr. Beaver agreed. "These meetings present an opportunity for the AVMA leadership to learn about the diverse aspects of our profession and meet colleagues in public service whom we might not meet otherwise," she said.
"The high levels of government service represented at these meetings show the quality of veterinarians who fill the positions and the recognition that our government needs our expertise," Dr. Beaver added.
The theme of the May 26 dinner was "Roles and Opportunities in Homeland Security: What does the Future Hold for the Veterinary Profession?" Attending were veterinarians working for the departments of Homeland Security, Defense, and Health and Human Services, as well as in the Executive Office of the President.
The overarching message that emerged during the evening was that more veterinarians are needed in the public sector. A sampling of the areas where veterinarians' skills and knowledge can be used are responding to terrorism, developing animal health programs for Iraq, providing agrosecurity, detecting foreign animal disease, and ensuring border security.
Guests encouraged the AVMA to take an active role in supporting the efforts of veterinarians involved in homeland security. Drs. Walther and Beaver were commended for hosting this forum on newly emerging threats to national biosecurity.
A breakfast meeting on Capitol Hill was the setting for the second day of roundtable discussions. Guests included representatives of the Animal Health Institute, DuPont Chemical Solutions Enterprise—Animal Health, National Association of Federal Veterinarians, Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, and Center for Government and Corporate Veterinary Medicine of the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine.
As the morning progressed, participants outlined their priorities and identified present and future concerns. Biosecurity, globalization of veterinary medicine, and animal rights were all mentioned.
The need to expand ethnic diversity within the veterinary profession through mentoring was also discussed, as well as the need for using sound science to assess claims that the use of antimicrobials in animals contributes to resistance in humans. Additionally, several attendees expressed concerns about dangers from counterfeit and illegally compounded drugs.
During the course of the morning's conversations, several people acknowledged the value they placed on their working relationship with the AVMA.
The AVMA Council on Biologic and Therapeutic Agents was cited as an example of an entity that facilitates a successful working relationship between industry veterinarians and the Association.
Later that morning, Dr. Walther presided over the final portion of the presidential roundtable that highlighted public veterinary practice. Each of the 11 guests works for the federal government, including the Department of Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency, Food and Drug Administration, National Institutes of Health, and the U.S. Senate.
Dr. Walther asked how the AVMA could support veterinarians employed in public practice. He inquired as to how the AVMA can assist in carrying out the federal programs for which his guests are responsible.
One theme that emerged was a confirmation that veterinarians are highly qualified to work in such nontraditional areas as bioinformatics, transgenics, and emergency response programs.
The AVMA was encouraged to take an active leadership role in promoting these careers in the public sector. A component of such an initiative would be to advocate for the procurement of federal resources for the nation's veterinary schools and colleges. Federal funds could be used to encourage veterinary students and graduate students to work for the federal government where shortages in veterinary research and laboratory animal medicine exist.
Many participants were thankful for the AVMA's recent assistance to federal agencies. Among those areas cited were the Association's guidance on a new federal veterinary accreditation program, information provided to veterinarians and the public concerning bovine spongiform encephalopathy, and involvement in animal care issues for the equine industry.
Luncheon guests encouraged Drs. Walther and Beaver to keep the public service side of veterinary medicine highly visible, continue to work for equity in pay for public service veterinarians, and engage fully with administrators in appropriate federal agencies.