Association can no longer afford not to lead, Beaver says
If veterinarians are to remain leaders in animal welfare, the AVMA must more fully engage animal rights groups and humane organizations in the increasingly public debate about animal well-being, according to Dr. Bonnie V. Beaver.
A Division of Animal Welfare should be instituted within the AVMA, Dr. Beaver said, so the Association can devote the necessary time, effort, and resources to this contentious subject.
Veterinarians who remain current on the global aspects of animal welfare science and issues and who are respected throughout animal-related industries would staff the new division.
Dr. Beaver was speaking as incoming AVMA president to the House of Delegates July 23, prior to the AVMA Annual Convention in Philadelphia.
The public and animal industry want and expect the AVMA to show leadership on animal welfare issues, yet the Association has tended to resist that role, Dr. Beaver said. The AVMA can no longer afford to do so. "It is time to get our heads out of the sand," she declared.
Dr. Beaver, College Station, Texas, said the Association must be careful not to let its ties to animal industries cloud its objectivity when considering welfare policies. The AVMA also needs to revisit the broadest aspects of animal welfare, and then base its welfare policies on this big picture, she added.
In addition to animal welfare, Dr. Beaver spoke about the veterinary profession's responsibility in serving animals as well as people. To serve both groups with excellence, the AVMA must strive to ensure that veterinarians are well-trained, diverse, and adequately paid, and enjoy a high quality of life.
Veterinarians must communicate effectively with each other and with the public as well, she said.
While campaigning for AVMA president-elect, Dr. Beaver pledged to continue initiatives launched by former AVMA presidents. In her HOD address, she reiterated her goal to undertake only projects that would benefit the profession in the long term.
"I believe in projects that strengthen who we are and build for the future as we find better ways to serve society," Dr. Beaver said.
She noted the changing relationship between veterinarians and society. Veterinarians are increasingly involved in food safety and protecting the nation from infectious diseases and bioterrorism. Whereas the profession's ability to meet these needs is strong, the challenge is to remain that way, Dr. Beaver said.
One area in which the AVMA ensures that veterinarians practicing in the United States are the best-trained professionals in the world is the Educational Commission for Foreign Veterinary Graduates program. Dr. Beaver said the program must stay strong so foreign-trained veterinarians meet the same high standards as graduates of veterinary colleges accredited by the AVMA Council on Education.
Dr. Beaver will use the AVMA President's Roundtable, held twice yearly in Washington, D.C., as a forum for bringing together federal veterinarians to share ideas to the benefit of the country.
The AVMA must promote ethnic and racial diversity within the profession if veterinarians are to serve society with excellence, Dr. Beaver said. At the June AVMA Executive Board meeting, a recommendation to study ways of achieving diversity was sent to the Member Services Committee for review, she said.
It is important for veterinarians to be compensated for their hard work, Dr. Beaver said, noting the work of the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues and Food Supply Veterinary Medicine Coalition to increase income.
Dr. Beaver also highlighted the problem of budget cuts having depressed educators' salaries, which will discourage young veterinarians from careers in academia. Colleges will then have to hire nonveterinarians to fill the gaps, she explained, leaving fewer role models to attract the next generation of teachers.
Dr. Beaver discussed the role of mentoring in helping a new generation of veterinarians balance the demands of work and personal life. The Model Mentoring Program Task Force has recently identified such a program for the veterinary profession, she said. It was launched at the AVMA convention (see Aug. 15, 2004, page 488).
"The blending of cultures and priorities of three different generations will hopefully get easier," Dr. Beaver said.
Another area of importance is communication. Dr. Beaver said the recently established Task Force on Communications is charged with finding ways for the AVMA to effectively communicate with the profession and society. Dr. Beaver plans to meet with members of the Washington, D.C., press corps so they will think of the AVMA first when reporting on animals and food safety.
"For 141 years, society has looked to veterinarians and the AVMA to protect animal and public health," Dr. Beaver concluded. "Our predecessors have done a great job. Now, it is up to us to anticipate and meet the needs of society in the 21st century."