Those attending the AVMA General Session in Philadelphia, July 24, were treated to an evening of entertainment and inspiration, along with a chance to honor the achievements of their colleagues.
A highlight of the AVMA Annual Convention, the General Session, sponsored by Hill's Pet Nutrition Inc., featured two-time Emmy Award-winning broadcast journalist Deborah Norville and Dr. Patricia M. Hogan and John Servis—the veterinarian who saved Smarty Jones full eyesight and the trainer who helped him race to victory in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.
A color guard dressed in colonial military attire kicked off the evening. Benjamin Franklin then took to the stage, welcoming the AVMA to his native city and offering a few sage words of advice.
Afterward, 2003-2004 AVMA president, Dr. Jack O. Walther, reported that the House of Delegates had passed a resolution earlier that day honoring the veterinarians serving in the U.S. military and participating in the global war on terror and Operation Iraqi Freedom. In recognition of their service, Dr. Walther presented a plaque to Col. John S. Fournier, chief of the Army Veterinary Corps, on behalf of the AVMA.
Dr. Walther also took a moment to recognize Col. Michael B. Cates. In June, Col. Cates was selected as chief of the Army Veterinary Corps. Colonel Cates was nominated by President Bush to be promoted to brigadier general in accordance with a law championed by the AVMA requiring that the Veterinary Corps chief hold the rank of brigadier general or higher. The promotion is pending Senate approval.
After Dr. Walther presented Dr. Hogan with one of three AVMA President's awards given this year, Dr. Hogan recounted the day in July 2003 that a badly injured Smarty Jones trotted into her New Jersey equine practice and her heart.
Before capturing the nation's attention this summer, Smarty Jones suffered a potentially career-ending injury at Philadelphia Park. The Pennsylvania-bred colt had reared up in the starting gate and slammed his head against an unpadded iron bar. Everyone thought Smarty had ruptured his eye.
Dr. Hogan displayed two radiographs showing the multiple fractures around Smarty's left eye, left zygomatic arch, and sinuses.
A board-certified veterinary surgeon, Dr. Hogan saved the eye. Smarty went on to win his first eight races, including the first and second legs of the Triple Crown. But he was narrowly defeated at the Belmont Stakes in June.
Session attendees were treated to video clips of Smarty's dramatic wins at the Derby and Preakness. Servis then took to the stage to recount the months of training—many of them frustrating—to mold the precocious, headstrong colt into a champion.
At press time in August, it was announced that Smarty was retired to stud after the horse developed chronic bruises in all four hoofs.
A moving video clip describing the Josh Project was then aired. Designed by Knoxville veterinarian Dr. Randy Lange, this project features a stuffed toy Golden Retriever—Josh—and a book, "I'll Be O.K.," in which the main character is a dog that undergoes surgery.
Sponsored by the Children's Miracle Network and Bayer Animal Health, along with support from the AVMA, the Josh Project has touched thousands of children and continues to reach out to many others through hospital tours and promotional trips.
Then it was Norville's turn. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge had been invited to speak but was needed to assist with security preparations for the Democratic National Convention.
As anchor of "Inside Edition," Norville reports on complex and challenging issues. A veteran of media wars and boardroom politics, she has risen to the pinnacle of her profession, despite seemingly insurmountable odds, from regional reporter to co-host of the "Today Show."
She shared her journey that brought her back from depression, charting a course that has included the births of three children, two Emmy Awards, and her current role as anchor of the nation's top-rated syndicated news magazine. Author of the bestseller "Back on Track," Norville used her own story to help the audience understand how to face challenges and gain strength and wisdom from the lessons of the past.
But before recounting her inspiring life lessons, Norville described the importance of animals in her family's life. The Georgia native spoke about her father's fondness for exotic animals, which started with the rescued Shetland pony that lived in the Norvilles' kitchen.
Today, her father's "zoo" in Dalton, Ga., includes llamas, buffaloes, zebras, and the camels Clyde and Claude. "I think we do a lot to support veterinarians in America," she joked.
Norville's career blossomed as a TV news reporter. After years of hard work, she was hired to work on the "Today Show" with then anchors Bryant Gumbel and Jane Pauley. But industry gossips soon accused Norville of conniving to replace Pauley as anchor.
When Norville became pregnant with her first child, it was rumored that she was trying to garner public sympathy to save her career. The gossip eventually became too much for Norville, and she quit and was overwhelmed with depression.
One day, however, Norville realized she had gotten too wrapped up in her career, that she had made the mistake of confusing what she did with what she was about. At that point, "I promised myself I will never let (broadcast executives) have control of my life again," Norville said.
If we look closely, Norville said, we will realize that our perceived failures are usually a result of not living up to others' expectations, not our own. Norville discovered that she was those things she believes in, those things that inspire and motivate her.
Norville encouraged the audience to discover their passion and pursue it. "Who you are is your victories as well as the lessons learned from defeat," she said. "Figure out what you're good at and go for it!"
Eventually, Norville returned to broadcast journalism because she realized she had unfinished business. She started standing up to the gossips and silenced her critics. "Living by your own rules matters," Norville said.