September 01, 2005


 Executive Board approves communications revamp

First steps also approved toward microchip standard, expansion project

Posted August 15, 2005

The 2004-2005 AVMA Executive Board held its final meeting July 14 in Minneapolis, prior to the 2005 session of the House of Delegates and the AVMA Annual Convention. Dr. Roger K. Mahr, District VI, of St. Charles, Ill., chaired the meeting. On July 20, the final day of the convention, the 2005-2006 board conducted its first meeting of the new Association year.


The first order of business July 20 was to elect a new chair. Dr. Robert E. "Bud" Hertzog, District VII, of Lee's Summit, Mo., was nominated and elected. Dr. Hertzog represents veterinarians in Iowa, Minnesota, Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma. He has been a managing partner since 1956 at an animal hospital in Lees Summit that employs eight veterinarians, including Dr. Hertzog's son, David.

Dr. James O. Cook was elected vice chair of the board. He represents the District V states of Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and West Virginia. Dr. Cook has owned a mixed practice in Lebanon, Ky., since 1977.

At the end of his first meeting as chair, Dr. Hertzog said, "It would be my hope that we would move forward with great hope and unity."  

July 14 board actions

The board on July 14 approved a series of far-reaching proposals meant to enhance the Association's communication to its members and the public. The projected cost of the improvements totals more than half a million dollars over the next several years. 

The changes follow a review of the AVMA's internal and external communication capabilities by a task force recommended by former AVMA President Jack O. Walther and approved by the board.

The task force was charged with considering all aspects of internal and external communications to determine the components of an effective, vigorous, credible program—one that reaches relevant stakeholders, enhances the profession's reputation, and makes the public think first of veterinarians on any subject involving animals and animal welfare.

The group was then to introduce a strategic framework for AVMA efforts that ensures a vigorous, credible, and influential communications function. At the time, Dr. Walther, who chaired the task force, called the review "one of the most important things (the AVMA) can do."

The task force submitted 10 recommendations to the board for its July meeting in Minneapolis. Board members approved all but one of the proposals—a policy for a centralized communications model that was referred to the Council on Communications.

Along with adopting a vision, mission, goals, and guiding principles for AVMA communications, board members approved creating five positions in the Communications Division at a cost of $280,000. The new positions are a governmental relations communications manager, media outreach manager, Web/content writer, content writer, and customer service representative.

The division's budget was also increased by $295,000 with much of the funding going toward advocacy and outreach in the areas of state legislative and regulatory affairs, advertising, and partnership development.

A four-year, $165,000 initiative to research public attitudes, perceptions, and behaviors about animals, their ownership and use, and veterinary medicine was approved. The surveys begin in 2005 at a cost of $35,000, then $15,000 in 2006, $95,000 in 2007, and $20,000 in 2008.

Board members approved a policy empowering the director of the Communications Division. The policy states the following:

The Director of the Communications Division or that person's designee may speak on behalf of the AVMA within the framework of approved Association positions. Further, the Director of the Communications Division manages the Association's allocated communications resources to achieve the strategic initiatives and to focus on the priorities established by the Executive Board. These resources include assignment of spokespeople, response to media and members of the public, and direction of financial and human resources assigned by the Executive Board and Executive Vice President.

A policy on public audiences was also adopted. It states the following:

Virtually every segment of society is touched by veterinary medicine. As the association representing the entire veterinary medical profession, the American Veterinary Medical Association is obligated to communicate with the general public, whether or not they own animals. Depending on the circumstances, some situations will dictate that these public audiences will be the priority for communications efforts. Changes in prioritization will be reflected in the allocation of financial and human resources.

A plan for crisis communication is to be created. Additionally, the Council on Public Relations and Member Services Committee are to develop a general policy to guide the release of Association information to internal and external audiences so as to achieve an appropriate level of transparency.  

July 20 board actions 

At the July 20 meeting, the board discussed a recommendation from AVMA Executive Vice President Bruce W. Little to approve remodeling of the AVMA headquarters facility for expanded office space and conference room facilities. Since the AVMA purchased and remodeled the current building 14 years ago, the staff has grown from 82 to 125. The board has approved several new positions in the Communications Division, and space will be needed for the new Animal Welfare Division as well. Conference room space has also become critically important, given that the AVMA has expanded the number and size of its advisory bodies.

Instead of agreeing to the projected $1.62 million remodeling project at this time, board members approved amending the motion as proposed by District I representative Dr. Guy Pidgeon. According to the amended motion, AVMA staff was authorized to go forward with obtaining working drawings, bid collections, and permits for the remodeling project. This will give leaders an opportunity look at the full proposal from the standpoint of the board's fiduciary responsibility.

The board approved a recommendation from Dr. Bonnie V. Beaver, 2004-2005 AVMA president, to not hold the 2008 PANVET Congress in conjunction with the AVMA Annual Convention in New Orleans. It was determined that the cost to the Association would have been great unless registrants from PANVET member countries turned out in force.

In another action, the board charged the Council on Veterinary Service with studying the issues and developing recommendations, with input from the Legislative Advisory Committee, on the best way to implement a national standard for identification of companion animals, birds, and equids that is consistent with approaches taken by other members of the global community. Dr. Larry Corry of District IV made the recommendation. For more details, see the report on page 687 about Resolution 4, relating to a national animal microchip standard.