More than 5,800 veterinary professionals, guests, and exhibitors traveled to Seattle for the 51st annual convention of the American Association of Equine Practitioners held Dec. 3-7, 2005. During the convention, the AAEP unveiled the AAEP Foundation's new look and announced two new partnerships to help improve equine health and welfare.
The convention offered 86 hours of continuing education. The program featured in-depth sessions on equine behavior, lameness, imaging, vaccination, pain management, and respiratory tract abnormalities. Attendees also chose from several how-to sessions and an array of abstracts sessions covering medicine, reproduction, lameness, and respiratory tract conditions.
The Case-Based Dry Labs with Experts were new at the convention. During the sessions, attendees participated in cases presented by experts. Topics covered were cytology, imaging, neurology, and the upper respiratory tract airway.
Another convention update included the rescheduling of the interactive table topic sessions. Previously scheduled during lunchtime, the informal sessions were expanded to include sunrise session topics and money-multiplier management strategy sessions. Also of note, the Reproduction News Hour returned after a one-year hiatus.
Update on AAEP happenings
After passing numerous espresso shops and fine seafood restaurants, and with the Pike Place Market just a few street blocks away, attendees arrived at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center Dec. 3 for the convention's opening session. Dr. Thomas D. Brokken, the incoming AAEP president and 2005 program chair, moderated the session.
During the opening session, Dr. Scott E. Palmer, AAEP immediate past president, introduced the new look of the AAEP Foundation. The foundation launched a new tagline—"Help Us Help Horses"—and a new mission, which is as follows: "To improve the health and welfare of the horse through support of research, education, benevolence, and the equine community." A new logo was also introduced.
Dr. Palmer reported that the association continues to address the plight of unwanted horses. The AAEP helped organize the Unwanted Horse Summit in Washington, D.C., in April 2005 to bring together all segments of the equine industry to tackle the issue. The summit generated practical and far-reaching solutions designed to reduce the number of unwanted horses and increase humane and responsible care. The group came together again in September at AVMA headquarters in Schaumburg, Ill., for a second planning session. In November, the summit's strategic planning group met in Lexington, Ky. Dates for the next summit were not set.
Following the opening session, keynote speaker Larry Winget, a philosopher and author of "Shut Up, Stop Whining & Get a Life: A Kick-Butt Approach to a Better Life," shared his philosophies on success and leadership. During his presentation, Winget offered attendees "three good ideas": take responsibility for your actions, be flexible in your business, and lighten up and have more fun.
Orthopedic surgeon Dr. C. Wayne McIlwraith presented the Frank J. Milne State-of-the-Art Lecture "From Arthroscopy to Gene Therapy: Thirty Years of Looking in Joints." Dr. McIlwraith's presentation highlighted how far equine practitioners have come in their ability to treat traumatic joint disorders and osteoarthritis in horses. Progress in diagnosis, conventional and new biological therapies, and attempts at prevention were reviewed.
AAEP announces two partnerships
During the convention, the AAEP and the AAEP Foundation announced two partnerships to help improve equine health and welfare.
The AAEP joined forces with Fort Dodge Animal Health for a joint educational initiative to raise awareness about the importance of twice-a-year wellness examinations and professionally managed preventive care for horses. Dubbed "America's Healthy Horse," the campaign will focus on equine wellness issues such as disease prevention, parasite control, nutrition, and dentistry.
"This initiative will help improve the health and welfare of horses across the country by encouraging horse owners to schedule seasonal visits with a veterinarian," Dr. Palmer said during a press conference at the convention. "As a veterinarian, I know how important wellness examinations are to help horses enjoy and live longer lives. The AAEP's mission is to help protect the health and welfare of horses, and this is an effort that will advance our mission."
"America's Healthy Horse" will provide veterinarians with educational materials designed to facilitate their communication with horse owners. A national media campaign will be launched in 2006 to support veterinarian-client communication by encouraging horse owners to contact their veterinarians for more information about twice-a-year wellness examinations.
The AAEP Foundation announced a partnership with the Foundation for Biomedical Research in Washington, D.C., to promote the role of research in advancing veterinary medicine. The two foundations launched a new educational program, called "Horse Facts," to promote public understanding, respect, and support for the role that laboratory animal research plays in advancing equine veterinary health and medicine.
Dr. Larry R. Bramlage, 2004 AAEP president, was on hand at the press conference. "The discovery and development of new equine vaccinations and infertility treatments, medications for ulcers and seizures as well as orthopedic surgical techniques and innovations in postsurgical care," he said, "are just a few of the ingenious innovations for equine health that were developed as a direct result of biomedical research conducted with animals in the laboratory."
"Horse Facts" will be promoted at several equine conferences and trade shows in 2006. Along with the AAEP Foundation, other organizations that provided funding for the program are the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science Foundation, Merial Ltd., and Pfizer Animal Health.
Equine industry news
Attendees were briefed on the latest developments in equine veterinary medicine during the Kester News Hour, sponsored by a grant from the late Gen. Wayne O. Kester, a former president and executive director of the AAEP.
To kick off the hour, returning presenter Dr. John Madigan, from the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, drove a moped to the front of the stage and was dressed in a black leather jacket. Dr. Bramlage, also a returning presenter, joined him on stage dressed in a Roman toga to promote the AAEP resort symposium, which was held in Rome in January.
During the news hour, Dr. Madigan reviewed the volunteer rescue efforts made by faculty, staff, and students from the Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast.
"They dropped everything they were doing, set up facility and organized volunteers, and tried to find out where the stranded horses were," Dr. Madigan said. "This was a very stressful and difficult situation for the LSU staff and volunteers; just the impact for these (volunteers) to have to go in and see these horses stuck in these areas; just the tremendous loss of life," he continued. "There was a good side—the happy reunions."
At the Lamar-Dixon Equine Exposition Center in Gonzales, La., Dr. Madigan said, volunteers would feed, exercise, and groom the horses, along with providing veterinary care.
Also during the presentation, Dr. Madigan provided a public health update. At the top of his list was the identification of the transmission of equine influenza virus to dogs. According to a report in Science magazine, the molecular and antigenic analyses of three influenza viruses isolated from outbreaks of severe respiratory disease in Greyhounds revealed that they are closely related to the H3N8 equine influenza virus.
In other news, Dr. Madigan provided attendees with a look at the size of the horse industry. About 4.7 million people are part of the U.S. horse industry and there are 9.2 million horses in the country. As for the AAEP, Dr. Bramlage reported that the association has 7,212 regular members and 1,953 student members.
Educational debt load for recent graduates continues to be an issue with, the starting salary for an equine veterinarian averaging $35,347, Dr. Madigan reported.
Dr. Bramlage explained that equine veterinary graduates tend to be less productive in the first year because they're still learning and might not see many patients in one day. He encouraged established practitioners to consider providing higher-paying internships, but added that the new graduates need to look at the first year in equine practice as part of their education. Recent graduates with more field experience will learn to provide better care faster, he said, leading to higher productivity more quickly after completing an internship.
General membership briefing
At the general membership meeting, AAEP Executive Director David L. Foley reported on the association's efforts in educating horse owners. He said that more than 13,000 horse owners subscribe to the myHorseMatters.com electronic newsletter, an AAEP biweekly newsletter on horse health.
Horseman's Day, an all-day event packed with educational seminars geared toward horse owners, also continues to grow. More than 260 attendees attended the event Dec. 4 at the Sheraton Seattle Hotel & Towers in Seattle.
"Part of this initiative is to not only provide some great educational opportunities for the owner, but to also provide the (AAEP) member with materials to help them educate their clients," Foley said. Each presentation from the event will be available at www.myHorseMatters.com.
In addition to horse owner education, the AAEP has focused its efforts on increasing student membership. "Our ... student membership has increased over 147 percent in the past four years, with (a typical) annual increase of 36 percent," Foley said. He attributed the increase in student members to more frequent visits to student chapters by members of several AAEP committees, more visibility at the Student AVMA Symposium and other conferences by staffing an AAEP booth, and the increasingly popular AAEP annual internship and externship career night.
Foley also discussed the three AAEP strategic goals for 2006, which are membership development, continuing education, and advocacy (see "Brokken named AAEP president").
The 2006 Executive Committee and new members of the board of directors took office Dec. 6. The members of the Executive Committee are Drs. Thomas D. Brokken of Cooper City, Fla., president; Douglas G. Corey of Adams, Ore., president-elect; Eleanor M. Green of Gainesville, Fla., vice president; Scott E. Palmer of Clarksburg, N.J., immediate past president; and R. Reynolds Cowles Jr., of Free Union, Va., treasurer. New members of the board of directors are Drs. Ann E. Dwyer, representing District I; John P. Hurtgen, District II; Dana Zimmel, District III; R. Stuart Showmaker, District IX; Kathleen M. Anderson, director-at-large; and Sergio H. Salinas, international director.