Q: Why is the AVMA changing the classification system for members' professional information?
Dr. Rosemary LoGiudice, director of the AVMA Membership and Field Services Division responds:
A: Our volunteer leaders initiated the process because they recognized that the former system, which had worked so well for us for years, was inadequate for classifying the diverse segments of the veterinary profession that have developed. The former system had basic categories, and we realized members do broader work in veterinary medicine—whether it be in public practice, private practice, industry, government, military, education, or research.
The new system allows members to describe themselves better. Tell us your story, tell us what you're doing in the profession.
Q: How will members benefit from the changes?
A: The new classification system will enhance our ability to meet members' individual needs. We can target information to members in certain areas of our profession, instead of sending e-mail or mail out to everyone. We're talking about, for example, public health information that might be affecting certain segments of our profession, information on new techniques or educational programs that might affect particular areas of practice, and updates on new medicines or other information that might affect practitioners. We want to provide information so our members are the best veterinarians that they can be.
E-mail and other electronic media offer great potential for communicating effectively with our members, so we encourage members to give the AVMA permission to communicate with them electronically. Members can choose the information they wish to receive through the online form for professional information, which includes a section for communication preferences—as well as confidentiality preferences.
Q: Did the AVMA ask members for input before implementing the new classification system?
A: The Member Services Committee canvassed veterinarians in all aspects of veterinary medicine for input. We've also had input from other councils and committees, the Executive Board, the House of Delegates, state VMAs, and specialty organizations.
We asked veterinarians how they would like the AVMA to classify them as far as what they do in veterinary medicine. The staff and volunteer leaders have spent more than a year working on this project.
Q: What is changing within the classification system?
A: The focus was reworking the species codes. In the past, we had codes such as "mixed practice" and "small animal exclusive." But what does that mean, precisely? Now we're asking members to tell us approximately what percentage of their practice is spent with various species—for example, canine, feline, porcine, bovine, equine, camelid, cervid, exotic, or reptile. We're asking members in bovine and equine practice for further details because a veterinarian in, say, dairy practice will have some distinctly different interests than a veterinarian in beef practice.
The new classification system adds a category for position type. The position type tells us if the member works full time or part time as an owner, associate, consultant, relief veterinarian, clinician, researcher, professor, instructor, chief executive officer, administrator, dean, section head, or a member of the uniformed services. And we have further broken down the employment type to be more specific.
We upgraded the checklists for disciplines and specialties so that our members can be more specific as to their interests. We're also going to ask members to volunteer information about their ethnicity so we can collect data about ethnic diversity in the veterinary profession.
Q: How is the changeover happening?
A: We built the new classification system virtually from scratch and then went through a series of refinements, with the staff and leadership reviewing the categories.
One important part of the project was working out a way to map the information we already had in the former system into the new system. So we tried to figure out where members would fit in the new system if the former system said, for example, that they were in "small animal exclusive." The solution was to map those members—temporarily, at least—to show 50 percent canine, 50 percent feline. But we'll be asking members to break down the species that they see to the nearest 10 percent.
Q: When will the changeover be complete?
A: We've already updated our internal database. In February, we launched the online portion of the project. We sent a mass mailing to our membership to encourage them to visit the Web site, to update their professional information. We used to send out paper forms for updating information every year with the membership cards. We would usually get fewer than 2,000 back out of a membership of 73,000.
We've done our best to map members' position type, species code, and everything else from the former system to the new system. But they may say, "I don't do that!" Or maybe they haven't updated their information in a long time. Members who update or verify their information by April 15 can enter a drawing for a free plane ticket, hotel accommodations, and registration for the AVMA Annual Convention in Hawaii.
In a perfect world, all of our 73,000-plus members will update their information online by April 15—and they'll all be eligible for the free trip to the AVMA convention in Hawaii. Then they'll continue to use the Web site to make sure we have the most current information. If necessary, members can call AVMA headquarters at (800) 248-2862 to request a paper form.
Q: What are some of the other benefits of the new system?
A: The new classification system allows members to tell us what they need more specifically in reference to their roles in the profession. Do they want additional materials to appear on our Web site or in the JAVMA? Are there bulletins that they want to receive?
As a membership organization representing more than 86 percent of all veterinarians in the country, we also want our members' input so we can represent them appropriately. For example, we want to keep an open dialogue with all segments of the profession about legislative, regulatory, and public health matters.
The more we know about our members' interests and involvement in veterinary medicine, the better we'll be able to address their needs by targeting those areas—with scientific publications, legislative activities, and anything else that will help them.
Q: Where will members find the new demographic information?
A: We post new demographic information on the Web site every year. In early 2007, we'll be able to post demographics from the new system, which will give people within and outside our profession a much clearer view of veterinary medicine in the United States.
Practitioners represent a very important segment of our profession, but our members also cover other aspects of veterinary medicine—whether it be public health, food safety, bioterrorism prevention, or education. We want to capture that diversity of activities in our profession and make sure that people realize how active veterinarians are.