Interview by Allison Rezendes
Posted June 1, 2006
How have the AVMA animal welfare governance issues progressed during your term as an AVMA officer?
Dr. Bonnie V. Beaver, AVMA immediate past president, responds:
The AVMA Executive Board, members, and councils and committees said animal welfare is an important concern for the AVMA. In response, I came up with several ideas, some of which the board adopted as presented and others that were tweaked, to hopefully position the AVMA as the continued leader in animal welfare.
The AVMA recently named Dr. Lyle P. Vogel as director and Dr. Gail C. Golab as associate director of the Animal Welfare Division. I'm very excited that the division is off and going. The directors will now start recruiting the rest of the staff that have been approved by the board. Both Drs. Vogel and Golab bring some wonderful things to the new division, so I expect that it will get off on a very good, firm foundation.
Also, the establishment of the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee is extremely important because they will develop a single broad definition of what animal welfare is for the AVMA. There will always remain some unique situations when we need position statements on specific issues, but a broad statement will decrease that need significantly. I think this will be much better for the profession.
The Animal Welfare Committee was expanded from its previous structure to include a broader representation from the profession. This will result in better coverage of important matters, and make the AVMA even better. It will be important that the new AWC be visionary and not just continue to do "business as usual." In addition, the AWC will select a group of individuals who will be fast responders to current topics of concern in animal welfare. This smaller group can help identify scientific studies on specific hot topics in animal welfare so that AVMA will be able to provide current, appropriate information to public requests, as well as to other AVMA entities, like the House of Delegates.
How will AVMA members benefit from the division and committees' progress?
Veterinarians know that they are the experts in animal welfare. The general public kind of knows that, but not really. And there are other groups that are trying to take over that mantle of expertise. By establishing the Animal Welfare Division, hopefully, the AVMA will be able to position veterinary medicine so that the public will recognize that, in fact, veterinarians are the experts. This way, each veterinarian doesn't have to go out and say, "Hey, I'm the expert"—other people are waving that banner for them. It also helps ensure that our profession retains its leadership position and that we can provide the scientific information that is currently available on various subjects, rather than let decisions be based on emotion.
What were some key accomplishments of your career as an AVMA officer?
One of the goals that I was committed to, just as my predecessors were, was continuity. Going back to former AVMA President James E. Nave, we were able to successfully reestablish the brigadier general rank to the head of the Army Veterinary Corps. An extra highlight for me was to be present when Brigadier General Michael B. Cates became the corps chief because he was a student of mine many years ago.
With former AVMA President Jack O. Walther, I got to be a part of the major changes to the AVMA Communications Division. I was also able to team with Dr. Walther and AVMA President Henry E. Childers to begin AVMA's creation of the Task Force on Diversity. Because of this continuity from one president to the next, we've been able to complete a lot of things that otherwise would've fallen through the cracks. Overall, there are a lot of really neat things that have happened during my time on the Executive Board, as chair of the board, and as an officer.
How do you plan to stay involved in organized veterinary medicine?
My next major project will be to work with several colleagues for the development of board specialization in animal welfare—just like there is for internal medicine, surgery, behavior, pathology, and so on. My strength has always been in getting new organizations going, which will be one of my contributions to this new group. Having board certification in animal welfare will add one more level of credibility to the veterinary medicine leadership in animal welfare.
Is there anything you would like to add about your experience?
Truly, one of the major highlights of my professional career is being a part of the AVMA, including being a member; serving on committees, councils, and ultimately the Executive Board; and on to the office of president. I strongly encourage all veterinarians to be active in some form of organized veterinary medicine, whether it is a local, state, regional, or national veterinary association. Number one, you learn what's going on. There are so many exciting things going on in the profession. And number two, you have a say in how the future of the profession is being shaped. As for me, I intend to kind of stand back, let others come in and have their chance to influence the future. I'll have other roles in other groups.