The Department of Agriculture's top veterinarian, Dr. W. Ron DeHaven, has been chosen as the next AVMA executive vice president.
Dr. DeHaven, administrator of the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service for the past three years, was approved by the Executive Board March 23 following a nationwide search to replace Dr. Bruce W. Little, who is retiring this year. It wasn't yet known at press time when Dr. DeHaven would begin in his new role at the AVMA.
"This position at the AVMA will provide me an exciting opportunity to give back to the profession," Dr. DeHaven said. "I will be in a leadership position in the organization that represents 75,000 veterinarians at a time when the profession is at a crossroads. We are facing a future where the intersection of animal health and public health, and food supply veterinary medicine, is becoming critical to meeting the needs of a global society."
As head of APHIS, Dr. DeHaven ran the agency responsible for protecting U.S. agricultural and natural resources from exotic pests and diseases, administering the Animal Welfare Act, and implementing wildlife damage management activities.
AVMA President Roger K. Mahr is "supremely confident" in the selection of the Executive Board, noting that Dr. DeHaven's entire professional career has demonstrated his commitment to the AVMA mission of improving animal and human health and advancing the veterinary medical profession.
"I have a great deal of respect and admiration for Dr. DeHaven's global perspective on the continuing convergence of animal health, human health, and ecosystem health," Dr. Mahr said. "This global perspective makes him uniquely qualified to serve as executive vice president."
AVMA Executive Board Chair James O. Cook commended the Executive Vice President Search Committee, chaired by District VIII Representative Larry M. Kornegay, saying committee members "outdid themselves by providing an outstanding candidate who was approved unanimously by the Executive Board."
"Dr. DeHaven's familiarity with all dimensions of the veterinary profession brings a broad base of understanding of the issues that affect our profession," Dr. Cook said. "The Executive Board looks forward to working with Dr. DeHaven. With the addition of his leadership skills, the AVMA is poised to do great things for the animals and people our organization serves."
The chief staff executive is a vitally important part of any professional association, according to Gary A. LaBranche, president and CEO of the Association Forum of Chicagoland. "Essentially, the chief staff executive creates a culture and enables the process and function of the work of the association. So, the role of the chief staff executive is critical to interpreting and carrying out the desires, the plan, and the mission and the policies established by the leaders of governance," LaBranche said.
Dr. Kornegay explained that the AVMA started the selection process by surveying some of its members, AVMA leaders, industry representatives, and veterinary school leaders to create a profile of the attributes that an ideal candidate should possess. Candidates went through a rigid and thorough interview process.
"The search committee was fortunate to have many excellent candidates, but Dr. DeHaven just stood out, and he was a clear, unanimous choice," Dr. Kornegay explained. "Dr. DeHaven has done an excellent job as administrator of APHIS."
Dr. DeHaven is endowed with both a scientific mind and the ability to communicate well with other veterinarians and public health professionals, as well as the media and the general public, Dr. Kornegay added. These tools will be tremendous assets to AVMA members when Dr. DeHaven replaces Dr. Little as executive vice president, Dr. Kornegay said.
Dr. Little's accomplishments as executive vice president have been numerous, including his contributions to a growth in membership of more than 30 percent and an increase in AVMA assets by more than double from $19 million in 1996 to $41.6 million today, Dr. Kornegay said. His legacy will provide both an inspiration and model for Dr. DeHaven.
Dr. Little has been executive vice president since 1996 and was assistant executive vice president from 1986-1995, making him the AVMA's longest-serving officer. Of his successor, Dr. Little said, "Like so many of my veterinary colleagues, I hold Dr. DeHaven in high regard. He has been a unifying force in the greater veterinary community. His leadership reassured the public during times of national concern over chronic wasting disease and bovine spongiform encephalopathy and reinforced the need for science-based decisions.
"I am pleased and proud that the administrator of the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, with its 8,300 employees and $1.9 billion budget, would consider the position of executive vice president of the AVMA a positive career move. It exhibits the importance that the American Veterinary Medical Association and the veterinary profession in general play in the health and well-being of animals and humans."
Dr. DeHaven joined APHIS in 1979. He served in various capacities there, including as deputy administrator of Veterinary Services and deputy administrator of the Animal Care unit. He was also Animal Care's Western regional director based in California. In April 2004, then-Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman chose Dr. DeHaven to lead the agency.
As the USDA's chief veterinary officer, Dr. DeHaven gained national prominence in 2003 and 2004 when CWD and BSE were making headlines. His leadership during both events earned him the Secretary's Honor Award twice. The AVMA honored Dr. DeHaven's contributions to the veterinary profession with the Meritorious Service Award in 2004.
Through the years, Dr. DeHaven has worked closely with the AVMA. He represented APHIS on the Panel to the House of Delegates and was the APHIS consultant to the Animal Welfare Committee. Additionally, he has been a featured speaker at the Association's Veterinary Leadership Conference and the biennial Executive Board and House Advisory Committee legislative visits to Washington, D.C.
After the board vote in March, Dr. DeHaven met with a small number of AVMA staff. His years with APHIS were satisfying, he said, and now he's looking forward to beginning his "second career" in veterinary medicine. "It's been a rewarding career for me, but I'm not looking at this as a retirement job, by any means," he said.
As a candidate for the executive vice president position, Dr. DeHaven became even more interested in the job this January when he heard the AVMA strategic planning goals discussed during the Association's leadership conference. Those goals, which deal with animal welfare, veterinary workforce, economic viability, veterinary education, and veterinary services, are critically important to the future of veterinary medicine, he said.
After receiving his DVM degree from Purdue University in 1975, Dr. DeHaven spent four years as an officer in the Army Veterinary Corps before joining APHIS. Several years later, in 1989, he earned an MBA from Millsaps College in Jackson, Miss.
Dr. DeHaven was born in Salt Lake City and raised in Mount Prospect, Ill. He and his wife, Nancy, have a grown daughter and son and are grandparents.
—R. SCOTT NOLEN