From the boardroom to the halls of Congress, AVMA leaders championed the Association's highest-ranked initiatives in April by endorsing an overarching strategy, dedicating funds, authorizing initial tactics, and lobbying for impending legislation.
The Executive Board and House Advisory Committee called on members of Congress and staffers April 15, culminating the AVMA's biennial legislative contact visit to Washington, D.C. They arrived in the capital April 13 after the board's spring meeting at AVMA headquarters in Schaumburg, Ill.
On Capitol Hill, the AVMA contingent carried key messages to their representatives and senators, urging them, for example, to support the reauthorization of the Animal Drug User Fee Act, support appropriations for the National Veterinary Medical Service Act and the Food Animal Residue Avoidance Databank, and co-sponsor the Veterinary Public Health Workforce Expansion Act.
The veterinary workforce is one of the AVMA's five strategic issues, along with advocacy, animal welfare, economic viability, and veterinary education. In June 2007, the Executive Board approved the following five corresponding strategic goals:
- Critical shortages in veterinary workforce, infrastructure, and resources are identified and solutions developed in collaboration with key stakeholders to ensure that national veterinary needs, including those with global implications, are met.
- AVMA is committed to being a leading force and advocate on veterinary-related issues in local, state, federal, and international legislation and regulation.
- AVMA is a leading advocate for, and an authoritative, science-based resource on animal welfare.
- The veterinary profession's economic viability and sustainability is evaluated and strengthened within all segments.
- The AVMA Council on Education accreditation process is the premier standard for veterinary medical education globally.
Last November, the board endorsed draft objectives presented by staff for each goal as well as the process and direction the strategic planning was taking during refinement.
Then at a daylong session preceding their spring meeting, board members met with the strategic goal managers and other staff. The managers are Dr. Mark Lutschaunig, director of the Governmental Relations Division, advocacy; Dr. Gail C. Golab, director of the Animal Welfare Division, animal welfare; J. Karl Wise, PhD, associate executive vice president, economic viability; Dr. Beth Sabin, assistant director of the Education and Research Division, veterinary education; and Dr. Lyle P. Vogel, assistant executive vice president, workforce.
The managers detailed the goals, objectives, and tactics for their respective strategic issues. AVMA Executive Vice President Ron DeHaven described the tactics as on-the-ground activities that will help accomplish the AVMA objectives.
"We want to lead change, not manage the change that comes along," Dr. DeHaven told board members. Last year he had said what drew him to the position of executive vice president was the opportunity to work with AVMA leaders toward this common vision for serving a global society while also ensuring the profession's viability.
The Executive Board took decisive steps forward at the spring meeting, chaired by Dr. Larry R. Corry of District IV. First was final approval of the AVMA Strategic Plan with its detailed framework of goals and objectives.
To finance tactical plans and programs, a $1 million Strategic Goal Fund was earmarked within the AVMA reserves. Recommendations to approve and fund each tactic will be sent to the board as they are developed. As proposed by Dr. David McCrystle of District X, the board voted to require a three-fourths majority to create the fund and to limit recommendations to those processed through the Office of the Executive Vice President from the strategic goal managers.
To enhance the AVMA's strategic efforts and communications, the board approved a recommendation officially designating the executive vice president with an additional title as the AVMA chief executive officer.
Dr. Larry R. Corry, AVMA Executive Board chair, and Dr. Ron DeHaven,
executive vice president and chief executive officer
The first four strategic tactics that required approval for funding from the Strategic Goal Fund were approved in April.
Advocacy: A pilot program of veterinary outreach to law schools and the legal community will be created. This pilot program would present issues such as pet guardianship and noneconomic damages. Funding of $5,400 was approved for 2008, and $16,250 for 2009, after which it will be evaluated.
Advocacy: Ongoing funding of $50,000 was approved for use by the Communications Division to implement communications tactics for the Governmental Relations Division. In February, Eric McKeeby joined the AVMA staff as the first communications manager for the GRD's day-to-day needs, including media relations.
Veterinary education: Formation of an AVMA Foresight Report Task Force was approved, at a cost of $14,000. The task force will advise the Executive Board on potential AVMA policies and actions related to the 2007 report by the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges. The AAVMC conducted the Foresight project to guide a future direction for academic veterinary medicine.
Workforce: The AVMA will sponsor and promote a National FFA proficiency award in veterinary medicine. This project was recommended by the Council on Communications to interest talented high school students who belong to FFA chapters into considering veterinary careers in rural practice. The cost is $13,700 this year and $32,000 annually from 2009-2012, after which it will be evaluated.
New AVMA Advocacy Award
The AVMA emphasis on legislative advocacy was reflected in another way. The board approved a recommendation from the Legislative Advisory Committee to create an AVMA Advocacy Award recognizing veterinarians and nonveterinarians for work to advance the AVMA legislative agenda and advocate on behalf of the veterinary profession.
The honor, to be given up to once a year beginning in 2009, will comprise a physical award, $500 honorarium, and travel expenses to the AVMA Annual Convention, where it will be presented.
Incentives for AVMA fellowships
To make the stipends for the AVMA Congressional Science and Executive Branch Fellowships competitive with those of other fellowship programs in the capital, the board agreed to increase them each September to correspond with the Washington, D.C., consumer price index and at a rate not less than three percent. The board decided to implement this on a three-year, trial basis.
Another measure that will make living in Washington more financially viable and encourage applications was the board's approval to reimburse each fellow up to $6,000 per year for their health insurance premiums. Previously the fellowship did not cover insurance costs.
Both recommendations were submitted by the Legislative Advisory Committee.
Online learning program
The board approved establishment of an AVMA online learning program. Professional online courses developed with content from the AVMA Annual Convention and scientific journals will be offered for continuing education credit. AVMA members have increasingly identified online learning as a service they want from the AVMA.
The program is expected to be launched in the fourth quarter of 2008 at a cost of $92,000 this year. Revenue is expected to offset the program costs in subsequent years.
One Health Initiative Task Force
The board approved funding of $12,000 for the Business Working Group of the AVMA One Health Initiative Task Force to meet with potential sponsors about endorsing and financially supporting a business plan being developed by the task force.
The business plan will identify a means of support and sustainability for the one-health initiative. The task force hopes to obtain substantial commitments and endorsements before presenting its report and recommendations to the board this June.
Dr. Roger K. Mahr, who as 2006-2007 AVMA president proposed the task force, later commented, "Engaging the collaborative support of multiple stakeholder partners is essential for the success of the One Health Initiative.
"This approved funding provides a valuable opportunity to utilize the available talents of several individuals while still serving as members of the task force. It will enable the business plan to be conveyed in concert with an extraordinary vision for 'one health' in seeking significant commitments of financial support from potential key partners."
For the strategic plan and all other initiatives it approved in April, the board authorized $67,000 from the contingency fund and $175,100 from the AVMA reserves, including $83,100 from the new Strategic Goal Fund that's earmarked in reserves. The board also approved adding $136,022 to the 2009 draft budget to reflect the costs associated with some of the other newly approved programs.
The House of Delegates will have an opportunity to discuss the budget this July in New Orleans, though the Executive Board has the authority for approving the budget. The 2009 budget provides for $29,707,750 in income and $29,611,772 in expenses, projecting $95,978 in income over expenses.