July 01, 2008


 Outgoing AVMA officers reflect on experiences

President Hammer, Vice President Hendrix talk about their time in office

Posted June 15, 2008
Dr. Gregory S. Hammer
Dr. Gregory S. Hammer

The terms of AVMA President Gregory S. Hammer and Vice President Charles M. Hendrix will end at the close of the annual AVMA Convention in New Orleans this July. While Dr. Hammer will remain on the Executive Board for another year as immediate past president, Dr. Hendrix will have more time to devote to his teaching at Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine. Both Drs. Hammer and Hendrix spoke to JAVMA News about their respective experiences in office—what they achieved, what they learned, and what they hope their legacies at the AVMA will be. 

Dr. Hammer, did you accomplish what you set out to do?

When we started in July 2007, there were some goals that we hoped to accomplish. Among those were improvement of the veterinary workforce, closer relationships with the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, and more emphasis on animal welfare. Although we may never finish all that we had hoped, we have made great strides in all these areas.


"I hope we have started AVMA on a much more proactive course for animal well-being. We must lead and not wait to follow."


First, the Veterinary Workforce Grant program was not included in the final version of the farm bill; however, never before have veterinarians been as active on Capitol Hill. Our members contacted their congressional delegations in record numbers and "made some noise." Congress is finally aware of the crisis in rural veterinary medicine, food supply, and public practice. Congress is actively involved in funding the Food Animal Residue Avoidance Databank and the National Veterinary Medical Service Act.

Second, AVMA has a new, improved working relationship with AAVMC and the veterinary colleges. We have joined forces to improve educational goals, lower student debt, and increase the size of the veterinary workforce. We have also collaborated on common strategic goals. Third, AVMA has taken a new approach to animal welfare issues. No longer will we sit back and let the issues come to us. We are going to make sure that our science-based policies drive the discussion on animal well-being. We will be the leading voice on animal welfare.

Name some of the highlights from your term.

It is hard to name just a few highlights of the year when there were so many! Meeting and talking to so many AVMA members ranks at the top. The opportunity to travel all over our country and interact with veterinarians from all aspects of medicine was an incredible experience. Answering questions, solving problems, and directing AVMA members to our incredible AVMA staff, we hope, made a difference in the way they feel about their national organization. Second, testifying before a congressional subcommittee was exciting. The House of Representatives wants to see NVMSA organized, funded, and working. We assured them that AVMA will do all it can to help. Last, it was great to work with so many students at the Student AVMA symposium. We had the opportunity many times throughout the year to talk with students at different colleges. What a great group of colleagues—our future is in good hands.

What have you learned about the AVMA presidency?

I learned that it is an incredibly demanding job for a year. I learned that you cannot do it alone. My wife, Karen, was a lifesaver. Traveling almost 320 days this year was tiring but fun. I also cannot thank the AVMA staff enough for keeping me prepared for all the interviews, meetings, and appointments. Anola Stowick (of the Convention and Meeting Planning Division) in particular made sure our schedule was always organized and whenever we got to a state or allied meeting that we had a place to stay. We at AVMA are blessed with the greatest staff of professionals.

Has your view of the veterinary profession changed over the past year?

My view of the veterinary profession has not changed and is unwavering. We have the greatest profession on earth. Our colleagues are caring and committed to animal and human health. It has been my honor and privilege to be the president of AVMA and represent this profession. It is a very humbling experience.

Is there anything you would do differently?

If there is anything I would have done differently, it would have been trying to spend more time with more AVMA members. There just were not enough days.

What do you hope your legacy at the AVMA will be?

I don't know that any president really leaves a legacy. I hope that we have been able to stir veterinarians to become more politically active. If our voice is not heard, it will be because we remained silent. Others are ready to speak on behalf of veterinary medicine to legislatures and the public. We cannot let that happen. Last, but not least, I hope we have started AVMA on a much more proactive course for animal well-being. We must lead and not wait to follow.

Dr. Charles M. Hendrix
Dr. Charles M. Hendrix

Dr. Hendrix, did you accomplish what you set out to do?

For those who attended the 2005 Candidates' Introductory Breakfast in Minneapolis, you may remember that I chose as my campaign slogan a quotation by Walt Whitman: "Hitch your wagon to a star!" My own personal star has five points, and I hope that I was able to inspire our talented young veterinary students to demonstrate their commitment to leadership skills, the betterment of society, interprofessional collaboration, health and wellness issues, and communication skills. I have learned that the true shining stars of the veterinary profession are our veterinary students—the veterinarians of the 21st century. Over the past two years, I have enjoyed working with these shining stars—both the Student AVMA and student chapters of the AVMA leadership and with every veterinary student whose path I crossed during my school visits across North America and in the English-speaking Caribbean.

"The veterinary profession will be in very good hands in the 21st century."


Name some of the highlights from your two terms.

I especially enjoyed taking a young veterinary student, Mr. Jon Nielsen from Iowa State University, to dinner during the AVMA convention in Washington, D.C., last summer. It was fun to observe this young man dining with and interacting with Nick Blaney, president of the British Veterinary Association. Jon's eyes were as big as saucers; he seemed to be having the time of his life.

I also enjoyed delivering the commencement address to the class of 2007, Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine. This honor was one of the greatest moments of my life, reminding the new graduates what Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: "What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." It was a double honor in that this address was delivered in 2007—the year that commemorated the centennial of the founding of Auburn's veterinary college. I was truly honored to be chosen to deliver this commencement address.

Finally, I enjoyed hosting more than a thousand veterinary students at the 2008 SAVMA Symposium hosted by Tuskegee University and by Auburn University. I had visited the students at all of the SCAVMAs across the continent, but it was wonderful having them come visit me. Having that many guests in my own backyard is something that I will never forget. Everyone had a wonderful time and called it a most excellent SAVMA symposium. I am so proud of the good work that the Tuskegee University and by Auburn University veterinary students put into this.

What have you learned about the AVMA vice presidency?

The job of the AVMA vice president is very demanding. Traveling to all the veterinary schools can be quite hectic, but the SCAVMA school visits with the students more than make up for the rigors of life on the road. The hardest part of this job is trying to keep up with my talented colleagues on the AVMA Executive Board. I found that part of the job truly exhausting.

Has your view of veterinary students changed?

Yes. I knew they were good, but they are even better than I expected. I wish these beautiful, talented young people all the best. They deserve it! The veterinary profession will be in very good hands in the 21st century.

Is there anything you would do differently?

I do wish that I could have slowed things down; these past two years went by so fast.

What do you hope your legacy at the AVMA will be?

I hope that I will be remembered for always going above and beyond with my students and with my friends and colleagues in the AVMA.

Do you have any parting words?

A wise man once said: "If you ever find a turtle on the top of a fence post, he probably did not get there by himself." To all those wonderful people who helped me get to the top of the fence post—and to my wonderful AVMA family—I say thank you for this wonderful leadership experience.