April 01, 2009


 AVMA Answers

Leading the Executive Board in a challenging time

How has the economic downturn affected the actions of the Executive Board?

Dr. David L. McCrystle

Dr. David L.

chair of the AVMA
Executive Board,

The board has the philosophy of looking at every budget item, using members' money the best we can. At the November 2008 meeting, for example, we looked at the AVMA Annual Convention in terms of finances and it being a member benefit. Should the convention break even, as is the current policy, or should it make a profit? During the April 2009 meeting, the board will consider recommendations from the Task Force on Future Roles and Expectations regarding travel by AVMA volunteers.

Advertising revenue is down for the AVMA's journals, and I think that's just a sign of the economic times. Investment income did take a hit. We've always used investment income to help avoid an increase in dues. The challenge is to balance keeping AVMA progressive and being fiscally responsible. But I'm a believer that you cannot cut staff. Our staff is our biggest expense, but it's also really valuable. If we reduce AVMA staff, we reduce service to members.

What other challenging issues have you faced as board chair?

Even when I was first elected to the board, the big challenges were prioritization of goals and planning for the future. I served on the Long-Range Planning Committee and Strategic Planning Committee. Now I've asked the Executive Board members: "If you were going to redefine AVMA, what are the core values you would have?"

Looking at just the governance, is the structure appropriate for the strategic goals and appropriate for AVMA? I asked board members: "If you were going to redesign AVMA, what councils and committees would you keep?" Dr. W. Ron DeHaven, the AVMA's chief executive officer, asked staff the same question. Times change, needs change.

Another AVMA challenge is animal welfare issues. I've been involved in animal welfare since I was with the American Association of Small Ruminant Practitioners looking at the tail docking of sheep. I think you're looking at a change at AVMA. We are becoming a leader, with the positions we took recently against ear cropping and tail docking in dogs and against raising veal calves in housing systems that severely restrict movement.

Our general animal welfare principles speak very well to where AVMA is and should be. We have to remember that society is changing. It's important that veterinarians work together to arrive at what's best for animals, for us, and for society. And I think we're having a lot better discussions than we used to. As a small profession, we need to have good discussions that allow us to be unified as a group.

The welfare issue that bothers me the most right now is the exportation of the production of animals used for food. We don't have any control of the welfare then. We must support the production of animals for food, but in a humane manner.

While I've served as board chair, one thing that has not been a challenge is the board. The board has been really hard-working. We've met in between our regular meetings, had conference calls, done electronic agendas. We've done a lot of neat stuff.

What would you like to add as your time on the board draws to a close?

As a single practitioner, the camaraderie of working in organized veterinary medicine—no matter what level—has always recharged me. As far as AVMA, it's family. And I hope somewhere along the line I did make some difference in the time that I've served, all the years in the House of Delegates as well as the six years on the board.