As AVMA president, what have you been hearing from constituents?
Dr. Larry R. Corry
2009-2010 AVMA president,
Animal welfare is a big issue, especially for production animals. I think producers are doing things to fall in line with better welfare practices. It's not something that can happen overnight, but we probably really need to get more aggressive with it at the AVMA. Some of this is forced by animal welfare organizations. They work in more than one way, not just by staging boycotts or filming bad practices. They're putting pressure on companies that use the product, causing companies to go back to producers and say, "Well, it's going to have to be done this way if we purchase your product." Pressure also is coming from the general public. Some things are just going to take longer to work out. I don't think we should go overboard. Too many regulations and changes may not be financially feasible, so that we drive producers out of work or run production to another country where the humane standards won't be nearly as good as they are here.
There's concern among AVMA constituents about what's going to happen with human health insurance, how this national package is going to impact veterinary practices. Providing health insurance, paying part of it, or keeping up with a lot of records could be really tough for small businesses.
There's a lot of concern across the country about the debt of veterinary students. The big fear is that the debt is getting so large that when students come out of school, their starting salaries aren't enough to service their debt. We've got to work something out, or we're going to lose the best and the brightest students.
How has the AVMA made progress on your priorities of education, advocacy, and diversity?
The AVMA is a partner with the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges and regulatory boards to carry out the work of the North American Veterinary Medical Education Consortium. The purpose of this consortium is to look down the road maybe 15, 20 years—maybe more—to see how to meet societal needs for veterinary medicine. Hopefully, we can have a coming together of minds. We'll determine the number of veterinarians that might be needed and where they might be needed, say, in public health or food animal medicine. There's a lot involved—probably changing the curricula, maybe recommending tracks.
We have a bill in Congress right now to build more facilities at veterinary schools. Improving education is just part of the AVMA's legislative advocacy. In Washington, D.C., we have a lot of bills that we're actively trying to pass or defeat in the best interests of veterinary medicine. Along with the AVMA Governmental Relations Division, we do have a lobbying team in Washington. So far as the states are concerned, the AVMA State Legislative and Regulatory Affairs Department monitors state bills and gives assistance to state VMAs that need help trying to pass or defeat legislation.
As far as the diversity of the profession, the AVMA Executive Board received a report in November from a staff working group that came out with some recommendations of what we can do to improve in this area. The Executive Board was in favor of carrying through on this diversity plan, which falls within the AVMA's strategic plan. If we're not moving fast enough or accomplishing what we need to, then there are some other suggestions that I'm going to make to the board a little later in the year.