Leadership conference attendees refine personal skills
Nearly 450 people gathered for the AVMA Veterinary Leadership Conference and regular winter session of the House of Delegates, held Jan. 6 -9 in Chicago.
AVMA President-elect René A. Carlson chaired the HOD session during which delegates approved resolutions authorizing an annual dues increase and recognizing 2011 as World Veterinary Year (page 543). A proposal for open voting in the HOD was voted down, however (page 544).
While delegates worked through their agenda, current and up-and-coming leaders within the veterinary profession attended workshops to sharpen their vision and hone their business and management skills. Dr. Richard DeBowes, co-founder of the popular AVMA Veterinary Leadership Experience for veterinary students, taught a mini-VLE on self-awareness as the foundation for leadership.
At the HOD session, AVMA President Larry M. Kornegay announced that AVMA membership had recently surpassed 81,500 for the first time in the Association's nearly 150-year history. AVMA finances are in better shape now than in recent years, Dr. Kornegay said, and the Executive Board has adopted a balanced budget for 2011.
Dr. Richard DeBowes, co-founder of the AVMA Veterinary Leadership Experience, guides attendees at the Emerging Leaders Networking Event through one of several icebreaker exercises. Later, attendees discussed with AVMA Executive Board members, staff, and each other ways the Association could be more responsive to member needs.
Members of the House of Delegates Committee on Finance discuss the Association's budget prior to an HOD vote approving an increase of $10 each year in membership dues from 2013-2015.
Dr. Kornegay commented on the board's approval of a revised Veterinarian's Oath that emphasizes veterinarians' role in animal welfare and preventing animal suffering. "These changes align our professional oath with our strategic goal of being recognized as a leading authority in animal welfare and animal welfare issues," he told delegates.
Late last year, the AVMA's advocacy efforts resulted in veterinarians being exempted from the administrative burdens that would have been required to comply with the "red flags" rule and in the first awards under the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program being given to veterinarians willing to work in underserved areas in exchange for veterinary school debt relief, Dr. Kornegay noted.
Dr. Kornegay solicited delegate and member input for three major veterinary-related initiatives in the works: the AVMA Model Veterinary Practice Act, the AVMA draft Strategic Plan for 2012-2014, and the North American Veterinary Medical Education Consortium standards. (The comment period for the three initiatives closed in February.) "We want and expect your thoughtful participation to help us shape the future of our profession," he said.
Beginning in 2013, membership dues will increase by $10 annually through 2015. In addition, dues of members in reduced-dues categories will equal 50 percent of the annual dues of regular members.
The Executive Board introduced the dues increase as a resolution to the House of Delegates, and the House Advisory Committee and HOD Committee on Finance recommended approval of the resolution. Delegates passed the measure with just over 90 percent support and without additional discussion.
As the resolution background explained, the AVMA has historically raised membership dues on an irregular basis to align the budget and increasing operating expenses associated with inflation and the needs of the Association. Small, annual increases are more predictable and less onerous for members than large, periodic dues increases, the background stated. Moreover, scheduled annual increases will provide a consistent income allowing the AVMA to strategically plan, budget, and manage for the escalating costs of doing business.
The $10 increase is based on the approximate historical average annual increase in the Consumer Price Index over the past 20 years, according to the background. The financial impact is expected to be additional dues income of $700,000 in 2013, $1.4 million in 2014, and $2.1 million in 2015.
The expiration provision in the resolution allows the House of Delegates to revisit this issue after three years to determine at that time the best course of action.
Dr. Bret Marsh, whose term as AVMA treasurer ends this July, spoke about the Association's economic health. The 2010 budget, which was initially projected to run a major deficit, is now expected to have a surplus totaling more than $1 million. Dr. Marsh credited extraordinary cost-cutting measures by the AVMA Executive Board and staff, a successful annual convention in Atlanta this past year, and better-than-expected investment returns.
"Fiscal year 2010 clearly illustrated the determination and resolve of the AVMA to do right by their members and persevere through the most challenging economic period experienced in decades," Dr. Marsh said.
Revenues of $30.5 million with $29.5 million in expenditures are projected for the 2011 budget, which, according to Dr. Marsh, would allow the AVMA to replenish and maintain the reserve fund. On a related note, the dues adjustment approved by the HOD in January 2010 became effective with the 2011 dues notices, and the renewal rate has reached record pace, he said.
Work on the 2012 budget is under way, and the proposed budget will be presented this April to the Executive Board for approval and to the HOD in July. Dr. Marsh told delegates his forthcoming successor, Dr. Barbara Schmidt, has been engaged in the process.
Dr. Marsh pointed out that with a member-to-staff ratio of approximately 560-to-1, the AVMA is one of the leanest not-for-profits in the country. "Despite this fact, AVMA uniquely provides unprecedented service to its members," he said.
The two candidates for 2011-2012 AVMA president-elect addressed delegates, who will elect one of them during their regular annual session this July in St. Louis.
Dr. Douglas G. Aspros of White Plains, N.Y., spoke first and said, "Those who know me recognize that I'm running for this office because I'm dedicated to veterinary medicine and believe that AVMA plays a really important role in helping us safeguard our profession."
Since announcing his candidacy last year, Dr. Aspros, a practice owner and former AVMA Executive Board member, has been attending veterinary meetings across the country. Members, he said, have voiced concerns about such issues as the economic downturn, corporate practice, the growing number of new graduates from the Caribbean and other foreign veterinary schools, and educational debt, among others.
This is a time of anxiety within the veterinary profession, as are all times of rapid change, and the AVMA has a unique role to protect, defend, and expand the role of veterinary medicine in society, Dr. Aspros said.
The AVMA president is the public face of the profession and must be a credible representative of the Association and the profession, according to Dr. Aspros. "Our president needs to be more than just a figurehead, more than just a cheerleader. Too much is expected of AVMA," he said.
Speaking next was Dr. Gary S. Brown of Princeton, W.Va., a former member of the House of Delegates who recently completed two terms as AVMA vice president.
The AVMA president represents every member of the veterinary profession, Dr. Brown explained, and must therefore be able to relate to each of them. "I feel my experience allows me to do this well," he said.
As AVMA vice president, Dr. Brown was involved in all aspects of veterinary education and mentorship as well as international medicine and public health, he said. "When your president speaks to Congress, allied groups, or foreign organizations, you want someone with hands-on experience to speak passionately and educatedly," he told delegates. "Someone that can speak to the level that the audience dictates."
Dr. Brown's deep admiration for the veterinary profession is why he's seeking the AVMA's highest office. He recounted how, after he was seriously injured by a mare a few years ago, the practice he owns didn't close while he recuperated, thanks to colleagues from West Virginia, Virginia, and even South Carolina who pitched in.
"That is our veterinary profession, and it's what puts the fire in my gut to do what I do and stand here before you and ask that we help others," Dr. Brown said.
Updates and presentations on a number of topics were delivered during the HOD session.
Dr. Willie M. Reed, dean of the Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine, provided a summary of the goals and progress of the North American Veterinary Medical Education Consortium, and he indicated feedback on the NAVMEC draft report will be used in March during development and submission of a final report to the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges. The final report is expected to be implemented in April.
Dr. Reed said a bold vision for veterinary education could help attract and keep the best students, inspire educators, create value for investors, engage stakeholders, and serve animals and people.
Mike Walter, PhD, detection branch chief and BioWatch program manager in the Office of Health Affairs of the Department of Homeland Security, said the program needs veterinarians' help gathering information on zoonotic diseases and the impact of diseases on animals as well as preparing in case someone uses a biological agent in an attack. BioWatch is intended to quickly detect biological terrorism involving airborne agents.
"I think it's critical to the nation that you become involved in this," Dr. Walter said.