March 01, 2011


 Bonjour, AVMA delegates!

By R. Scott Nolen 
Posted Feb. 18, 2011 

Claude Bourgelat, the father of modern veterinary medicine, made a surprise appearance at the regular winter session of the AVMA House of Delegates, Jan. 7.

Actually, it was Dr. Greg S. Hammer, former AVMA president, dressed as the Frenchman who established the first veterinary school in Lyon, France, in 1761.

"Dr. Bourgelat" graced the HOD session to kick-start the U.S. veterinary profession's celebration of 2011 as World Veterinary Year in honor of the school's 250th anniversary. Founding of the institute, known today as the National Veterinary School of Lyon, is recognized not only as the beginning of veterinary education but also of the veterinary profession and comparative biopathology. 

The father of veterinary medicine, Claude Bourgelat,
aka Greg Hammer, gets World Veterinary Year
started in the AVMA House of Delegates.

The slogan for the anniversary, also referred to as Vet 2011, is "Vet for health, Vet for food, Vet for the planet!" The opening ceremony for Vet 2011 was held Jan. 24 in Versailles, France, with a number of international veterinary officials in attendance, including Dr. Ron DeHaven, AVMA CEO and executive vice president.

Congress has marked the occasion with a proclamation declaring 2011 as World Veterinary Year.

As Bourgelat, Dr. Hammer expounded on the veterinary profession's humble beginnings. "We admitted our first students in 1762, and there were no criteria other than evidence of baptism and the ability to read and write," he said. "We didn't even have an age requirement. In fact, we had an 11-year-old boy as a student in 1762."

At the time when the Lyon veterinary school was founded, rinderpest was ravaging France's livestock, Dr. Hammer said, and veterinarians were badly needed to preserve the animals from disease. "Then, just as now, veterinarians proved they are critical to protecting livestock and the food supply," he said.

"Through the years, our profession has played a critical role in society," Dr. Hammer continued. "We and our colleagues are guardians of food safety, public health, animal health and welfare, and the human-animal bond. I am also honored by our profession's dedication to the advancement of science."

Following Dr. Hammer was Adèle Martial-Gros, the scientific attaché with the French embassy in Chicago. France, she said, is honored to be recognized as the birthplace of veterinary medicine. "We join you in celebrating 250 years of veterinarians as guardians of animal health and welfare, human health, and environmental health," Martial said.

During the HOD session, delegates voted unanimously in favor of a resolution submitted by the AVMA Executive Board calling on Association members to join with their veterinary colleagues around the world to celebrate World Veterinary Year.

The resolution calls for "appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities to bring attention to the contributions the veterinary profession has made and continues to make to animal health, public health, animal welfare, and food safety."

Among the many ways AVMA is commemorating Vet 2011 is a booth highlighting World Veterinary Year at veterinary meetings across the country, a student exchange between U.S. veterinary schools and the National Veterinary School of Lyon, and a symposium at the AVMA Annual Convention in St. Louis titled "World Veterinary Year: 250 Years of Improving Animal and Human Health," among others.