AVMA House of Delegates considering amendments regarding authority to establish AVMA policy
posted May 31, 2011
At the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine and many
veterinary colleges across the country, students in each incoming
class recite the Veterinarian's Oath during a white coat ceremony.
The AVMA House of Delegates would approve all changes to the Veterinarian's Oath and would have more authority over the establishment of other AVMA policies if the HOD passes certain proposed amendments to the AVMA Bylaws.
The Executive Board, which consists of individuals who represent the 11 EB districts along with the AVMA officers, now establishes AVMA policy between the twice-yearly meetings of the HOD, which consists of delegates representing the state VMAs and various other veterinary organizations.
In November 2010, the board approved revisions to the Veterinarian's Oath. Some HOD members reacted with concern that the board could revise the oath, despite the HOD being, as stated in the bylaws, "the principal body within the Association responsible for establishing policy and providing direction for matters relating to veterinary medicine."
Organizations in the HOD have proposed three bylaws amendments in response to those concerns. One proposed amendment would specifically give authority to the HOD to approve all revisions to the Veterinarian's Oath. Another proposed amendment would direct the board to consult with the HOD before establishing any policy relating to veterinary medicine. An additional proposed amendment would label policies that receive board approval as interim policies until they receive HOD approval.
The HOD will deliberate on these and eight other proposed bylaws amendments during its 2011 regular annual session, July 14-15 in St. Louis. The duties of the HOD include approving all changes to the bylaws.
The board submitted eight bylaws amendments for consideration by the HOD. The amendments relate to a new path to AVMA membership, participation of the president and president-elect in AVMA entities (two amendments), the charge of the Council on Public Health and Regulatory Veterinary Medicine, the disciplining of AVMA members, and officer vacancies (three amendments).
For more than half a century, veterinary students have recited the Veterinarian's Oath during commencement ceremonies.
The HOD adopted the Veterinarian's Oath in 1954 and approved revisions in 1969, and the Executive Board approved revisions in 1999 and 2010. The latest revisions identify animal welfare as a priority of the veterinary profession (see JAVMA, Jan. 1, 2011, page 15).
The Puerto Rico and Vermont VMAs, with a number of co-sponsors, proposed the bylaws amendment that would define the duties of the HOD to include approving all changes to the oath.
"The AVMA is the author of the Veterinarian's Oath and should take ownership of this pledge in its bylaws and establish the method for which the Oath can be revised," according to the statement about the proposed amendment. "The House of Delegates authored the original Oath and should be the body to approve any future revisions. Prior to their approval our constituents should have an opportunity to review any proposed changes in open and direct dialogue with their delegates."
Dr. Walter E. Colon-Lilley, alternate delegate for Puerto Rico, said sponsors of the proposed amendment do not want to revisit previous revisions to the Veterinarian's Oath but do want the HOD to approve any future revisions.
"We feel that the oath itself is something that should transpire throughout generations without needing many changes," he said. "We feel that it should be able to stand changes in what the profession does, by its own statement. So we don't feel that it should need a frequent review of wording."
Dr. Karen M. Bradley, alternate delegate from Vermont, said many HOD members did not realize that the AVMA was the author of the oath until the most recent revisions of the oath by the board. Adding the oath to the bylaws would allow the AVMA and specifically the HOD to lay claim to that authorship, she said.
Authority to establish policy
The Utah VMA proposed the bylaws amendment that would direct the board to determine AVMA policy "after consultation with the House of Delegates on any matters relating to veterinary medicine."
According to the statement about the proposed amendment, "The HOD should receive and consider all major policy changes that concern the practice of veterinary medicine, and especially those that affect the day to day practice of our constituents and the oaths they take."
Dr. Roddy C. Sharp, Utah delegate, noted that the HOD currently must pass a resolution if it wishes to reverse a policy that the board approved.
"In the AVMA, there are two bodies that can make policy, and that seems kind of redundant," he said. "Some of those things should just be presented to the House and be debated once."
The Connecticut VMA proposed the bylaws amendment that would label policies that receive board approval as interim.
The proposed amendment would add the following line to the description of the board's authority: "All policies that are changed regarding matters of veterinary medicine will be considered interim policies until the close of the next House of Delegates session at which time, if not changed by the House, will become AVMA Policy."
"We feel that the oath itself is something that should transpire throughout generations without needing many changes."
Dr. Walter E. Colon-Lilley,
Alternate Delegate for Puerto Rico
Dr. Stewart W. Beckett, Connecticut delegate, said he does not think the HOD has time at twice-yearly meetings to debate every policy regarding veterinary medicine that comes before the board throughout the year. He believes that the HOD does have enough time to review policies before they become final, however, to ensure that they represent the thinking of the delegates.
Path to membership
On a recommendation of the Member Services Committee, the board initiated a bylaws amendment that would add a new path to membership in the AVMA via endorsement by a veterinary specialty organization.
All members must receive an endorsement before joining the AVMA, with the bylaws specifying three endorsement sources. The Association may grant membership to a veterinarian who is a member in good standing of an organization represented in the HOD, who receives the endorsement of two voting members of the Association, or who is a graduating student who is a member in good standing of a student chapter of the AVMA.
With the support of the Bylaws Committee, the Member Services Committee proposed amending the bylaws to state that the Association may grant membership to a diplomate in good standing of a veterinary specialty organization recognized by the AVMA American Board of Veterinary Specialties.
On a recommendation from the Bylaws Committee, the board initiated an amendment that would clarify the participation of the president and president-elect in AVMA entities.
Currently, the bylaws state that the president and president-elect each "shall be a member, without vote, of all councils, except the Judicial Council, and committees." The amendment would revise the bylaws to reflect the fact that the president and president-elect are in actuality "invited to participate, without vote, on all entities that report to the Executive Board, except the Judicial Council."
On a related recommendation from the Bylaws Committee, the board initiated an amendment that would exclude the president and president-elect from participation in the Council on Education, which accredits schools and colleges of veterinary medicine.
According to the background to the recommendation, the exclusion of the president and president-elect from participation in the Council on Education would help strengthen the independence of the accrediting body from the board.
On a recommendation from the Council on Public Health and Regulatory Veterinary Medicine, the board initiated a bylaws amendment to alter the charge of the CPHRVM.
With the amendment, the CPHRVM seeks to update its charge to maintain its relevance to current and emerging issues involving public health and regulatory veterinary medicine.
On a recommendation from the Judicial Council, the board initiated a bylaws amendment that would clarify language referring to grounds for disciplining of AVMA members.
The Judicial Council disciplines members only in response to complaints. Grounds for discipline include failure to comply with the AVMA Bylaws and the Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics, any felony, criminal activity relevant to veterinary practice, disciplinary action by a licensing body, and conduct prejudicial to the best interests of, or inconsistent with the purposes of, the AVMA.
On recommendations from the Bylaws Committee, the board initiated three bylaws amendments that would clarify how the AVMA handles officer vacancies. The amendments would address details of handling vacancies in the offices of president, president-elect, and immediate past president.