February 01, 2012

​Q & A

 Forward progress

AVMA board chair on economic and membership initiatives

Posted  Jan. 15, 2012 

Dr. Ted Cohn, AVMA Executive Board chair 

"We are planning to undertake a comprehensive workforce

study to determine the exact state of capacity for available veterinary services

and demand by the public. This study should provide a credible basis from which

we can work to optimize the balance of supply and demand."

Dr. Ted Cohn, AVMA Executive Board chair

Dr. Ted Cohn, chair of the AVMA Executive Board, recently spoke to JAVMA News about progress on the AVMA's veterinary economic strategy and how the Association is working to make the AVMA more responsive to members.

What are a few key issues the Executive Board has dealt with since your election as chair in July?

Probably the biggest issues I have faced since becoming board chair are embodied in beginning to implement three of the goals of our new strategic plan. From the plan have emanated three critical projects. First is our hugely vital, multifaceted economic initiative. Next, we are in the early stages of working with academia to encourage a transformation of our current educational model to one that better suits the needs of students, our members, and the future of the veterinary medical profession. Finally, I believe that organizing and initiating the work of the Governance and Member Participation Task Force has been vital. That group has incredible potential as it relates to the future direction, success, and significance of the AVMA.

How does the board account for the interests of AVMA members in its decisions?

One of my chief goals is for AVMA to never make decisions in a vacuum. By that, I mean we must always gather as many facts—especially the attitudes of our members—before reaching a conclusion about any topic.

The board stays informed of member needs and opinions in numerous ways, utilizing various resources that all fall under what we term "critical issues," or "environmental scanning." Our board is in regular contact with AVMA members from their districts and liaison positions. Their remarks are shared with the full board by means of reports and updates that are continuously submitted to our virtual forum. Additionally, board members and AVMA staff monitor various national and regional electronic and print media, and pass along member concerns gleaned from those resources. Finally, we look at data from surveys conducted by AVMA and other sources. I would like to strongly encourage all of our members not to hesitate to contact their Executive Board representatives, members of the House of Delegates, or AVMA officers whenever they have questions and concerns regarding the AVMA or our profession.


Dr. Cohn
Dr. Ted Cohn chairs a recent meeting of the AVMA Executive Board.
(Photos by R. Scott Nolen)

What's the next stage in the AVMA's veterinary economic strategy?

Because we feel this is such an important and urgent issue, several things are happening concurrently. The new AVMA Veterinary Economics division has very recently become operational. This division is tasked with helping implement initiatives that will be developed by the Veterinary Economics Strategy Committee. This new committee, which will supersede the temporary Economic Vision Steering Committee, will advise AVMA on what must be done so that we can better understand the economic landscape and then construct those means necessary to improve the economics of the veterinary medical profession.

We are planning to undertake a comprehensive workforce study to determine the exact state of capacity for available veterinary services and demand by the public. This study should provide a credible basis from which we can work to optimize the balance of supply and demand. Through this study, we also want to learn what, beyond simple economics, are the drivers that cause clients to seek veterinary medical care and what factors cause them to delay or shun that care.

As a part of AVMA's ongoing critical issue scanning and in an attempt to both educate and engage our members, we will be hosting economic forums at both the North American Veterinary Conference and Western Veterinary Conference. During these events, we will listen to member concerns and answer questions.

I want our members to understand that we are still in the very early stages of attempting to understand this multifaceted problem. It will take time, resources, and collaboration to develop meaningful, lasting solutions. Stay tuned; I am confident the best is yet to come.

Are there any AVMA initiatives you're especially excited about?

Beyond our economic initiative, with which I have been so involved personally, I am most enthusiastic about the Governance and Member Participation Task Force. If this group fulfills their charge—and my expectations—then they will send recommendations to the Executive Board that will begin transforming AVMA into the modern organization we need. An association that will enable us to make strategic decisions in a timely manner; an association that provides more opportunities for participation by more members in important decisions, and one that is generally more representative of our membership as a whole.

What do you see your responsibilities to be as board chair?

While I have many duties to the AVMA, I think it is most important for me to be up-to-date and knowledgeable of the numerous issues confronting our Association. I endeavor to be forward-thinking and well-organized. In our board meetings, I try to foster an atmosphere that encourages a comprehensive, thoughtful, and frank discussion of the issues. Ultimately, I want our board to be able to reach consensus and develop the best solutions for our members, the Association, and the veterinary medical profession.

Has your view of the AVMA changed since your election to the Executive Board in 2006?

Thanks to the vision and efforts of many past and current board members and our outstanding AVMA staff, during my six-year tenure on the board, the Association has certainly made significant advances. We have evolved into a strategically thinking and acting group. Today we are much more cognizant of member concerns. We engage in far less micromanagement of the Association and far more high-level deliberation encompassing voluminous topics significant to the future of our organization and the veterinary medical profession. While I would not exactly characterize AVMA as nimble, we are definitely much more responsive. We are making critical decisions on a timelier basis. Our economic initiative is a good example of this. From the point we instituted the Economic Vision Steering Committee until the board passed the initiative was only four months. I am very proud of our board for seeing the importance and urgency in this situation and acting swiftly, yet very conscientiously.

Anything else you'd like to add?

I want to continue to encourage members to freely communicate their concerns to their board representative. If we don't hear from you, it is much more difficult for us to do the job you want. I also ask our members to take advantage of the many great opportunities to get involved in their AVMA. Our Association and our profession need your ideas, energy, and expertise.