July 01, 2012

 
Q & A

 Making their case

​Candidates explain why they’re right for AVMA vice presidency

 

Posted on June 20, 2012

On the agenda for the AVMA House of Delegates’ regular annual session this August in San Diego is electing a new AVMA vice president.

Three candidates are running for the office, a two-year position as the AVMA liaison to the Student AVMA and student chapters. It also entails a seat at the AVMA Executive Board as a voting member.

Dr. Jan K. Strother was elected AVMA vice president in 2010, and her term is coming to an end. Hoping to pick up where she left off are Drs. Stacy L. Pritt, James E. Smallwood, and Walter R. Threlfall. Here, each candidate explains why he or she is the best person for the job.

  Dr. Stacy L. Pritt​   Dr. James E. Smallwood​
  Dr. Walter R. Threlfall​

 

Stacy L. Pritt
of Chino Hills, Calif., is director of preclinical affairs for a contract research organization. A 1997 graduate of the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Pritt was nominated as AVMA vice president by the American Society of Laboratory Animal Practitioners.

Why are you running for AVMA vice president?
My aspiration to become AVMA vice president stems from my experience with the AVMA and participation in student and new graduate programs. I see the AVMA’s work in veterinary economics, legislation, and member services, and I have a strong desire to share these efforts with veterinary students to introduce them to the AVMA, build their desire to maintain membership in the AVMA, and prepare them as future leaders within the Association.

What distinguishes you from your opponents?
With my background in private practice, academia, and industry, I would bring a unique perspective to the position of AVMA vice president. I am able to give students practical career advice, no matter what choices they are contemplating. I can see how a potential AVMA policy or initiative affects the profession rather than just one segment. The profession now works within a global economy—a perspective I can bring to the AVMA Executive Board. I have served in leadership roles in state veterinary associations, an allied organization, and international biomedical research groups. This broad experience allows me to bring fresh ideas and concepts that have already been used to improve programs and implement projects within organized veterinary medicine.

Please talk about your work with veterinary students.
Soon after graduating from veterinary school, I started working on programs for veterinary students. Initially, this involved organizing new sessions targeting students and new graduates for the Washington State VMA. Over time, I began organizing the gender and generational sessions at the AVMA Annual Convention with a focus on students and new graduates. After establishing my career in research, I started participating in career-focused sessions at multiple veterinary schools. These sessions highlighted nontraditional veterinary career paths, professional success, and achieving a work-life balance. Most important, I emphasized the interpersonal, business management, and communication skills necessary to make a veterinarian successful. I discussed leadership and business finance at the Student AVMA Symposium in 2004 and 2010. I played a role in the beginning of the master of science in laboratory animal medicine program at the Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. For that program, I taught several inaugural classes, including an introduction to laboratory animal medicine, small mammal nutrition, and regulatory compliance. Finally, I continue to give guest lectures at local preveterinary programs. It is amazingly gratifying to see these students embarking on a wonderful career. Details of my campaign and work with veterinary students are highlighted on my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1258478487). You can also connect with me on LinkedIn and follow me on Twitter at @StacyPrittDVM.

What would you hope to accomplish if you were elected?
As AVMA vice president, I will demonstrate the AVMA’s value to veterinary students. I hope to build excitement about the future of our profession and our organization. I will inform students of the AVMA’s current initiatives and how it is taking on a leadership role concerning economics, legislation, and workforce demand. I also want to listen to students. Veterinary student input is necessary to help the AVMA identify areas for involvement to help with life after veterinary school and fulfill the needs of new-graduate AVMA members. Lastly, I will equip students with the knowledge on how they can participate and become leaders in the AVMA. The AVMA will continue to be a strong organization only as long as it constantly prepares the next generation for participatory and leadership roles.

Is the AVMA’s outreach to veterinary students sufficient, or is there more the Association can do?
There are always opportunities to increase outreach, and many times, the students will let us know how to do so. The current vice president, Dr. Jan Strother, increased support of SAVMA’s operations from a technology standpoint in response to student input. I hope to build on this and identify additional areas of support that the AVMA can provide. Social media and the AVMA’s new website will provide additional avenues for outreach. I see several untapped approaches for student outreach, such as multimedia pres¬entations, increasing student participation on AVMA committees, and dedicated student programming at the AVMA Annual Convention. As the number of AVMA-accredited schools with student chapters of the AVMA increases, thought will need to be given to how to effectively visit the veterinary schools during a vice president’s two-year term in conjunction with the AVMA assistant director for student affairs.

Why should a new veterinary graduate join the AVMA? How does he or she benefit from being an AVMA member?
New graduates can benefit from the AVMA in many ways. From taking advantage of the various AVMA services and products to participating in networking forums, new graduate members can access a wealth of information through AVMA membership. Membership can allow new graduates to take control of their careers, gain insight into new employment opportunities, network, and develop leadership skills. The AVMA needs to work hard to educate veterinary students about all it has to offer.

How would you describe today’s typical veterinary student?
I don’t believe there is a typical veterinary student. Veterinary students come from a wide variety of backgrounds and possess a breadth of life experience that will make our profession stronger. They do have common interests and goals, however. They are interested in their career options and building the skills to make them successful. They are eager for insights from current veterinarians into what to do and what not to do as professionals. They are concerned about the demand for their skills and the increasing competition in a global economy. They are also facing the realities of balancing work with home, and other personal demands. From a professional perspective, they want to promote the highest level of animal welfare while earning enough to pay their student loans and have a fulfilling life. Finally, they want to ensure that the camaraderie that they have built as veterinary students is maintained as professionals and within the AVMA.

What are your thoughts on the rising costs of veterinary education, high veterinary student debt, and relatively low starting salaries for new graduates?
Rising student debt is not an issue unique to veterinary medicine, but our profession must develop effective ways to deal with the situation. Many students enter veterinary school knowing they will be taking on debt, but they may not fully understand the ramifications. What veterinary schools, the AVMA, and others should do is ensure students understand the consequences of that debt and how to manage it. Students should be provided with every available financing and loan repayment option along with instruction in budgeting. Students should also be given practical advice, from practicing veterinarians, about what it takes to be successful and how to achieve the income they need. Veterinary schools should also explore educational models to help achieve cost efficiency.

 
James E. Smallwood
of Raleigh, N.C., is a professor of anatomy at North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine and faculty adviser to the college’s student chapter of the AVMA. A 1969 graduate of the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Dr. Smallwood was nominated as AVMA vice president by the North Carolina VMA.

Why are you running for AVMA vice president?
It is an honor and privilege to be a candidate, nominated by the North Carolina Veterinary Medical Association, for the high office of vice president of the AVMA. I consider this to be both an opportunity to serve my profession and a serious responsibility to represent that profession to the very best of my ability. It is my desire to culminate my career as a veterinarian and teacher by helping to motivate and encourage the next generation of veterinarians to become active participants in the AVMA. You can learn more about me and my campaign by visiting my public Facebook page at www.facebook.com/JamesEdgarSmallwood/photos.

What distinguishes you from your opponents?
The major thing is my long-term experience working on a daily basis with veterinary students, both as a teacher and as a faculty adviser to the Student AVMA chapter at N.C. State University. 
Please talk about your work with veterinary students.
Almost my entire professional life has been devoted to teaching anatomy to veterinary students. But it’s not just about anatomy; it has always been about people—my students. In my role as a faculty adviser to the N.C. State Chapter of the SAVMA, I have had the opportunity to work with the leaders of tomorrow in veterinary medicine. SCAVMA officers are outstanding leaders who recognize the importance of working for the benefit of their classmates and profession. They understand that veterinary medicine is about more than veterinary medicine.

What would you hope to accomplish if you were elected?
My primary goal would be to further strengthen the relationship between the AVMA and the Student AVMA by continuing to keep a finger on the pulse of trends within this younger professional constituency. We must be constantly reviewing what we are doing, lest our efforts become irrelevant to the needs and concerns of those we are trying to serve. I would welcome the opportunity to visit with the various SAVMA chapters around the country and to let the future leaders of our profession know how wonderful a career in veterinary medicine can be. I would embrace the opportunity to share my enthusiasm with the future leaders of the profession.

Is the AVMA’s outreach to veterinary students sufficient, or is there more the Association can do?
There is always more that could be done, but I think the AVMA is pretty well-engaged with nurturing and mentoring the student and younger members of our profession. For example, implementation of the Emerging Leaders program has demonstrated AVMA’s commitment to strengthening the future of the profession and Association by providing opportunities and mentoring for these younger veterinary leaders.

Why should a new veterinary graduate join the AVMA? How does he or she benefit from being an AVMA member?
Because joining the AVMA is the smart thing to do. The AVMA is the one umbrella organization for all veterinarians. Despite the fact that everyone loves veterinarians, there are people constantly trying to pass legislation that would have a negative impact on the welfare of animals and how we function as veterinarians. One of the most important ways we and the public benefit from the AVMA is by the AVMA preventing bad laws and policies from being passed or implemented. The Washington office of the AVMA and the AVMA Political Action Committee deserve a lot of credit for looking out for the best interests of the public and our profession. A more relevant question might be: Why would any veterinarian not join the AVMA?

How would you describe today’s typical veterinary student?
Tired. At least that is the most common response when I ask, “How are you?” I tell them that is the appropriate response; it means they are working hard and losing some sleep to keep up with the rigors of veterinary school. Beyond that, today’s veterinary student is dedicated, ambitious, intelligent, and worried about the future.

What are your thoughts on the rising costs of veterinary education, high veterinary student debt, and relatively low starting salaries for new graduates?
Just like the students, I am worried. I often tell the students, they are buying a house they will never live in. I cannot imagine graduating from veterinary school with over $125,000 in student debt. This is a complex problem related to the current economic recession. Higher education costs have been out of control for a long time. And almost all state-supported veterinary colleges have seen significant cutbacks in state funding—in our case at N.C. State, a reduction of $3.86 million in the past few years. The most obvious ways for veterinary colleges to make up that deficit are to increase tuition and/or to increase the number of DVM students admitted to the program. Many U.S. veterinary schools are doing just that. Coupled with the recent AVMA accreditation of two Caribbean schools and the proposed establishment of up to three new U.S. veterinary schools, there is no doubt that the supply of new graduates is going to increase dramatically within the next three to six years. At the same time, starting salaries for new graduates are on the decline.

It is these economic facts that have our current students worried. Even with the loan-forgiveness and other government-subsidized programs, things do not look good financially for our DVM graduates, at least in the short term. Undoubtedly, many of our graduates are going to have to delay things like starting a family and buying a home. Practice owners are also concerned that their retirement nest egg—the value of their practice, that is—will likely suffer because these younger veterinarians will not be financially able to buy their practice. High student debt not only affects new graduates but also has a domino effect on our entire profession.

Walter R. Threlfall
of Powell, Ohio, taught at The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine for nearly 40 years and is currently a theriogenology consultant. A 1968 graduate of the OSU CVM, Dr. Threlfall was nominated as AVMA vice president by the Ohio VMA.

Why are you running for AVMA vice president? 
I have devoted my professional life to the education of veterinary students. I have been interested in the AVMA vice presidency for approximately 20 years. It is only now I have the time to devote to this office that I believe it deserves. I can bring a lifetime of professional and personal experience to this position. I am intimately familiar with the personal and professional challenges of the veterinarian. Perhaps some of the advice I shared through the years with hundreds of students and recent graduates may not have been valuable at the time, but I hope they would recognize that someone cared deeply about them and wanted them to succeed and find happiness in whatever they did and whichever paths they followed. The position of AVMA vice president is another chance for me to pay back a profession that has given a small-town farm boy the opportunity to have a dream life.

What distinguishes you from the other candidates?
I believe my primary strengths are my multiple animal species and clinical practice experience as well as being a researcher and educator, and my involvement in multiple veterinary medical organizations. I have been able to examine, treat, and consult on clinical cases throughout the United States ranging from cats to rhinoceroses. I have been involved with research and the presentation of educational material on many of these species to preveterinary and veterinary students in addition to continuing education courses for veterinarians. I have spent my professional career educating future and present veterinarians. I have been on the board of health for my county for 21 years and served as president for the last 15. As director of continuing education at The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, I was involved in the planning of more than 40 courses annually. I am now a theriogenology consultant. Why do I feel all of this is important? It gives me the ability to converse with most veterinary students, regardless of their interests. I believe this experience will be of value on the Executive Board when deciding on the issues facing our profession. To find out more about me and my candidacy, visit my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/WalterRThrelfall.

Please talk about your work with veterinary students.
I have been working with veterinary students since
graduating from veterinary college. I have taught in clinics and laboratories and lectured on numerous aspects of veterinary medicine, including anatomy, physiology, and pathology as well as the clinical application of theriogenology. I also advised the Theriogenology Club at OSU for approximately 20 years, even before there was a national student organization. However, the most important aspect of my engagement with students has been in regard to their academic challenges, career choices, internships, residencies, and positions in practice. Many friendships have developed over time, and it has been most rewarding to see the graduates succeed.

What would you hope to accomplish if you were elected?
I have several goals I would like to accomplish if elected to this extremely important position. I would first like to strengthen further the relationship between AVMA and our students. This would be accomplished by listening to student concerns as I have always done and attempting to find workable solutions to their problems. I want their input on all topics, including debt load, curriculum, clinical training, hands-on training opportunities, stress, and mental health. Nothing should be off the table if I am to be the most effective sounding board for them and to identify how AVMA can be of assistance.

Is the AVMA outreach to veterinary students sufficient, or is there more the Association can do?
There is always more that can be done. The important point is what can the Association afford to do? First, we continue to exhibit the fact we care about their problems, acknowledge they are already part of the profession we love, and attempt to assist in finding solutions to their problems. We must continue and encourage additional ways to increase student input. We must encourage all students to express their thoughts and engage in conversations with anyone in organized veterinary medicine who will discuss the ideas and identify ideas with merit, and encourage them to remain involved and to be active future participants. The person most responsible for this communication is the AVMA vice president.

How would you describe today’s typical veterinary student?
I do not believe there is a typical veterinary student, and that is a very good thing. Today’s students have many of the same problems as earlier ones, but the former students didn’t have the extent of debt there is today and had more employment opportunities in a clinical setting. Veterinary students today are much more diverse than before. This is true both personally and professionally. I have always been intrigued with the individualism of our students and have attempted to learn as much as I can about their interests and goals. We are all unique, and it’s incredible when you consider the different backgrounds and talents our next generation of veterinarians brings to stimulate and even revitalize the future AVMA. Embrace it. Don’t fear it.

What are your thoughts on the rising costs of veterinary education, high veterinary student debt, and relatively low starting salaries for new graduates?
I believe there must be continued discussions with our colleges to find methods to at least curtail future tuition increases and to possibly find methods to reduce spending. Now, one could immediately state this is not possible nor consider this an option. It may not be, but our colleges are mostly made up of fellow veterinarians who are hopefully veterinarians first and academicians second. Therefore, working with AVMA and our students to consider some options now would not be time wasted. No matter what we do, if we don’t evolve, we will become extinct. This evolution could also be true of our educational institutions as we know them. Concerning starting salaries, the advice I would give students is be overqualified at graduation. This doesn’t mean you have to do a residency and be boarded in a specialty, but rather, supplement your education with additional knowledge and advanced skills. I encourage those at the outset of their career and those already established to work together for the betterment of the profession.