Posted on December 13, 2012
For AVMA President Douglas G. Aspros, hailing from the same state as the birthplace of the AVMA is a happy coincidence.
As the story goes, in 1863—the third year of the Civil War—leaders from the American Veterinary Association, founded nine years earlier, voted to meet June 9-10 in New York City to improve the standing of the nation’s veterinary profession. Nearly 40 veterinarians, veterinary practitioners, and physicians attended the meeting and agreed to form the United States Veterinary Medical Association, now the AVMA.
“I think I would proud to be president of the AVMA at any time, but I think it’s particularly pleasing that 150 years later, a New York veterinarian is again leading the Association,” said Dr. Aspros, owner of Bond Animal Hospital in White Plains, N.Y.
To be sure, veterinary medicine did not start in the United States, as evidenced by Vet2011, which in 2011 celebrated the creation of the first veterinary college, in 1761 in France. But, Dr. Aspros said, the origins of scientific veterinary medicine have their roots in America.
Around the time the AVMA was founded, a number of Scottish-trained veterinarians immigrated to North America and started faculties of veterinary medicine in the U.S. and Canada, including Dr. Andrew Smith of the University of Guelph Ontario Veterinary College and Dr. James Law of Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.
“The veterinarians who founded our faculties came out of Scotland with a scientific perspective on the world, so I look at the history of the AVMA as coinciding with the history of modern scientific veterinary medicine,” Dr. Aspros said.
The past 150 years of veterinary medicine in the United States have yielded discoveries such as the Salmonella genus of bacteria and tick-borne diseases, the founding of veterinary disciplines including epidemiology and public health, and myriad other advances in the areas of vaccine development, innovative surgical procedures, and specialty veterinary medicine.
“I think the difference between Vet2011 and AVMA’s sesquicentennial is that this is really a celebration for us—for veterinary medicine in the U.S.—and for recognizing the degree of leadership we’ve taken in the profession during our (AVMA’s) lifetime,” Dr. Aspros said.
“There’s always a risk that veterinarians in the U.S. will see the world in too narrow and parochial perspective. That aside, I think we can be—and should be—proud of our accomplishments, and the degree to which we’ve set the standard for veterinary practice, education, public health, and animal welfare in a global context.”
He noted that the AVMA has contributed to these advancements by bringing veterinarians together to share opportunities, develop policies, and support education.
“I think the AVMA has met the challenges of changing roles and societal needs throughout its history, as has the profession. We’ve proven ourselves to be pretty adaptable, and I hope we can prove to continue to do so,” Dr. Aspros said.