Clark Fobian anticipates role as AVMA president
||Dr. Clark K. Fobian
Dr. Clark K. Fobian is ready.
After six years as District VII representative on the AVMA Executive Board and nearly a year as president-elect, the small animal practitioner from Sedalia, Mo., is ready to be the face of the AVMA and the veterinary profession. Dr. Fobian will succeed Dr. Douglas G. Aspros as AVMA president at the end of the AVMA Annual Convention July 23 in Chicago.
For Dr. Fobian, the AVMA presidency isn’t about the notoriety. Rather, it’s a platform to promote a profession he has spent more than 30 years of his life serving. Recently he spoke to JAVMA News about his plans as president and what he expects in the coming year.
Why did you run for AVMA president-elect?
I joined this profession as the result of a strong affinity for animals. That innate fondness was manifest at a young age, and I eventually became a biologist, and, subsequently, a veterinarian. For over three decades, I have attended to the medical needs of animals while concurrently helping those who cared for them. Later in my career, I was fortunate to be afforded the opportunity to protect and advance my profession through involvement in organized veterinary medicine. I find this voluntary service to be every bit as gratifying as the feelings experienced when administering to the needs of animals. So why did I run for AVMA president-elect? Simply put, working through the AVMA, I hope to facilitate a societal and economic environment where dedicated individuals can have a fulfilling and rewarding career as a veterinarian. That’s what it’s all about for me.
What qualities, experience, and perspective do you bring to the office?
I don’t enjoy talking about myself, but I’ve been told I’m analytical and that I can look at a problem from many different angles and chart a course that seems most appropriate. I’m diplomatic and strive for collaborative outcomes. I am practice-orientated. I’m grounded in clinical practice and what happens in that realm. The small business principles I’ve learned over the years are applicable to practitioners throughout the United States. I believe we all live to make a difference, and I accept the challenge of advancing the needs of our profession as president of this outstanding Association.
What do you see your job as AVMA president being?
In my opinion, the primary role of the AVMA president is spokesperson for the veterinary profession. I may not be the most articulate or charismatic person, but I’ll spend the next year doing my best to represent the AVMA to our membership and the public. This will involve communicating all the ways AVMA is working to advance not just the profession but also animal welfare and world health as well as dealing with whatever challenges rise along the way. The AVMA president is a facilitator of the Association’s strategic initiatives and proponent of continual improvement within the organization. I also see myself participating in evaluations of our governance structure and providing insights when I can.
Are there things you hope to achieve as president?
My campaign theme was “The WE of our profession: Workforce and Economics.” Now, the AVMA is emphasizing veterinary economics and business issues, and this is exactly where we need to be. When I first came on the Executive Board, I thought these are areas where AVMA needs to be involved. Our membership is composed of thousands of small business owners, and I’ve long believed AVMA should take a more active role in helping them succeed, whether it’s lobbying Congress or the statehouse or working with the (U.S.) Chamber of Commerce. As AVMA president, I will continue focusing on these important issues and work collaboratively toward solutions that promote efficiency within the veterinary workforce and make veterinary student debt more manageable.
“I believe we all live to make a difference, and I accept the challenge of advancing
the needs of our profession as president of this outstanding Association.”
Dr. Clark K. Fobian, 2013-2014 AVMA president
How do you feel about taking office during the AVMA’s commemoration of its 150th anniversary?
This is a grand occasion, and I feel fortunate to have my installation during this celebration. At the same time, it makes me feel humble and appreciative. How lucky are we to be recipients of 150 years of loyalty and dedication bequeathed to this Association by those generous and farsighted individuals who have preceded us?!
You are coming into office at a time when the veterinary profession has seen better days. Will these economic challenges shape your message as president?
I totally reject the notion that our profession has seen the best of its days. When the automobile replaced the horse, people said the veterinary profession was done, but look at us today. This profession has intellectual capacity and creative resources to adapt to whatever challenges it faces. Veterinarians provide a perspective and a service that no other profession can replicate. New veterinarians can be discouraged by the hardships they’re facing, but they should understand that being a veterinarian has never been easy. The reality is that each generation of veterinarians is confronted by challenges specific to their time. Success is possible and likely through innovative perseverance, however, and I want recent graduates and veterinary students to know they’ve chosen a fulfilling and rewarding career.
And the 2013 U.S. Veterinary Workforce Report projection that veterinary services will be underutilized for the next several years?
This condition of surplus capacity in the delivery of veterinary services appears to be an inescapable reality, no matter how the issue is framed. That’s the bad news. The good news is we’re gathering data that can be used to develop strategies that specifically address the problem rather than working with anecdotal assumptions. I was at a recent AVMA committee meeting where a colleague told me he knew veterinary services were being underutilized, and he couldn’t understand why the AVMA spent so much money on a study to confirm it. I had to agree—there’s nothing in the study that I found totally surprising. Thus, his question was certainly valid, and as an AVMA officer, I have to justify this workforce study. I think of the situation from a clinical practitioner’s perspective: When presented with a cat with all the clinical symptoms of diabetes, a veterinarian can often make a very accurate presumptive diagnosis without performing any tests. But I’m not going to do that; I’m going to run the laboratory tests to confirm my suspicions and document the severity and extent of the disease process. That’s good medicine. Likewise with the AVMA study, now that we know there’s excess capacity in the veterinary workforce, we can identify and quantitate the variables to effectively prescribe “treatments” that have a chance of successfully impacting a positive economic response for our members.
What would you say to reassure veterinarians and veterinary students who may question whether their professional association is doing enough to help them?
If the question is ‘Are we doing enough for them?’ the answer will always be ‘No.’ We can never do enough for those we care about, and this Association does not possess absolute influence and power, nor does it have unlimited resources. However, if the question is ‘Are we doing everything we possibly can at this time for them?’ then the answer is emphatically ‘Yes.’ Consideration for the new veterinary graduate or new member drives every aspect of our decision-making process. One of AVMA’s highest purposes is ensuring the future of our profession.
You were elected to the AVMA Executive Board seven years ago. In that time, how have you seen the Association change?
Structurally, the Executive Board has remained much the same. The most noticeable changes have been operational; a much greater percentage of time and deliberation is being given to environmental scanning and strategic discussion before any matters are acted upon. In other areas, our Governmental Relations Division seems to have greater influence each congressional year. Likewise, our State Legislative and Regulatory Affairs Department is having a greater impact at the state level. AVMA has become more transparent and responsive to members through enhancements to its website and using such social media outlets as NOAH, Facebook, and Twitter.
Is there anything else you want to discuss?
I could go on and on about how AVMA is an unparalleled organization. However, my concluding sentiments are quite simple. Let us remember who we are as a profession, what we do as a profession, and why we find it in our hearts to do the things we do. Members think they want various benefits from the AVMA, be that insurance, a convention, or a journal. But ultimately, what they need is a healthy, sustainable profession, and that’s the most important member benefit AVMA provides.