July 01, 2014

 

 AVMA presidential candidates, in their own words

​Dee, Kinnarney lay out their visions for the profession and AVMA

Posted June 18, 2014 

On July 25 in Denver, the AVMA House of Delegates will elect either Dr. Larry G. Dee of Hollywood, Florida, or Dr. Joseph H. Kinnarney of Reidsville, North Carolina, as next in line for the AVMA presidency, after incoming president Dr. Ted Cohn. Both 2014 president-elect candidates are companion animal practitioners and small business owners with decades of volunteer service in organized veterinary medicine. In the following interviews with JAVMA News, each candidate explains why he should lead the AVMA.
 
What do you hope to accomplish as AVMA president?
Dr. Dee responds:

After my term as AVMA president, I hope to be able to say that I made a difference—a difference in the abilities of the AVMA to serve its members and, more importantly, a difference in the lives of future veterinarians. I hope that they will enjoy the profession, both personally and financially, as much as my generation has. If I can implement the goals of the current and future strategic plan, I will have made that difference.
 


Dr. Larry G. Dee
I served on the task force that developed the current strategic plan whose goals and objectives, if I may paraphrase, include the following: strengthen the economics of the veterinary medical profession, transform veterinary medical education, promote animal welfare, advance scientific research and discovery, and enhance membership participation and engagement. Of those five goals, I think we’ve achieved gains on the latter three. Enhancing membership participation is an ongoing process. While we have worked to strengthen client demand through the Partners for Healthy Pets program, we have made little impact on the supply side of the equation. A North American Veterinary Medical Education Consortium–like program, focusing on the economics of our educational system, may be productive. We have the finest veterinary medical education system in the world but must ask two questions: Is there a more cost-effective way to produce a ‘day-one ready’ practitioner, and will the public continue to pay that practitioner enough to manage her student debt and have a comfortable living? 
 
The Association is committing significant time this year to develop new strategic goals with extensive input from the
membership and the volunteer leadership. These goals should be measurable, realistic, specific, and achievable. I have told the Student AVMA that I would like to have our government realize that a strong, viable veterinary community is an integral part of our national defense. However, this is a personal dream, and currently not an achievable goal.
 
What makes you the best candidate for the office?
I served as president of the Florida VMA at the urging of my colleagues. I agreed to serve on the World Small Animal
Veterinary Association executive board because if I did not, North America would not have been represented on that board. Later I served as WSAVA president. Like most of my colleagues, I am reluctant to toot my own horn, but I think I am the better candidate because of my experience—my experience as president of my state association, two national associations, and one international association. I have a strong desire to serve. If elected, I am committed to make a difference in our profession.
 
I have previously demonstrated the skills needed for the position. I have worked with students, recent graduates,
specialists, faculty, and other volunteer leaders. As the president of a variety of associations, I have served as their
voice both within and without the profession, advocating for their cause. I have the experience required to fulfill the
requirements of the job and the desire to do it.
 
“Our opportunities are closely bound to change—how we change our models of doing business, how we educate a day-one–ready veterinarian, and how we structure the cost of advanced education in general; all will affect our professional viability.”
  -Dr. Larry G. Dee, 2014 AVMA president-elect candidate
 
What qualifications and experiences would you bring to the position?
I have served and moved through the chairs in many associations, serving as president of two local associations, my state association, the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners, the American Animal Hospital Association, and most recently, as president of the World Small Animal Veterinary Association. I’ve also served for 14 years in the AVMA House of Delegates, working to bring forward the best legislation for the membership and the Association. As a member of the American Board of Veterinary Specialties for nine years, I participated in the review of existing specialty colleges and in the formation of new specialty colleges. I have served as an active member of the AVMA Executive Board and have a thorough understanding of how the Executive Board and the Association function. In my practice, I have worked with recent graduates through our internship program and am deeply concerned about their issues. As chair of the FVMA College Advisory Committee since 2000, I have worked with deans and faculty on issues ranging from curriculum changes to a new building campaign.
 
In your opinion, what is the AVMA president’s primary responsibility?
The primary responsibility of the AVMA president is to be the voice of the Association, with the fiduciary responsibility to
represent the views as designated by the Executive Board and the House of Delegates. Obviously, this includes the
responsibility to act in the best interests of the membership. In addition, the president has a responsibility to actively
and vigorously participate on the Board of Governors and to use the presidential bully pulpit to advocate for the profession as a member of the Executive Board.
 
What are the most important challenges and opportunities facing the veterinary profession?
We live in a time of great challenge and great change. The most important challenges relate to the economics of the
profession, particularly student debt, oversupply of the workforce, and the willingness of the public to pay appropriately
for our services. Additionally, we are threatened by not-for-profits and other organizations that would impinge on the
practice of veterinary medicine. Decreased state funding for our schools and decreased research funding are challenges that we cannot overlook. Our opportunities are closely bound to change—how we change our models of doing business, how we educate a day-one–ready veterinarian, and how we structure the cost of advanced education in general; all will affect our professional viability. Opportunities in nontraditional practice settings—whether in industry, public health, or in niche practices—exist and can be expanded.
 
As president, how would you direct the Association’s response in these areas?
As an association, we have the responsibility to address the challenges that impact our profession. While we have no direct authority to bring to bear on many of these issues, we can act as a catalyst for change with those entities that have the authority to impact our profession. Specifically, legislative advocacy is our greatest strength. Through our legislative
efforts and our public relations efforts, we can create change. Curriculum changes and additional training can open new
business opportunities for veterinary graduates. Evaluating and endorsing improved business models can improve the finances of our membership.
 
The Association has formed a new Veterinary Economics Division, which is working to define those factors that result in
economic success. I think these efforts will result in business tools and concepts that our members can use to improve their practices. We must continue to educate incoming veterinary students about the hazards of debt accumulation and the deleterious effects of compound interest on the debtor. Currently, financial information is offered during the first year of school but not fully understood until the final year, when the debt has already accumulated.
 
Explain how the ongoing efforts to reform AVMA’s governance structure benefits the average member.
The primary purpose of reforming the AVMA governance structure is to make it more efficient, more nimble, and more responsive to the needs of the membership. The goal is to improve communication both from and to the membership so that we can provide the services that are most desired. Advocates for change think that a leaner organizational structure can more effectively serve the members. Members of the House of Delegates say that they provide membership input, they function as a leadership ‘farm team,’ and they provide a voice for our smaller constituencies. Both sides are convinced of the validity of their views.
 
Another, unrelated governance concern that I have relates to the ability of our young members to serve, considering the
changing demographics and economics of our profession. The advent of production-based compensation, the nonpractice obligations of many women veterinarians, combined with the attitudes of the Y Generation, encourage us to reduce the time and economic sacrifices we ask of our volunteer leaders. While our new and recent graduates are enthusiastic participants in organized veterinary medicine, many will be unable to afford the time and economic commitment that their forebears have made. We must restructure our leadership tasks to ensure that our future leaders can afford to participate.

Any final thoughts?
One of our greatest assets is serving as an umbrella organization for our membership. However, as we try to be inclusive to this varied, sometimes contradictory constituency, we can be perceived as being poorly responsive to their needs. Taking a position under these circumstances can be controversial; there is always someone to disagree with the decision, no matter how well thought out, how deliberative, or how well researched it was. Progress always entails some risk. Historically, I think we have tended to make errors of omission rather than errors of commission. We have all seen this in practice—the old dog that desperately needs dental prophylaxis and is an acceptable anesthetic risk, yet the client would rather not make an error of commission and will instead allow the dog to live with an infected mouth. I think our Association, in recent years, has been willing to commit to more risk in the decision-making process, has been willing, after due deliberation, to accept risk as an integral component of effective leadership, and that we have benefited from that commitment. 
 

 
What do you hope to accomplish as AVMA president?

Dr. Kinnarney responds:
There are two major areas that the AVMA must focus on. The first is the economic issues facing our profession. Veterinary student debt is at an all-time high and will continue to worsen, especially since the government is no longer subsidizing interest rates on educational loans while students are still in school or furthering their education through internships and residencies. Raising incomes of all veterinarians is essential to our profession’s economic health. To do this, we must educate the American public about the value veterinarians bring to their quality of life. From companion animal, food animal, public health, food safety, biosecurity, research, and many other modalities, veterinarians bring much value to the American public. As a profession, we must be more aggressive about staying in the public eye. 


Dr. Joseph H. Kinnarney
The second focus area is AVMA’s communications. It is apparent that we have not been effective in communicating to our members all the things that AVMA does for them and our profession—from advocacy, college accreditation, economics, student services, to insurances and education. We must take a close look at how we communicate and then do better.
 
What makes you the best candidate for the office?
I have been an active participant in organized veterinary medicine since being student chapter AVMA president at Cornell and then Student AVMA president. Since then, I have held leadership positions with the North Carolina VMA and spent 17 years in the AVMA House of Delegates, two years as AVMA vice president, and six years on the Executive Board. My main focuses as an AVMA board member were students and recent graduates and political advocacy. During my service on the Executive Board, I chaired the Task Force on AVMA Programs for Students and Recent Graduates, which was a highlight of my career. From this came the Early Career Development Committee that has been a tool for recent graduates to use while addressing issues that face them in the early years of professional life. In addition, I am a practicing veterinarian facing the day-to-day issues that my colleagues face. I manage multiple veterinarians and see firsthand what economic hurdles they must overcome.
 
What qualifications and experiences would you bring to the position?
As a private practitioner, I took a two-person hospital in 1981 and grew it to a five-hospital, 18-veterinarian group.
Besides the professional qualifications I already mentioned, I have served on a community bank board for 26 years, helping it to grow from an $80 million bank to a $2 billion-plus bank, one of the largest in North Carolina. I also served on a community hospital board and watched how the changes in health care affected the medical profession.
 
In your opinion, what is the AVMA president’s primary responsibility?
The AVMA Bylaws states that the president is the official spokesperson for the Association. As president, I would fill this
role by not only communicating to our members but also communicating to the general public. As I said earlier, we must keep educating the public about the value veterinarians bring to them. It is also essential that the AVMA president listens to Association members and reports to the Executive Board their concerns and needs.
 

“There has never been a time in the history of the world that we had so much knowledge and skill. We must use this and grow all services of veterinary medicine.”

-Dr. Joseph H. Kinnarney, 2014 AVMA president-elect candidate 

What are the most important challenges and opportunities facing the veterinary profession?
The economic issues facing our profession are by far the most challenging. However, I am an optimistic person. Our glass is half full, not half empty. A hundred years ago, I am sure veterinarians thought the profession was over when cars replaced the horse and mule. Instead, we grew and adapted to the changing needs of the American public. Forty years ago, the dentists’ business dropped significantly with the use of fluoride. They were successful in growing their services and improving the economic viability of their profession. We can do the same. There has never been a time in the history of the world that we had so much knowledge and skill. We must use this and grow all services of veterinary medicine.
 
As president, how would you direct the Association’s response in these areas?
As president, I would keep the economic issues at the front of all discussions. From the Executive Board to the House of
Delegates, state associations, and allied groups, we must all come to the table, address these issues, and look for solutions to these complex problems. Our economic future is dependent on it. We, as the leaders of our Association, must be active in listening to our members and bring their thoughts and needs to the table.

Explain how the ongoing efforts to reform AVMA’s governance structure benefits the average member.
It is important that we have a governance structure that allows input from every member. We are a small association and must have a structure that allows input but keeps us unified. By doing this, all members gain.
 
Any final thoughts?
Together, we are the future. If elected, I will do my best to carry out the above objectives and keep us unified.