October 15, 2015


 Promoting the science and art of veterinary medicine

JAVMA aims to cover the broad scope of the veterinary profession

Posted Sept. 30, 2015

Dr. Kurt J. Matushek
Photo by R. Scott Nolen

When the AVMA became incorporated in 1917, it listed as the object of the Association, “to protect and promote professional interests of the veterinarian; to elevate the standard of veterinary education; to procure the enactment and the enforcement of uniform laws and regulations relative to veterinary practice and the control of animal disease; to disseminate knowledge and to direct public opinion regarding the problems of animal hygiene; [and] to promote good fellowship in the profession.” Further, the AVMA indicated it would accomplish these objects by, among other things, publishing “a journal devoted to the purposes of said association and to the promotion of the science of veterinary medicine and surgery, which journal shall be called the ‘Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.’”

As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of JAVMA, therefore, we see that the roots of the AVMA and JAVMA are inextricably intertwined. In fact, the American Veterinary Review, the predecessor of JAVMA, was originally established for the purpose of publishing scientific papers presented during the Association’s semiannual meetings. When the AVMA acquired the Review in 1915, renaming it the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Association did so, at least in part, so that it would no longer have to publish its own separate volume of the proceedings of the AVMA meetings.

Finding purpose

The early years of JAVMA were somewhat bleak. Although the Journal did contain many more scientific reports than the Review had in its later years, much of each issue was taken up with installments of the AVMA proceedings, including reports from various AVMA committees and transcripts of the business sessions and the president’s address. There was at least some sentiment that JAVMA was not being used to its full potential. Possibly, this may have been due to the rotating editorship during the Journal’s early years. Dr. Pierre A. Fish was appointed the Journal’s first editor in 1915 but left in 1918 to enter military service. Dr. William H. Dalrymple succeeded Dr. Fish but left after little more than a year because of failing health, and Dr. John Mohler took over the position. In 1920, AVMA President Charles Cary remarked that “Our frequent and sudden changes of Secretary and Editor have given us no stability or definitiveness of purpose.”

Finally, in 1923, the offices of AVMA executive secretary and editor were combined, with Dr. H. Preston Hoskins chosen to fill the combined position, and JAVMA entered a lengthy phase of growth and innovation. Dr. Hoskins was succeeded in 1939 by Dr. Louis A. Merillat, one of the most honored figures in American veterinary history and co-author (with Dr. Delwin M. Campbell) of the two-volume “Veterinary Military History.” In 1940, Dr. Merillat resigned as AVMA executive secretary so that he could focus on his duties as editor of the Journal, once again separating the offices of executive secretary and editor.

Diverse interests

From its beginning, the Journal focused on the most important scientific topics of the day, from hog cholera, tuberculosis, and infectious abortion during the early part of the 20th century to injection-site sarcomas, new anesthetic drugs and techniques, and advanced diagnostic imaging more recently. Early on, the editors recognized the difficulties associated with publishing a single journal devoted to the entire scope of the veterinary profession. An April 1939 editorial, for instance, lamented that “Since our profession is composed of a number of branches somewhat unrelated in their application, covering the entire scope to the pleasure of all concerned is a baffling undertaking.”

One way the editors worked to overcome this difficulty was by establishing sections of the Journal devoted to particular segments of the profession. In 1917, for instance, the Journal began publishing a section called “Army Veterinary Service,” which contained articles, reports, and letters specifically related to military service. More important, as indicated in a 1963 editorial, the editors made a commitment to “select articles so that each issue contains at least one article of interest and value to every member” and to “publish a balanced Association journal for a membership characterized by widely diverse skills and interests.”

Clinically relevant

Science not only creates but underwrites everything the clinician does.”

“‘Scientific’ and ‘Practical’” editorial in the March 1940 issue


Of great concern to the editors was publishing reports that reflected the latest scientific advances in the profession while still providing information of interest to practicing veterinarians. As the editors pointed out in 1940, “The so-called scientific article of today may and often is the practical one of tomorrow.” Still, calls have been heard throughout the years for more practical information. In the March 1940 issue, the Journal began publishing a new column titled “With the Editors,” which was intended to help readers understand how the scientific material in the Journal pertained to the everyday work of practicing veterinarians. Similarly, today’s “In This Issue” feature is meant to summarize the contents of the Journal by providing, for each scientific article, information on what is currently known about the topic being discussed and what new material of clinical importance the article adds.

The Journal has reported extensively over the
years on scientific developments that impact
practitioners. Pictured is a pit dug for the burial of
cattle and hogs killed after being found to be
infected with foot-and-mouth disease in late 1914
in Champaign County, Ohio.

A March 1, 1956, article showed techniques for holding a dog
to be given an epidural anesthetic.



In a further nod to enhancing the practical value of the Journal, the editors have, over the years, developed a number of features meant to present information clinically relevant to various aspects of practice or to provide an opportunity to evaluate and interpret clinical findings for specific cases. The most iconic of these is surely the “What Is Your Diagnosis?” feature, which debuted in the December 1954 issue and which, although originally intended to run for only a few months, has appeared in the Journal ever since.

Next chapter

Throughout the 100 years of its existence, the Journal has provided a continuous record of the achievements and progress of the veterinary profession, and it is the editorial staff’s intention to continue to do so for the next 100. In February 1940, following a reorganization of the Journal, the editors wrote that they received “a host of flattering inscriptions ... in numbers sufficient to turn the heads of the editorial staff to an extent characteristic of the species.” They went on to say, however, that “the editorial staff of the Association is not permitting itself to believe that room for improvement is not still vast and necessary,” and while thanking the members for their complimentary remarks, commented that all they could provide in return “is the will to do better.”

The staff of the 1939 AVMA Secretariat included Drs. H. Preston Hoskins (front left) and L.A. Merillat (front
center). Dr. Merillat succeeded Dr. Hoskins as editor that year.

That sentiment lives on. As the head of the editorial staff for the JAVMA, I am proud of all that the Journal has accomplished in the past 100 years. While pausing a bit to celebrate those accomplishments, however, I know that more can be done, and I look forward to the next chapter in the Journal’s existence.