October 15, 2016


 Students defining financial literacy

Survey being sent to SAVMA members to get their take on the meaning

Posted Sept. 28, 2016

Improving financial literacy education for veterinary students has emerged as a topic of importance at veterinary colleges. It’s no wonder, considering 64 percent of students responding to a recent survey said that loan repayment and debt management options were not included with any coursework or curriculum at their institution. Further, 37 percent said they were unaware of any resources related to federal loan repayment at their institution. 

These results came from a 10-question survey the Student AVMA House of Delegates sent this past year to its student chapter members to gauge what each veterinary college is doing to make its students “loan repayment literate.”  

Representatives of the AVMA, AVMA PLIT, AVMA Life, and Student AVMA stand with a check for $333,000 for the ALL for Students program—with ALL being an acronym for Achieving, Leading, and Learning—now in its fourth year. The program, funded by the four entities, provides support for student chapters of the AVMA. (Photos by R. Scott Nolen)

Following the Economics of Veterinary Medical Education Summit, aka Fix the Debt summit, held earlier this year at Michigan State University, the SAVMA HOD voted overwhelmingly (92.5 percent) in support of SAVMA’s request that the AVMA Council on Education consider creating an accreditation standard on financial literacy; the council has formed a working group, which was expected at press time to report its findings at the COE’s Sept. 25-27 meeting. 

But what exactly does financial literacy mean for students? SAVMA was asked by the working group to further define the term. At the SAVMA HOD meeting, held Aug. 6-8 in San Antonio, delegates discussed the term, and so did presidents
of SAVMA chapters, to come up with a preliminary definition and how they believe it needs to be interpreted by accredited veterinary colleges. It reads as follows:

Financial literacy is:

  • Being educated on the cost of becoming a veterinarian and understanding what that number truly means in terms of debt, loan repayment, and future finances.
  • Learning the terminology necessary to interpret loan options, loan repayment options, and salary and benefits packages.
  • Having the resources to manage student debt and personal finances.
  • Understanding what it means to work within a budget.

SAVMA is conducting a survey of veterinary students to get their take on the definition; results won’t be available until next year. 

In addition, the SAVMA executive board and the National Officers of the Veterinary Business Management Association—a student-run organization dedicated to increasing business acumen—met during AVMA Convention 2016 to find ways they can work more closely together. To that end, the student groups have committed to at least one annual meeting between national officers. Plus, their national representatives are developing a process by which local officers of each group can spearhead their school’s advocacy campaign. The goal is to develop a template for a joint advocacy letter that students can send to their state and national legislators regarding student loans, said Matt Holland (Illinois ’17), SAVMA president.

Committee, position made permanent 

Two other issues of importance to students—wellness along with diversity and inclusion—also took center stage at the SAVMA HOD meeting.

Delegates amended the Student AVMA Bylaws to make the Wellness Committee a permanent entity. The committee will serve to encourage the enhancement of veterinary student wellness initiatives and provide more wellness-focused opportunities for all veterinary students, according to its charge.

In addition, the SAVMA HOD approved making the cultural outreach officer a permanent officer position on the SAVMA Executive Board. This position aims to bring awareness to issues of diversity, inclusion, and wellness that affect veterinary students. 

Prior to adjourning, the Student AVMA HOD gave Dr. Rebecca Stinson (Georgia ’02), outgoing AVMA vice president, a standing ovation for her two years spent working with SAVMA. Dr. Stacy Pritt (Washington State ’97) has taken over as
the new AVMA vice president.

Holland said he’s as proud of the process to make the position and committee permanent as he is of the outcome.

“Make no mistake: I like the changes we made, and both fit our membership’s growing interest in wellness, diversity, and inclusiveness. But, it’s easy to point to those changes and say, ‘Look what we did!’ What wasn’t so easy is how we got there,” he said. “The HOD showed incredible engagement and flexibility while making significant changes on the fly: reorganization of the entire governance structure, redistributing the budget, and creating a new mission, vision, roles, and responsibilities.”

New mission statement, renewed program funding

In other news, the Student AVMA adopted a new mission statement to improve the direction and purpose of SAVMA.

It reads: “The Student American Veterinary Medical Association (SAVMA) exists to support, empower, and inspire all veterinary students in improving their lives, education, and career, along with securing a better future for our profession through collaboration with our parent organization, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).”

Holland said, “We wanted any member to read the mission statement and think, ‘SAVMA’s got my back.’”

A physical manifestation of that statement came in the form of a check for $333,000 for the ALL for Students program—with ALL being an acronym for Achieving, Leading, and Learning—now in its fourth year. The program, funded by the AVMA, AVMA PLIT, AVMA Life, and SAVMA, provides support for student chapters of the AVMA. The American Veterinary Medical Foundation distributes the funds; each of SAVMA’s 36 chapters receives an $8,500 grant for the 2016-2017 school year.

The grant pays for activities in four key areas: leadership, professional development, community outreach, and wellness. Last school year, there were more than 200 ALL for Students–sponsored events, with a mean of five per chapter. Thirty-one chapters used program funding for at least one wellness-related event last year, reaching more than 8,000 veterinary students. In fact, wellness events accounted for 36 percent of overall programming in 2015-2016. This year, 29 chapters will continue to host annual wellness events thanks to the program funding.  

Dr. Joe Kinnarney, 2015-2016 AVMA president, holds court before the SAVMA House of Delegates meeting Aug. 6-8 during AVMA Convention 2016 in San Antonio. (Courtesy of Matt Holland)

And finally, the SAVMA HOD bid to host the 2017 International Veterinary Students’ Association General Assembly, and its bid was accepted. The meeting will take place Jan. 1-8, 2017, at North Carolina State University. Visit here for more information.

The SAVMA Executive Board welcomed the following newly elected members: Katy Martin (Iowa State ’18), secretary-elect; Chris Deegan (Minnesota ’18), treasurer-elect; Marston Jones (Tennessee ’18), information technology officer–elect; Meredith Chamberlain (Prince Edward Island ’18), The Vet Gazette editor–elect; and Caitlin Conner (Texas A&M ’18), cultural outreach officer–elect.

The 2017 meeting of the SAVMA HOD will take place at the SAVMA Symposium March 16-17, hosted by Texas A&M University.  

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