March 01, 2018


 Topper sees a more member-driven AVMA

AVMA president recounts experiences on the road

Posted Feb. 14, 2018

Since assuming the office of AVMA president this past July, Dr. Michael Topper has traveled the globe, to places as near as Oklahoma and as far as China, in the interest of veterinary medicine. In addition to talking with veterinarians and veterinary students, Dr. Topper has met with representatives of the veterinary colleges, animal health industry, and federal government. In December, he was part of an AVMA delegation that spoke with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, himself a veterinarian, about veterinary student debt and veterinary shortages in rural America. Dr. Topper recently talked to JAVMA News about his travels and what he's learned. 


I campaigned that AVMA needed to do a better job of being the center of excellence for veterinary leadership development. I am extremely happy to see that we are making great progress toward achieving this."​

AVMA President Michael Topper

AVMA President Michael Topper addresses the House of Delegates Jan. 5 during the AVMA Veterinary Leadership Conference in Chicago.

What have you discovered during your time as president?

It became clearer to me that the AVMA is doing more and more to protect, promote, and advance our profession and that our members appreciate it. There is a lot that the AVMA does for our members that they may not be aware of, and it was always a pleasure to interact with and provide this information to them. It also became clearer to me that the AVMA is the global leader of veterinary medicine! We are the largest and strongest national organization and are looked toward for our leadership in common areas affecting the veterinary profession.

Your thoughts on the AVMA's strong membership numbers?

It is fantastic that veterinarians are seeing the value of their AVMA membership. Our strategic plan to increase member value is being fulfilled, but we have a lot more to do for our members.

What are veterinarians telling you during your travels?

Our members are concerned about finding veterinarians to fill their open positions, especially those in rural areas, and concerned about the debt load of recent graduates and proposed laws that affect the practice of veterinary medicine. It is great to be able to share our advocacy initiatives and actions on these areas of concerns and to refer them to our Veterinary Career Center and other website pages where they can learn more about what their Association is doing to address them.

Is there an anecdote you'd like to share?

No, but the highlight of all my trips to association and allied meetings is when I get to address and interact with the students and recent graduates in attendance. It is always energizing to talk with these engaged leaders and future leaders about our profession and directly hear their thoughts and concerns. Based on my discussions with them, I firmly believe that our profession will be in great hands for the foreseeable future.

Are there any AVMA initiatives or projects you're excited about?

I campaigned that AVMA needed to do a better job of being the center of excellence for veterinary leadership development. I am extremely happy to see that we are making great progress toward achieving this. We are solidly in the process of aligning our leadership efforts and are looking at all of them holistically from leadership content at Convention, VLC (the Veterinary Leadership Conference), the Future Leaders Program, and our Women's Veterinary Leadership Development Initiative collaboration. Additionally, we are looking to collaborate externally with strategic partners such as the Western Veterinary Conference on their business and leadership programming.

Has your view of the AVMA and the office of president changed since July?

Not really. I have been engaged with the AVMA as a committee member and member of the House of Delegates for over 20 years. I have seen so many improvements over this time in how the AVMA is working for our members. The one thing that I have learned is how much our members appreciate having an officer such as the president come and visit them at their meetings and personally interact with them. It is the best thing about being president.

What's coming in your remaining months as president?

Meaningful interactions with veterinary leaders at the North American Veterinary Community's VMX (Veterinary Meeting & Expo), Western Veterinary Conference, Veterinary Innovation Summit, AAVMC (Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges) Conference, and the Healthy 100 Wellness Summit. State and local meetings for the Minnesota, West Virginia, El Paso (Texas), Georgia, Alabama, and California VMAs are planned. Internationally, there is the Military Veterinary Medical Symposium in Garmisch, Germany; the World Veterinary Association and International Veterinary Officer Council meetings in Barcelona, Spain; the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe in Bergen, Norway; and the North American Veterinary Leadership meeting in association with the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association meeting in Vancouver. I will also get to participate in two student functions by attending the SAVMA Symposium in Philadelphia and giving the Veterinarian's Oath to the first graduating class at Lincoln Memorial University College of Veterinary Medicine in Harrogate, Tennessee. The finale of my year will be our annual meeting in Denver; I hope that many will be able to attend this premier convention.

Anything else you want to say?

It has truly been an honor to serve the veterinary profession as president of the American Veterinary Medical Association. It has afforded me the opportunity to meet and discuss all aspects of veterinary medicine with colleagues both nationally and internationally that I would not have been able to meet without serving as president. Kimberly and I have enjoyed every minute of it, and really appreciate being given this opportunity to represent the AVMA.

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