May 01, 2018


 Whitehair, on Board's commitment to AVMA members

Posted April 11, 2018

Dr. Michael Whitehair has kept a busy schedule since his election as chair of the AVMA Board of Directors this past July. In addition to presiding over several Board meetings, the large animal veterinarian from Abilene, Kansas, is the District IX representative for AVMA members living in Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Utah. Recently, Dr. Whitehair talked with JAVMA News about the Board and how it works to serve AVMA members and promote the veterinary profession.

Please share a few highlights from the Board agenda since your election as Board chair.

Where to begin? The Board has approved formation of the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges/AVMA Joint Futures Commission and the AVMA Insurance Governance Structure Task Force, and the continuation of the Task Force on Volunteer Engagement. We adopted a statement on telehealth to guide the veterinary profession that has the support of the AAVMC and the American Association of Veterinary State Boards. A toolkit for veterinarians on the issue of telehealth is in the works, and we hope to have it ready in time for the annual convention in Denver this July.

A donation of $350,000 to the American Veterinary Medical Foundation from the AVMA was approved by the Board. The Board has made AVMA members' mental health and well-being a priority. In January, we met with Department of Agriculture Undersecretary Greg Ibach, who oversees marketing and regulatory programs for the department, to open channels of communication on topics important to our profession. The Board has strengthened the AVMA's political advocacy team with the addition of Dr. Kent McClure as our chief of government relations and the promotion of Dr. Ashley Morgan as director of state advocacy. We remain committed to the Future Leaders Program, diversity, and addressing the financial challenges facing our profession.

For AVMA members who don't know, please explain the Board's purpose and what gets done in a typical meeting.

Your AVMA Board of Directors is comprised of 11 district representatives, of whom two are elected each year as Board chair and vice chair. Then there are the AVMA president, vice president, president-elect, immediate past president, and treasurer. The treasurer is a nonvoting member of the Board. The Student AVMA president, the House Advisory Committee chair, and the AVMA executive vice president and assistant executive vice president are invited participants without a vote. Board actions are taken in accordance with our fiduciary responsibility to the more than 91,000 members of the AVMA. We coordinate with staff to review and align the efforts of our volunteer councils and committees, and use member input to set the direction of AVMA policy.

In addition to the business meeting, the Board devotes time to strategic discussions. What sorts of issues are addressed, and what value do the sessions have?

These discussions are valuable in that they afford the Board time to identify member needs and explore potential courses of action. The emphasis of strategic discussions is on how best to use AVMA resources, both human and capital, to most effectively address member needs. This touches membership services, advocacy, data management, professional development, lifelong learning, and leveraging our relationship with multiple outside groups to share and support our AVMA message.

How does the Board represent individual AVMA members while also promoting the profession?

The Board accomplishes this by attending state and national veterinary meetings to share our message as well as listen to these various sectors and learn about the issues facing them. Also, the Board seeks out alliances with other groups to find common ground on subjects important to AVMA members. Value comes from listening to membership, being advocates, having a workable process, and using our staff to help our Board create sound science-based policies.

Related JAVMA Content

AVMA Board meets USDA Undersecretary Ibach (March 1, 2018)

Whitehair and Brown win top seats on AVMA Board (Sept. 15, 2017)