When you're a veterinarian balancing the demands of practice and modern life, you've got to make every hour count. When you're also president or president-elect of a national veterinary medical association, time becomes still more precious. There are places to go and AVMA members to meet, veterinary associations to call on, and liaisons to forge.
Dr. Leonard F. Seda, AVMA president, feels as though he has been on the road more than he's been back in his hometown of Victor, Iowa, where he is senior partner with Victor Veterinary Associates, a community leader, and an active grandparent with three new grandchildren born in September 1999.
President Seda with Col Jack Fournier, chief of the US Army Veterinary Corps (left), and Col Robert R. Smith, commander, 100th Medical Detachment, at a conference in Germany.
"There has been quite a response to my presentations on various AVMA issues at state and specialty meetings, and I've enjoyed being involved in business and scientific functions," Dr. Seda said.
Having spoken with a broad sampling of veterinarians coast to coast and overseas, Dr. Seda said, "The big issues have been antimicrobial resistance, and discussion and analysis of 'The Current and Future Market for Veterinarians and Veterinary Medical Services in the United States.'"
President-elect, Dr. James E. Nave knew his position would involve a lot of travel, but, even so, has been surprised by the extent. Dr. Nave practices at the Tropicana Animal Hospital in Las Vegas, but also has administrative responsibility over multiple other hospitals in the Las Vegas area. His daughter, a student at Duke University, is paramount in his life.
Dr. Nave and Dr. Seda form a strong ensemble. During their five years together on the Executive Board, they developed a close friendship and working relationship. Now, they represent two thirds of the Board of Governors and again have a seat on the Executive Board. "We complement each other," Dr. Nave said. "The areas Dr. Seda is focusing on are not the areas I'm focusing on. We have different backgrounds and interests."
Global veterinary leadership and drug/biologics issues are among Dr. Seda's strong interests.
Continuing the momentum of 1998-1999 AVMA president, Dr. Richard C. Swanson, Dr. Seda has been working to strengthen the AVMA's presence in the World Veterinary Association, which the AVMA rejoined in January 1999. Dr. Leon H. Russell, councillor to the WVA, traveled with Dr. Seda to Lyon, France for the World Veterinary Congress in September (JAVMA, Dec 15, 1999, page 1761).
Well prepared for the World Veterinary Congress because of a prior visit to Paris for the Office of International Epizooties meeting, Dr. Seda said, "I now understand how the international veterinary community works. The OIE helped me be more effective in the Congress and the Presidents' Assembly."
Afterward, Dr. Seda headed to Garmisch, Germany for the International Military Veterinary Symposium. "The first day of the meeting was spent completely on opportunities for advancement and education in the veterinary corps. The program included six European allied veterinary officers who gave presentations, as did the US veterinary military officers. Colonel Jack Fournier, chief of the US Army Veterinary Corps, provided a comprehensive summary of the status of the corps."
Dr. Seda said, "Subjects emphasized the broad scope of veterinary military functions, such as addressing biologic threats, water assessment in southern Europe, and food poisoning - including the recent Belgian chocolate incident."
A former member of the AVMA Drug Advisory Committee, Dr. Seda is knowledgeable about drug availability and use issues. In October he was at AVMA headquarters attending a meeting of the Steering Committee on Judicious Therapeutic Antimicrobial Use. "This committee is having an impact on the entire global veterinary field. The AVMA principles on judicious use were heavily considered by the World Veterinary Association and were also mentioned at the Canadian VMA meeting I attended."
At the invitation of the Canadian VMA, Dr. Seda and Dr. Michael Paul, AAHA president, participated with other leaders in a July 1999 meeting analyzing the Canadian veterinary market study, "The Opportunity for Renewal," released last year. According to Dr. Seda, "The study is comparable to our market study. They released it in June 1998 and have been working on it for over a year." Dr. Seda and Dr. Paul discussed the parallels and commonalities of the two market studies, including pay equity issues, educational debt, and supply versus demand of veterinarians.
Dr. Nave said that, as president-elect and then president, he intends to focus on the legislative and economic areas. "It's critical that we raise the economic base of this profession in order that we own this profession in 10 or 20 years, and at the same time, meet the wants and needs of our members."
The National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues is the forum where Dr. Nave will work to help solve the profession's economic problems. He will be on the board of the commission when the transition is made from the current AVMA/AAHA/AAVMC Joint Steering Committee, which he chairs.
During a trip to the AVMA Governmental Relations Division in Washington, DC, Dr. Seda (left) visits with Tom Harkin, Iowa's senator.
Referring to the US veterinary market study, Dr. Nave commented, "Everywhere I go I'm asked the question, 'How can the study say we have too many veterinarians when we can't find an associate to hire?'" Supply and gender received the most attention at the '99 AVMA convention, just after the executive summary of the market study was released, Dr. Nave said. "But they are only a small part of it."
Dr. Nave said, "Our meeting at AVMA headquarters October 11 with the leaders of the Association for Women Veterinarians was important, to reassure them the steering committee knows gender is only a part of this complex economic issue. Their association pledged it would work to strengthen its cooperation with the AVMA and to help solve problems of the profession." (See related story, page 15.)
Another gender consideration of interest to Dr. Nave is attracting more female veterinarians to leadership positions. "We need them at the national level, but first they need to be active locally, and there are just so many hours in the day to balance family, practice, and involvement in organized veterinary medicine."
As often as Dr. Nave hears about economic woes, one other issue surfaces even more persistently.
"The questions surrounding alternative and complementary veterinary medicine are becoming more urgent," Dr. Nave said. "In this area the AVMA is a leader in providing a national discussion. When I served on the Nevada examining board we dealt with this issue. The guidelines being developed by the AVMA Task Force on Alternative and Complementary Therapies are important, but when you get right down to it, each state must decide how to proceed."
In the legislative arena, Dr. Nave, along with former AVMA president, Dr. John I. Freeman, had called for a more effective legislative voice for the profession than could be provided under the former council structure. The eventual result: the AVMA Legislative Advisory Committee. Dr. Nave represents the Executive Board on the committee, which held its inaugural meeting last fall (JAVMA, Dec 15, 1999, page 1760).
In Dr. Seda's July 9 address to the House of Delegates in New Orleans, he said one of his goals is to form partnerships with other organizations and government agencies. "An article I wrote was published in the CDC Cause. It is about the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America meeting I attended this past year. The article describes the AVMA's cooperation with the CDC in antimicrobial use. The society meeting was attended by predominantly human medical doctors, and I was there representing veterinarians."
Held in Kalamazoo, Mich, the meeting explored educational efforts to aid in the fight against antibiotic resistance.
Another nonveterinary meeting Dr. Seda attended was the World Food Prize ceremony, held in his home state, in Des Moines. There, he congratulated the first veterinarian to receive the award, Dr. Walter Plowright (JAVMA, Dec 1, 1999, page 1567).
During the AVMA President's Roundtable, Oct 22, Dr. Seda met in Washington, DC, with 15 government agency veterinarians. A common thread that ran through the meeting was that all were looking to interest more veterinarians. "These agencies want young people interested in food safety and other governmental professional work. The government is having problems recruiting employees, even though there are great training programs and steps to take in various divisions."
Also at the meeting, "Food safety is being addressed by many governmental bodies. The proposal made by President Clinton to establish a food safety initiative would bring all government groups together in a food safety committee," Dr. Seda said.
Through the AVMA Governmental Relations Division in Washington, DC, Dr. Seda was pleased to meet Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman during a Capitol Hill function.
As president, Dr. Seda is the AVMA's principal AVMA representative and traveling dignitary, but when he has a prior engagement, he usually asks Dr. Nave to attend. An example was the British Veterinary Association meeting in September, when Dr. Seda was at the World Veterinary Congress. Dr. Nave said, "The British Veterinary Association meeting was a wonderful experience, one I didn't anticipate until I was president. That meeting showed me we're two countries with a lot in common."
The president and president-elect have a keen appreciation of veterinarians who must balance family and career in these complex times. Finding enough hours to juggle their busy clinical practice with family life and AVMA activities is no simple feat.
At the end of October Dr. Nave completed his fourth three-year term on the Nevada Athletic Commission, freeing up some time. In planning his schedule, he fits in as many meetings as he can, and yet, he says, "As much time as you spend, you still feel guilty knowing you could be doing even more."
Dr. Nave and Dr. Seda value their visits to small state associations such as the North Dakota VMA and South Dakota VMA as much as their visits to large ones such as the California VMA and Florida VMA. Both acknowledge, however, that regional meetings such as the New England VMA and Nine States Conference offer the opportunity to meet more AVMA members.
Dr. Nave and daughter, Alisa
One of the compelling reasons for the president and president-elect to make personal appearances is to gain the most inclusive view possible of the membership and their interests.
"Now that I've been out there a short time," Dr. Nave explained, "I can understand how you get a different viewpoint as president-elect than you did when you were representing one region on the Executive Board or one state in the House of Delegates. I've watched AVMA presidents as they've grown, after having listened to their discussions and debates inside the board. Clearly, the folks you talk to in regions throughout the country and other parts of the world do influence and broaden you."
Some of the more productive discussions he has had regarding the market study, for example, have been with young veterinarians he has met during his travel.
"The most rewarding thing to see, whether I'm traveling to England or New England or the West Coast, is that veterinarians are very happy to be veterinarians," Dr. Nave said. "Talk to veterinarians who've been out of school 30 years and they're happy they chose veterinary medicine, pleased with their life's work. Young veterinarians are also happy to be veterinarians, although there's a lot more pressure today and it's not nearly as simple."
"You also tend to become even more proud of our profession as you travel," Dr. Nave added. "You realize what a very diverse profession we are, with many different problems, and it makes you appreciate the important umbrella effect of the American Veterinary Medical Association."