The beautiful Hotel Inter-Continental in Chicago provided the backdrop for the fifth AVMA Veterinary Leadership Conference and House of Delegates Informational Assembly, Jan. 4-6. Attendance reached 374 and included leaders from the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Canada.
Breakout sessions for recent graduates, executive directors, public relations professionals, delegates and alternate delegates, and presidents and president-elects began Jan. 4, immediately after registration. Some of the groups discussed the changes in the profession over the past 10 years and how to respond to them, the idea of mentoring students into veterinary medicine, ideas on how associations can be more helpful to their members, and revisiting plans or actions taken that have been beneficial.
The general session brought updates from the AVMA Group Health and Life Insurance Trust as well as the AVMA PLIT. AVMA president, Dr. James H. Brandt addressed the audience with his thoughts about Sept. 11, and the effect it had on a personal level.
"I think leadership was pushed upon [President George W. Bush and former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani] after September 11, and they were prepared. They responded effectively," Dr. Brandt said. "[After Sept. 11] I found that all of my goals are the same, they've just been rearranged in the right order. The goal of continuity initiated by Dr. [Jim] Nave, subscribed by myself and president-elect [Dr.] Joe Howell, is even more important now in veterinary medicine.
"I think it is up to each individual veterinarian to assure their preparedness, he said. "For me, preparedness against the attack by weapons of mass destruction is priority number one. Veterinarians in agriculture must be the first line of defense against a biological attack. ... If globalization of veterinary medicine is to occur, veterinarians of all dimensions must be equally educated."
President Brandt introduced keynote speaker Marilyn Moats Kennedy, who spoke on the recession, as well as recruiting and retaining employees and members of different generations.
A favorite of past AVMA functions, Kennedy also took a look at the effects of Sept. 11, and what it will mean for pet ownership.
"One of the effects of 9/11 is the tremendous upsurge that we are seeing in pet ownership," she said. "The number of people who are talking about pet ownership has changed dramatically, and they are of every age level."
Trends of younger generations, the "busters," born between 1969 and 1978 and also known as "generation X," and the "nesters," born between 1979 and 1984, are using the aftermath of Sept. 11 to bring meaning to their careers and relationships. They are taking more time to establish careers and relationships.
"There is no question that [the busters and nesters] will have a higher percentage of pet ownership than any other group," Kennedy said. "They are going to remain single longer; they will take their companion animals with them when they travel, and be willing to spend money for it."
As with older generations, such as the pre-boomers, born between 1934 and 1945, pet ownership will rise as well, Kennedy predicted. These people are just retiring and finding out that they are bored. Many will return to the workplace.
"Any recreational vehicle dealer will tell you that he has any model of RV available with less than 5,000 miles on it, and it belonged to a pre-boomer who tried retirement," she said. "These were owned by a couple who found out that spending six months with your spouse in a space the size of a master bathroom is not a good idea. ... They are now getting pets because it keeps them from having to travel."
Kennedy also outlined the upcoming generations of workers and what they expect from their employers. Mentoring and communication will have to be dramatically altered to support younger generations, she said: they don't make open-ended commitments, and they don't make small talk.
"What you're going to see with new people coming into every profession, not just veterinary medicine, is they're going to have to be mentored in, they're going to have to have a buddy in the association, or they will not [participate]," she said. "If you want to [hold onto] younger members, it's going to be based on the quality of information you give them.
Closing speaker, Dr. Morgan McArthur, electrifies his audience.
"These people have an insatiable appetite for continuing education; they want more information on any subject you can name. And where money is concerned, anybody from the two youngest groups will tell you that it is not whether they have the money or not. But once you get them involved, they will stay forever, because they are not shoppers."
On Jan. 5, workshop sessions led by staff of the Dave Baum Media Training Group covered effective communication and tips on working with reporters. A workshop on emergency and disaster preparedness, and communicating in a crisis, featured Dr. Barry Kellogg, VMAT-1 team leader; Dr. Lorna Lanman, VMAT-4 administrative officer; and Dr. Gail Golab, assistant director of the AVMA Communications Division (see story, page 580). Volunteerism and strategic alliances were the topics at a workshop given by Linda Ridge of Brutlag & Associates.
Leadership conference attendees and AVMA delegates and alternates came together Sunday for a wrap-up session that included a visual presentation by Howard Rubin, CEO of the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues, on phase one of the Analytical Pricing and Benchmarking Tools now available to veterinarians who log onto www.ncvei.org.
Dr. Morgan McArthur energized attendees with his lively closing presentation on embracing challenge and even calamity—when it strikes. Dr. McArthur makes his home in New Zealand, where he works for a pharmaceutical firm. The 1983 Iowa State University graduate became involved with Toastmasters International while practicing in Idaho and was named International Champion Toastmaster in 1994.
"As you lead this profession forward in 2002, I encourage you personally and professionally to maximize your moments," Dr. McArthur said. "Choose challenge, choose connections, embrace calamity. There's electricity in all three of those to make life fun." Calamity is opportunity in disguise, he said, and in some ways, veterinarians are "calamity central."