April 01, 2000


 New association engenders media savvy

Posted Mar. 15, 2000

He was in need of a shave, and a sheen of sweat appeared on his upper lip. Conversely, his opponent looked cool and confident to all those who tuned in. Many political pundits have said that the television debates between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy in the 1960s did much to make or break the image of these candidates for the presidency. The same holds true 40 years later, as candidates for the 2000 presidency square off amid public scrutiny.

If image isn't everything, it's not trivial. As the world moves further into an age of telecommunication, veterinarians will find themselves increasingly under the hot glare of the spotlights. Recognizing the tremendous power of print and electronic media, the Association of Veterinary Communicators held its inaugural meeting Jan 16, hosted by Hill's Pet Nutrition Inc during the North American Veterinary Conference in Orlando, Fla.

AVC Officers
AVC officers: Dr. Marty Becker, vice president; Dr. Jeff Werber, president; and Dr. Rob Hilsenroth, secretary/treasurer.

An organization of veterinarians and news media professionals, the association will strive to represent the best interests of animals, pets, the public, and the veterinary profession through increased positive media coverage. The association aspires to upgrade the knowledge and skills of its members through seminars, workshops, and access to other veterinary professionals.

"It's a great way to network, share experiences, and make sure we remain journalistic," said Dr. Jeff Werber, owner of Century Veterinary Group, a small animal practice in Los Angeles, and president of the new association. "There are more and more of us doing this type of work in front of the public at large. That, and the impact of the Internet, will be crucial to how information is disseminated."

No stranger to the spotlight, Dr. Werber has appeared on "The Early Show" on CBS, was featured on Animal Planet's "Petcetera," and won an Emmy for his pet health reporting for CBS News in Los Angeles. He also teaches a media training class in conjunction with the North American Veterinary Conference. "The interest has always been strong for this sort of thing among veterinarians," he said.

After an attempt a number of years ago to organize the media-savvy veterinarians in the form of a referral directory, Dr. Werber said the idea evolved into that of an association. "I was contacted by Dr. Marty Becker, who recommended approach it not as a network directory, but as an association that could provide guidelines and have a code of ethics." Dr. Becker appears on ABC's "Good Morning America" and is a co-editor of "Chicken Soup for the Cat and Dog Lover's Soul" (see related story, page 1052).

The result of their collaboration is an association that will help practitioners, but one that doesn't limit itself to veterinarians. The association is open to anyone affiliated with the veterinary profession and/or the communications industry. Dr. Becker is vice president of the association.

"We have a network of experts to help assure that the veterinary information we are providing is accurate and generally accepted," Dr. Werber said. "When we are out there in an information-providing capacity representing veterinary medicine, we want that information to be as accurate as possible."

In addition to Dr. Werber, the association's officers are the chairman of the ethics committee, Dr. Rolan Tripp, who appears on "Petsburgh USA"; and Dr. Rob Hilsenroth, executive director of Morris Animal Foundation, who is the secretary/treasurer, and Dr. Becker, vice president.

The association plans to meet twice a year, once during the Central Veterinary Conference in summer, and alternating between the North American and Western Veterinary Conferences during the winter.

"Our message is to educate, present the issues, and encourage pet owners to seek the counsel of their veterinarian," Dr. Werber said.

For more information on the association, contact Dr. Werber by phone, (310) 559-2530, or e-mail, drjeffw@drjeff.com.