AVMA President's Address to the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association's 2011 Summit of Veterinary Leaders

Dr. Larry M. Kornegay

July 6, 2011

Thank you, colleagues, friends and guests.

I am here representing the 81,500 members of the American Veterinary Medical Association. On their behalf, I extend a warm greeting. For me personally, it is truly an honor and a privilege to gather with you today. And I thank you for this opportunity.

I congratulate the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association for holding this summit, particularly as we gather in this area – one of the most environmentally beautiful areas on our globe.

Each day, as citizens of this planet and as veterinarians, we have an impact on our environment. It is up to each of us to decide what that impact will be.

It's up to us to decide what we will leave behind, because future generations will reap what we sow. This precious planet is only lent to us. We are obligated to keep it safe and secure – for our enjoyment – but more importantly, for its survival. We need to be good stewards to ensure that our children – and those that follow – will be able to breathe clean air, drink clean water and enjoy the bounty of our land.

Veterinarians are indeed stewards of this environment. Look no further than the food-animal veterinarians who care for our livestock. In order to keep the animals healthy, veterinarians must also be concerned about the food the animals eat and the soil in which that food grows.

Look no further than the aquatic veterinarian, who must play an integral role in ensuring that the waters of our planet not only support the species that swim in it, but help them thrive.

Look no further than the wildlife veterinarian, who must be equally mindful of the lands the animals live on as the animals themselves.

I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea.

While we would all agree that we have made huge strides in understanding the challenges facing our environment and what we must do to protect and nurture this planet, we are probably in equal agreement that we must – and can – do more. We must do more because, as we all know, the earth is the only thing – the one thing – that we all have in common.

The American Veterinary Medical Association has always been a champion of environmental protection. We take very seriously the impact veterinarians have on our land, our water and the air we all breathe.

The AVMA Committee on Environmental Issues, made up of a variety of dedicated volunteer leaders, helps us steer our environmental initiatives. With their expert guidance, we have recently taken significant steps to help our members be even better stewards of the environment.

For instance, as health-care providers, we veterinarians generate varying types of waste, some of which is toxic to people, animals and the environment we share. So we have a moral and a legal obligation – as business owners, practitioners and responsible stewards of the environment – to make sure that we dispose of our waste properly.

That's why the AVMA recently unveiled a valuable online member service that helps veterinarians understand the intricacies of waste disposal regulations and gives them practical tools to help them properly dispose of the waste they produce.

We work closely with the federal and state environmental protection agencies to ensure that we are properly disposing of unused pharmaceuticals. As a result, we created a set of best management practices for the disposal of pharmaceuticals and made that document available to all practitioners.

Central to the success of this initiative was an outreach campaign that provided our members with clinic materials that will help them better handle the unused pharmaceuticals they generate. These materials have been incredibly popular and have made it easier for our members to understand this sometimes complex topic.

As veterinarians, our hearts have always been in the right place. We know, that as stewards of animals, we are also stewards of the environment. But our policies and our good intentions can only take us so far. The in-clinic tools the AVMA is providing to our members help them translate well-meaning words into a well-executed plan of environmental stewardship and protection.

To paraphrase John F. Kennedy, the purpose of policy is not to provide an outlet for our own sentiments of hope. It is to shape real events in a real world.

The real world of veterinary medicine is environmentally sound and ecosystem friendly. And the AVMA will continue to ensure it stays that way.

Thank you