Thank you, colleagues, friends and guests. It's an honor and a privilege to gather with you today at the American Animal Hospital Association's Annual Conference in beautiful Long Beach.
I can see how the winding beaches and the magnificent waters of the Pacific inspired this year's conference theme of "Get Your Feet Wet." This really is a special place.
I would guess, though, that many of us might have lost sight of our feet some time ago. We've been experiencing some troubled economic waters lately, and some of us are up to our knees in financial concerns and challenges. I'd expect that virtually every practice represented here today has been significantly impacted by the economy and an unemployment rate that continues to hover around 10 percent.
People without jobs are rightfully cutting back on everything, including visits to their veterinarian. Even those who have been fortunate enough to keep their jobs are watching their wallets.
But let me ask you something. Are you looking at these tough times as an opportunity, or are you shrugging your collective practice shoulders and saying there's little you can do about it?
I respectfully suggest that you consider this a golden time to make each and every client visit a special one. Spend more time with your clients. Get to know them a bit better. Talk about your patient - their beloved pet. Use that time to talk about your role, not only as a veterinarian, but as a public health official. And an animal welfare expert.
These conversations will build trust, impart knowledge and improve communication. And they just might pave the way for a referral or two.
It takes a team approach at the AVMA to meet the needs of our members, just as it takes a team approach for your practice to meet the needs of those who depend on you. That's why the AVMA continues to advocate on your behalf in Washington, D.C., for economic viability of the entire veterinary profession.
The Veterinarian Services Investment Act, which we support, calls for the creation of a new grant program that would assist states in addressing their own unique veterinary workforce needs, from recruiting and retaining veterinary technicians to financially assisting veterinarians who want to open a practice or expand an existing one.
We are also actively pursuing passage of small business health plan legislation that would allow veterinary business associations to offer more affordable health insurance plans to their member businesses.
Our research into pet demographics, consumer attitudes, veterinary compensation and veterinary business measures all help you guide individual business decisions.
The AVMA, along with AAHA and the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, are working together through the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues to help ensure the economic future of veterinary medicine. The commission's goal is to provide you with the information, tools and resources you need to improve your financial prowess and success.
All of this is directly aligned with one of the AVMA's five strategic goals; one that focuses squarely on your economic viability. I believe this strategic goal is a direct reflection of our duty to serve you and the veterinary profession.
In closing, while the past has presented many financial challenges for us all, I'm convinced that the tides will ebb, and that our feet will be in full view once again.
On behalf of the AVMA I wish you a successful conference and a profitable 2010.