AVMA president address to the Veterinary Leadership Conference

 January 6, 2007  

Members of the House of Delegates, members of the Executive Board, colleagues and friends, it is indeed a privilege to share with you some insight on the extraordinary interactions and opportunities which I have experienced while representing the AVMA and our profession during these past six months.

First, I want to thank you for your genuine trust and support, and I respectfully seek your continued support.

I also want to recognize and express appreciation for the conscientious and dedicated efforts of the entire AVMA staff.

In July as I began my address to the House of Delegates, I stated these words: "I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society."

Colleagues, when you and I repeated those words and were admitted to the veterinary medical profession, we had just earned the value of a lifetime...the value of our veterinary diploma.

No other profession, I believe, has a comparable value to society.

Certainly, no other profession has such a significant impact on the health of both animals and people.

I also asked two questions...

What is your value as a veterinarian?

What is the value of the AVMA?

I believe it is most fitting today, as we convene together as leaders of our profession, to include one more word with value...that word...responsibility.

The questions now become :

What is your value and responsibility as a veterinarian?

What is the value and responsibility of the AVMA and your state or allied association?

An outstanding leader, whom I greatly admire is former New York mayor, Rudy Giuliani. In his book, Leadership, Mayor Giuliani states that being a leader is both a privilege and a responsibility. That sense of responsibility and privilege must be nurtured and developed within our profession, particularly in our students and recent graduates.

Several years ago, while attending my first AVMA Leadership Conference, I heard a quote that, since then, has provided the basis for my outlook on life. I believe that it especially applies to our veterinary profession as well. It was stated by a philosopher named Huston Smith:

Infinite gratitude towards all things past;
Infinite service towards all things present;
Infinite responsibility towards all things future.

It is that sense of responsibility to the future that has been my driving force during my tenure as president of the AVMA. A responsibility to the AVMA mission....Improving Animal and Human Health, Advancing the Veterinary Medical Profession.

As we look to the future, the AVMA Executive Board has identified and is focusing on five top strategic issues. Those issues: Animal Welfare, Economic Viability, Veterinary Education, Veterinary Workforce, and Veterinary Services.

It does not matter whether one is a student, established veterinary practitioner, veterinary researcher, military veterinarian, regulatory veterinarian, or veterinary educator. Effectively addressing these critical issues will help ensure the future of our profession and will help us better serve society.

Communication is...and will be... essential to our success.

Part of our challenge will be to communicate to all audiences the immeasurable value that the veterinary profession brings to society. Our level of success in that important endeavor will ultimately determine our profession's status, authority, influence and relevance, not only nationally, but internationally.

As I participate in your association conferences, and meet colleagues throughout the country, I am struck by the high level of leadership within the profession. When I interact with students and recent graduates, especially such as those who are here today who have been selected by our constituent organizations for their demonstrated leadership abilities, I am confident in the future of our profession.

The value of that leadership is particularly significant as the AVMA focuses on being an advocate for veterinarians at the state level on legislative and regulatory issues...issues affecting your individual states, and potentially other states as well.

The recent, successful Public Policy Symposium and the AVMA Department of State Legislative and Regulatory Affairs illustrates that effective leadership can move great value even higher.

As I spoke to the House of Delegates in July, I particularly focused on two of the five strategic issues...veterinary education and veterinary workforce. These cannot be separated.

In my address I referenced three studies which underscore the urgent need to address these two critical issues. Two of these studies were produced by the National Academy of Sciences. The third study commissioned by the Food Supply Veterinary Medicine Coalition addressed the need for more veterinarians in food supply veterinary medicine.

The overriding recommendations from all of these studies point to improving communication, coordination and collaboration among professional associations, colleges, government agencies and industries.

I truly believe that animal health is at a crossroads. Its convergence with human and ecosystem health dictates that the "one world, one health, one medicine" concept must be embraced.

Collaborating and cooperating with our colleagues in human medicine, public health, and the environmental sciences is imperative. Together, we can accomplish more to improve health worldwide than we can alone...and we, as the veterinary profession, have the responsibility to assume a major leadership role in that effort.

It was upon that basis that I revealed my vision for a one health initiative. An initiative that will ultimately meet today's critical challenge: Expand the veterinary workforce to meet our societal responsibilities and establish a coordinated mechanism to facilitate collaboration and cooperation with a focus on one world, one health, one medicine.

I have been very heartened by the groundswell of support and input towards a one health initiative which has come forth since July. It has come not only from AVMA councils and committees, but has also been conveyed through many interactions which I have had both nationally and internationally.

In addition to many of your associations, some of these interactions have included:

  • US Military Force Health Protection Conference
  • Pet Health Industry Summit
  • US Animal Health Association
  • National Centers for Animal Health in Ames
  • Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges
  • Student AVMA
  • World Veterinary Association
  • Pan-American Veterinary Association
  • AVMA President's Roundtable in Washington, DC attended by 20 guests from various federal agencies

I am particularly pleased to announce that Dr. Julie Gerberding, MD, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and proponent of the "one health" concept, has enthusiastically accepted our invitation and will present the keynote address at the opening session of this year's AVMA Convention in Washington, DC.

It is with this support and input that I will submit a one health initiative recommendation for consideration at the April Executive Board meeting. I am optimistic that a One Health Initiative will be established, and that the AVMA on behalf of the veterinary profession will take the lead in carrying this initiative forward.

In closing let me return to where I started:

What is your value and responsibility as a veterinarian?

What is the value and responsibility of the AVMA and your state or allied association?

It is my fervent hope and vision that we, as veterinarians and as veterinary medical associations, will assume the mantle of leadership and responsibility to protect and promote our immeasurable value to society, to utilize that value to its fullest, and to ensure that our future is a promising future...a future of even greater value.

Thank you for your attention...Thank you for your leadership commitment.