Candidate: District VII Director
Dr. Frank E. Walker is a mixed-animal practitioner and owner of Flickertail Veterinary Service in New Rockford, North Dakota. He grew up in western North Dakota, where he assisted an uncle with chores and care of cattle and other livestock on a ranch. From his early years he was interested in working with livestock production and agriculture, which led to his interest in veterinary medicine, food animal production and food safety. Dr. Walker received his DVM from Iowa State University (ISU) then returned to his home state where he worked as an associate veterinarian for 3½ years. Pursuing a lifetime goal, he then built and operated a private mixed-animal clinical practice for 25+ years. His clinical practice provided care for small animals, large-animal clinical medicine and surgery, cow-calf preventative herd health medicine, dairy herd management, as well as herd work and farm calls out in the field. Additionally, he provided consultation to producers of non-traditional livestock and buffalo. At present he is a consultant for select clientele.
Throughout his professional career, Dr. Walker has maintained a hands-on commitment to organized veterinary medicine. His initial involvement was at ISU, where he participated in the student veterinary medical association. As a clinical practitioner, he has been and continues to be an active participant in the North Dakota Veterinary Medical Association (NDVMA). He served as the secretary-treasurer for many years and contributed to the growth and development of the state association through participation in strategic planning sessions and a search for a new executive director. His knowledge of the legislative process enabled him to assist NDVMA by providing testimony to the state legislature on topics of animal welfare, veterinary student education contracts, and the veterinarian-client-patient relationship as it pertains to the state practice act. He also served as the state legislative contact for the AVMA Congressional Action Network. He currently provides leadership for the state association through service on the Continuing Education Committee and as a 2nd vice president.
In 2002, he was appointed to the state licensure board where he served for 12 years and gained critical insights relating to practice and regulatory issues. This position afforded a glimpse into the public perspective on veterinary practice and the accountability needed on the part of veterinarians. He observed that many complaints are due to poor communication between practitioner and client, the need for accurate record keeping, and a lack of understanding of state law. From this he was motivated to look for solutions that will assist and train practitioners and state boards so that the practice of veterinary medicine is improved, which ultimately protects the public and its animals.
Encouraged by an appeal from the AVMA for increased involvement of members and driven by a desire to gain further leadership experience, Dr. Walker began the process of seeking a position at the national level. He was significantly encouraged by Ted Cohn, DVM, and attended AVMA annual conventions where he was able to seek guidance from those in leadership positions. In 1999, he made his first attempt at running for a seat on a national committee. When he didn't win a position on the first try, he continued to run in succeeding years until, in 2004, on the fifth try, he won a seat on the AVMA Council on Education. This experience underscores one of his favorite mottos: Never, never quit trying!
From 2004-2010 he served on the AVMA Council on Education (COE) where he participated in consultative and comprehensive site visits to veterinary colleges in the US and internationally and was appointed as liaison to the AVMA Council on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities (CVTEA). As a mixed-animal practitioner, he reviewed and verified the status of education and training with regard to large animals. Service on the COE broadened his understanding of competencies, the accreditation process, and the training needs of entry level veterinarians and veterinary technicians. It also reinforced his perspective that there is a need to improve education related to rural practice, food animal production, food safety, and biosecurity. Participation on the COE made him aware of the complex issue of increased student debt as well as expectations and financial limitations placed on veterinary education programs.
At the conclusion of his term on the COE, Dr. Walker, returned to the regulatory and licensure arena by serving on the Resolutions & By-laws Committee for the American Association of Veterinary State Boards (AAVSB). He was elected to fill a vacated position on the AAVSB Board of Directors, then completed a successful run for a full-term position. During his years on this board, he led development of a training program for new board members, was the liaison to the RACE committee, and helped guide the organization through the difficult loss of the executive director and a key board member within one year's time. As a member of the executive committee, he served as treasurer, president elect, president, and currently is the immediate past president. This experience provided greater understanding of licensure and economic issues that are common to all states. Working with this organization fostered opportunities to work collaboratively with allied groups to achieve mutually beneficial goals, to implement reduced cost solutions, to increase understanding of mission and purpose and improve communication between organizations.
A personal priority for Dr. Walker is to Listen, Learn, then Lead based on the expressed needs within an organization. From his experience as a rural veterinarian and small business owner, he is committed to advocacy for this unique aspect of practice because it contributes significantly to food animal production, food safety and biosecurity.
Dr. Walker lives in a rural community (population 1200) with his wife, Georgianna, who is a registered dietitian and quilter. They have two grown children and three grandchildren. Dr. Walker is an active livestock producer owning 145 cow-calf pairs. When he is not busy with the cattle operation, he likes to read, travel, garden, and advise his wife on her quilting projects.
Biographical statement provided by the candidate.
Dr. Walker—Statement of Reason for Seeking Office
As a candidate for the AVMA District VII representative, I offer a wealth of experience and knowledge as a mixed-animal practitioner coupled with a breadth of state and national experience focused on regulatory, accreditation and education, and leadership development of volunteers.
From my experiences at the local, state and national level, I found that many licensure and economic issues are common to all regulatory boards and state associations. Finding effective solutions is critical and can be achieved if the organization is strategic about listening to its members, learning about their needs, then leading with development of innovative programs. If you engage those who are impacted by the process, you end up with a group that can solve problems to become more proactive rather than reactive. Identifying and acting upon the sincere concerns of the membership increases involvement of volunteers and is an enhancement for gaining a broader base for solutions and problem solving. This helps to move the organization forward and promotes unity of purpose. My experience leading a task force to recruit, train and educate volunteers for leadership positions within AAVSB has resulted in increased participation and enthusiasm, as well as increased awareness of purpose and mission. Development of programs and services that meet specific member needs results in cost savings, greater satisfaction and increased valuation of the organization on the part of members.
I am highly supportive of the use of new technologies and practice innovations that will improve or facilitate delivery of quality veterinary medicine on the part of practitioners. An example is the emerging use of telemedicine, which has the potential to expand practice beyond physical limits, but also presents secondary issues such as practicing across state lines, the need for licensure, and other ethical considerations such as the need to actually "see" the patient. New technologies will necessitate innovative thinking on the part of our profession, followed by education and training. Practitioners will benefit from early adoption of new, practical technologies that are practice focused. The technology is out there, we are the ones who must access and apply it so that the practice of veterinary medicine is improved, which ultimately protects animals, livestock and the public.
In an environment concerned with regulations, it is imperative for membership to work as a united body to advocate for inclusion of veterinary medicine in legislation and regulations at state and national levels. We are faced with increasing infringement into our practice areas, attempts to eliminate current practice law, and even the possibility of elimination from legislation and policies involving animal care. We cannot be passive in this area! If we fail to take the initiative some other group will, leaving the veterinary profession out of the story. Through involvement with veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR) legislation, I have actively supported initiatives within my state, successfully countering uninformed attempts to alter the existing practice act. The implementation of realistic, sound legislation on issues such as stewardship and animal welfare will enhance the veterinary profession, protect animals and educate the public.
We all eat, we need to tell the story of agriculture; as veterinarians we can be the positive voice for food animals, to tell the "story." This is critical for food security and production. While conducting site visits at international veterinary colleges, it was evident that much of the international veterinary community continues to focus on food animal health and production. As a practitioner, I have worked extensively with livestock producers and herd health management. I will continue to advocate for increased exposure of students and new veterinarians to opportunities to work in rural settings with food production animals and livestock producers. This practice area is underrepresented and presents unique educational and training challenges within veterinary educational programs.
Serving on the AVMA Council on Education has given me competence to assess issues surrounding accreditation. The breadth of material, support and training that must be included in today's educational programs is staggering. Economic constraints on the part of veterinary colleges impacts curriculum decisions, student debt and ability to pay back loans has risen to the forefront; wellness of the practitioner and management of practice-associated stress are all current issues that impact the quality of veterinary education and preparation of students for practice. Concurrent expectations for colleges to meet university academic standards, enrollment quotas and progress toward graduation only increase the complexities of veterinary education.
My involvement in our profession has shown me how quickly things can change and the need to willingly and readily adapt. There is a need for experienced reflection matched with creative, forward-looking programs and services that meet the needs of veterinary practitioners. I desire to hold the position of AVMA District VII representative in order to serve members and practitioners, to advocate for your concerns. I will listen, learn, and then lead through implementation of programs and services that meet your expressed needs. In the end, it isn't what I think, it is what the members think that needs to drive our professional organization forward into the future.
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Statement of reason for seeking office provided by the candidate.