President’s Column: Dr. John de Jong
Last month, I shared with you my commitment to advocate on behalf of the veterinary profession by engaging with federal and state lawmakers and the public. Today, I am asking you to join me in those efforts.
Decisions are made every day that directly affect us as veterinarians. Laws and regulations regarding animal neglect and abuse, small business issues, and restrictions on the practice of veterinary medicine are just some of the recurring issues that regularly impact us on the state and national level. So, it’s important to be engaged, to be an effective advocate for what we believe is best for our profession.
Advocacy is at the heart of what the AVMA does. And, thanks to the many volunteers, AVMA members, and staff who actively engage with elected leaders, the AVMA is recognized as the collective voice of the entire veterinary profession at every level of government.
Our federal advocacy efforts, in particular, help protect, promote, and advance your interests in our nation’s capital. Here are just a few of our current federal advocacy efforts:
Prescription Mandates: Prescription mandate legislation that would require veterinarians to provide written prescriptions for companion animals even if clients do not request them was again introduced this past spring. We are vigorously opposing this legislation and working to educate Congress on the issue.
Higher Education Act: Congress is considering legislation that would eliminate the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program and curtail other crucial loan programs for veterinarians. The AVMA launched a robust advocacy campaign that mobilized more than 6,700 members of the veterinary community to contact Congress and urge them to protect the vital PSLF program. Thanks to you raising your voice, the legislation is currently stalled in the House.
2018 Farm Bill: The House and Senate have passed their respective versions of the Farm Bill. Both versions include many of the AVMA’s key animal health priorities, including authorizations for a three-pronged approach to proactively improve animal health. Although the House bill fully funds this approach, the Senate bill does not. As the House and Senate come together to finalize a bill to send to the president’s desk, we are working to secure full funding for this important initiative.
As successful as our advocacy efforts are in representing the interests of veterinary medicine, we always benefit from more members making their voices heard on the issues that matter most. I encourage you to enhance our federal advocacy work by contributing to our Political Action Committee and joining our Congressional Advocacy Network. There are opportunities to advocate on the state and local level, too, by monitoring legislation and regulations that govern the practice of veterinary medicine and offering your insight to lawmakers.
Lawmakers aren’t the only people we need to reach. It’s also important for us to communicate with the public, but for a broader purpose. We need to let the public know why we as veterinarians and as a profession matter to them, and how critical our work is to their everyday lives. Because so many people associate the term “veterinarian” only with someone who treats sick dogs and cats, we need to emphasize our roles in other areas like food animal production, public health, animal welfare, epidemiology, research, and so much more. Educating the public about the many facets of the profession will allow them to better appreciate our work. By developing relationships with your local media and with community leaders, you can help ensure that our message to the public is spread far and wide.
The AVMA remains committed to our role as an influential and effective advocate for all of the veterinary profession. We can’t, however, do it alone. We need your help advocating for those issues important to us as a profession. Our work has a positive—dare I say, priceless—impact on society. Your perspectives and voice make us a stronger association, one that is representative of the entire profession and better positioned to meet the profession’s needs.
Working together, we will continue to make a difference.