Economic commission organizes, invites input

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National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues

To draw upon their knowledge and expertise to assist with improving the economics of the veterinary profession, the board of directors of the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues will invite to its meetings the allied groups in the AVMA House of Delegates and animal health corporations expressing interest in the commission's purpose.

In January, at its first official meeting, the board agreed to invite allied and other pertinent groups to send a representative to attend board meetings at their own expense and to serve as resources during deliberations. Members of these groups could also be appointed to advisory panels and serve on task forces working to ensure the economic health of the profession.

Additionally, the board approved the formation of a "sponsors' council" open to any party committing a minimum of $75,000 per year for five years to the economic commission. Aimed at garnering the business experience of the animal health industry, the council will serve the board in a nonvoting, advisory capacity.

Organizational actions taken when the board met Jan 24-25 at AVMA headquarters included election of officers, approval of articles of incorporation and bylaws, and selection of a logo for the economic commission.

The 2000-2001 officers of the economic commission were chosen from among board members representing the founding associations: the AVMA, American Animal Hospital Association, and Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges. They are Dr. James E. Nave, 1999-2000 AVMA president-elect, chair; Dr. Lonnie J. King, president of the AAVMC, vice chair; and Dr. Michael A. Paul, 1999-2000 AAHA president, secretary/treasurer.

The board also voted to continue its search for a chief executive officer with the help of an executive recruiting firm. Until the position is filled, Dr. Janet D. Donlin, AVMA associate executive vice president, will serve as interim CEO.

Dr. Janet D. Donlin
Dr. Janet D. Donlin

The board felt that leaving the position vacant would stall the commission's momentum, which has been building since the release last summer of the executive summary of the economic study "The Current and Future Market for Veterinarians and Veterinary Medical Services in the United States." Dr. Donlin was selected to serve as the commission's interim chief because of her work with the AVMA/AAHA/AAVMC Joint Steering Committee, which commissioned the market study.

It was the steering committee that, in an effort to address those matters raised in the study and to capitalize on the opportunities for growth, recommended establishment of the independent, not-for-profit National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues. The 12-member committee also serves as the commission's board of directors.

The idea of a sponsors' council evolved after many of the animal health industry corporations that responded to requests for funding of the commission indicated a desire to take an active role in its initiatives. Board member Dr. John W. Albers, AAHA executive director, said the offer of council membership to the corporations and other interested parties is an opportunity for the board to benefit from their insights and business experience.

"We're not trying to address veterinary medical problems," said former AVMA president Dr. John I. Freeman, one of four AVMA representatives on the board. "We're trying to address the economic and business problems. I think there's an enormous advantage to having [industry leaders] sitting at the table."

There is no limit to the size of the sponsors' council. Each member group, at its own expense, can send one representative to participate in every board meeting. The nonvoting clause, Dr. Albers explained, is to ensure that commission decisions remain in the hands of the veterinary profession and the board of directors.

With annual pledges of $75,000 each for five years, Bayer and Veterinary Pet Insurance are the first members of the sponsors' council.

Earlier in January, at the AVMA Veterinary Leadership Conference and House of Delegates Informational Assembly, members of the joint steering committee hosted a presentation and forum on the market study. Following the conference, requests for similar presentations were made.

In February, board members gave similar presentations at the annual meetings of the Virginia and Minnesota VMAs, a symposium hosted by The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine and Ohio VMA, and the AVMA Economic Symposium at the Western Veterinary Conference. Presentations are scheduled at the AVMA Student Symposium at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine on March 17, the AAHA annual convention April 3 in Toronto, and the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine alumni reunion April 14.

A CEO will likely be in place this spring. In the meantime, Dr. Donlin's initial duties include helping to secure additional sponsorship, getting the economic commission's office at the AVMA headquarters building up and running, and overseeing the distribution of the market study.

Copies of the full study are available for purchase through the AVMA, as are two CD-ROM versions; one contains the entire study, and the other the study plus the raw data. An abridged print version will be available soon.

Look for the first update from the economic commission in the "Veterinary Medicine Today" section in the April 1 issue of the JAVMA.