During his term, he helped usher in a new millennium, the results of the Megastudy, and the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues (NCVEI); confronted the pork industry crisis; saw new HACCP regulations put into place; backed food safety issues; and furthered AVMA relations with foreign veterinary representatives. AVMA president, Dr. Leonard F. Seda, has had a busy term helping to sow seeds for the growth of the veterinary profession.
The biggest recent news hit the veterinary profession at the 1999 Annual Convention in New Orleans when results of the Megastudy were announced by the study's organizers, the AVMA, AAHA, and Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges. The executive summary of "The Current and Future Market for Veterinarians and Veterinary Medical Services in the United States" was published in the July 15, 1999 JAVMA (see pages 161-183) and it is available on the AVMA Network.
Dr. Seda's global travels have been heavily spiced with discussion of the results. "Everyone has really established ownership of this study and its findings, and this is because it addresses our veterinary profession's future responsibility."
He added, "The mood of the rank-and-file veterinarians about the NCVEI is, 'Well you're finally worrying about how we're going to solve the problems of veterinary economics and to provide the training that we need as a profession.' We are doing what needs to be done to look at the big picture."
As for how other groups are cultivating the information, Dr. Seda conversed with deans of veterinary colleges who say they are planning to look at more partnering among their colleges, private practitioners, and animal industries to ensure that all students are exposed to a broad background in food animal medicine, companion animal medicine, and food safety.
"That's a significant shift from what existed three or four years ago. Up until this Megastudy came to be, the deans were saying, 'We're going to do our thing according to our state and our history. What we've been doing is fine; now the Megastudy is giving them a consolidated basis to look at each other and help each other. It is a shift."
Noting concerns cropping up from some food animal veterinarians about the demands of the future in their industry, Dr. Seda said, "The food animal veterinarians definitely have a big role to play in trying to make sure they're represented well in this study, and in whatever the actions will be. That's important to them. As a food animal practitioner, I'm the one to say this: I'm convinced they will be at the table, they will be represented, and their substantial interests will be represented."
Although Dr. Seda is not directly involved with the national commission, he said the group's chairman, Dr. James E. Nave, AVMA president-elect, understands the magnitude of the food animal practitioners' requests.
Perhaps most important for veterinarians is legislative involvement, according to Dr. Seda. With their busy schedules, veterinarians can look to the AVMA Legislative Advisory Committee to tend to these issues.
"The Legislative Advisory Committee is probably the greatest shift in our strategic representation in Washington, DC, especially with the professional leadership of AVMA Governmental Relations Division staff, including Dr. Niall Finnegan [director], Dr. Pam Abney [assistant director], Dr. Bernadette Dunham [assistant director], and Dr. Dean Goeldner [assistant director], who have a broad, experienced view of what needs to be done," he said.
"Their mission is to serve the AVMA membership by finding the governmental regulatory and legislative issues that we need to be prepared to influence, when they come up in front of Congress. It's the old theory of having your bags packed for the issue when the time is right. They're preparing packages so we can participate with coalitions."
This does not mean veterinarians should abandon local participation. "Grassroots politics become national issues. Take genetically modified plants, for example. In their own communities, farmers and veterinarians today debate what to plant, from a public perception standpoint. Why? The genetically modified plant products are fed to food animals, which in turn are consumed by people. If the public is not convinced by experts that it's safe to consume genetically modified organisms, science does not prevail."
When Dr. Seda received the presidential gavel from Dr. Richard C. Swanson in New Orleans, he made proposals to restructure the House of Delegates and the Executive Board. "The things that I proposed in New Orleans have taken root, but they have not made any flowers yet. The present profile of the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges does not have the membership numbers required by the AVMA Constitution and Bylaws for representation in the HOD."
Regarding his recommendation to expand the Executive Board by two members to represent the 16 special-interest groups in the House, Dr. Seda said that many of the special-interest groups had a good discussion about it at the Veterinary Leadership Conference in January.
"The idea definitely has some validity, but the process of selection of these two individuals is still being very critically analyzed. Those groups have such a huge variation of individual membership that a proportionate member representation on the board would have to be somehow compromised.
"As far as the specialist representation [American Board of Veterinary Specialties], they have no constitutionally structured organization to qualify for a seat in the House. On the other hand, it has garnered some interest from the ABVS to see whether they can have a unified specialist group that would be structured to sit on the HOD."
Dr. Seda was a guest during the AVMA Steering Committee on Judicious Therapeutic Antimicrobial Use meeting at the AVMA headquarters office in Schaumburg in May. The group is in the process of gathering guidelines from the species groups.
"It's a train of science that's on the track - a common cause for all segments of the profession because it affects everyone equally, including the public health aspect," Dr. Seda said.
The AASP completed its guidelines for judicious use of antimicrobials first. The guidelines were adopted by the AVMA Executive Board at its Nov 19-21, 1999 meeting. The AABP is currently working on guidelines. The American Association of Avian Pathologists guidelines are in process. At press time, the AAFP guidelines awaited AVMA Executive Board approval in June.
Other than AVMA-sponsored forums on food safety and antimicrobial resistance issues, Dr. Seda most recently has traveled to the Antimicrobial Resistance Conference sponsored by the Royal Society of Medicine and Tufts University School of Medicine in Washington, DC, May 4-5. Approximately 70 percent of those in attendance were physicians. The rest were veterinarians and government representatives. Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) opened the session, and closing remarks were made by FDA commissioner Jane E. Henney.
Dr. Seda said, "This meeting was an important step in the right direction in partnering with the human medical profession. It was a powerful group of leaders. We were part of the continuing education for human medical doctors, which is an unheard-of event. We heard about sequencing of bacteria for resistance, how to reduce prescriptions on the human side, and judicious use on the animal side. It's amazing how we were able to participate."
The participants discussed what the pharmaceutical industry has to contend with to find the resources to continue research, and the need for genome researchers and microbiologists to work together to find new antibiotics to satisfy the resistance issue. This involves human and animal needs.
"The pharmaceutical industry is being run by economic resources. If they don't see a profit, they will not be able to muster the research that is necessary. We were looking for links between government, philanthropic donors, and industry," Dr. Seda said.
As far as awareness of human medical doctors of the antimicrobial resistance issue, Dr. Seda said they definitely understand what is at stake.
"Physicians have had decision-making problems because patients want or expect to be treated with antibiotics, even though it is not always necessary. The patience required for the patient to understand is substantial. We have the same problems in the veterinary profession in communicating with our clients," he said.
"How the human medical profession explains their plans for research is amazing. The gene sequence and high-speed computers are now allowing a potential drug usefulness to be screened in 15 minutes. This sequencing model previously took months."
After a busy term working out in the AVMA field, Dr. Seda hopes to spend more time with family, especially his three new grandchildren. He plans to stay involved with the Steering Committee on Judicious Therapeutic Antimicrobial Use and the guidelines it is developing. He'll be on the Executive Board for one more year as immediate past president.
Other than that, he said, "Most of my friends say, 'you've done enough, enjoy life.'"