Eye on the future

Nave to use AVMA presidency as platform for change
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Dr. James E. Nave calls from O'Hare International Airport in Chicago asking whether there is time for his scheduled interview with JAVMA News while he awaits a late flight back to his home state of Nevada. An hour earlier at AVMA headquarters, he had concluded a meeting with officials from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, trying to negotiate an arrangement by which US veterinarians could practice in Great Britain (see related story, page 313).

Dr. James E. Nave
Dr. James E. Nave

Just days before that same June week, he had co-chaired a gathering of the AVMA/Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges Joint Committee, followed by a two-day Executive Board session — one of the last for Dr. Nave as president-elect before he assumes the AVMA presidency for the 2000-2001 term. No sooner did the board meeting end when Dr. Nave sat down with AVMA convention and meeting planners to discuss his vision for expanding attendance at the Association's annual conventions to upwards of 14,000. (The Baltimore convention in 1998 set the record with 8,587 attendees.)

When he is not traveling the country and overseas as part of his official responsibilities or convening with any one of the numerous committees of which he is a member, Dr. Nave might be seeing patients at his small animal clinic, Tropicana Animal Hospital, in Las Vegas.

Though active in organized veterinary medicine most of his career, Dr. Nave has not limited himself. As one of the board of directors for a Las Vegas bank, he sits on four committees, chairing one of them. Concerning politics, this election year he is involved in several Nevada campaigns. Incidentally, Dr. Nave was selected to chair a tribute dinner in December for close friend Nevada Sen Richard Bryan, who is retiring from the US Senate in January.

By most standards, such a consuming schedule would be maddening. But listening to Dr. Nave describe his travel itinerary, talk about his aspirations for the Association and his profession, his devotion to family and friends, topped off with his business and civic responsibilities, it becomes clear that he thrives on burning the candle at both ends.

"Some people tend to like to take a chore and do that chore and finish it, then go on to the next chore. Other people like to have multiple chores in their life at one time. I'm probably that type of person; I like to have a lot of things going on at once," the veterinarian admitted, his soft-spoken drawl hinting at his Missouri roots.

"I like to solve problems. I like to have a vision of things that should be different, and then create a model to do that."

After graduating from the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine in 1968, he pulled a three-year stint in the Army, which included a tour in Vietnam, attaining the rank of captain. Shortly after his discharge in 1971, Dr. Nave entered private practice, and today owns and manages several veterinary practices in Clark County, Nevada.

One of Dr. Nave's salient career highlights is his appointment to the Nevada Athletic Commission in 1988. Named to the commission by Bryan, who was then state governor, Dr. Nave was reappointed three times and by a subsequent administration. He went on to chair the commission five times.

The North American Boxing Federation selected Dr. Nave to be Boxing Commissioner of the Year in 1990, while the World Boxing Council five times honored him during the 1990s as Boxing Commissioner of the Year.

In October 1998, Dr. Nave made international news as the sole dissenter on the five-member boxing commission in a 4-1 vote to grant Mike Tyson a boxing license following the infamous ear-biting incident with Evander Holyfield.

Four days prior to the widely publicized hearing, Dr. Nave underwent surgery for a liver ailment. So important was the licensing hearing to Dr. Nave, he left the hospital against his doctor's advice. Under the supervision of the hospital's chief surgeon, he endured the three-hour hearing to cast his vote, all with a drainage shunt from his abdomen tucked out of sight in his suit pants.

After the vote, he was transported back to the hospital to recoup and await the fallout for his vote. Surprisingly, there was little, but the incident exemplifies the lengths to which Dr. Nave will go when he believes he is right.

"I did what I knew was best, for me," he said, adding that he has never second-guessed his decision.

Dr. Nave does not believe holding the office of AVMA president is necessary for him to feel that he has been a success. Nor did he seek the position for "glory," or because he felt the presidency is the best way he could give back to the profession.

In fact, Dr. Nave did not even decide to run until just days prior to the Baltimore convention where he announced his candidacy. The reason: he debated whether he could fulfill his obligations as president and still be available for his daughter, Alisa.

He is quick to add that being elected AVMA president is an honor, and he sees it as an important platform from which to call for timely improvements to the profession. Dr. Nave is convinced that the AVMA is the only organization that can adequately represent the multifaceted veterinary profession. It is this mission of inclusiveness that he hopes will characterize his term.

"I've tried to demonstrate that, even though I'm a small animal practitioner, I have the ability to listen to all veterinarians. I don't pretend that I know their industry as well as they do, but I can use the office of president to get their views to the table. I believe I have done that as president-elect, and will continue to do that as president because it's very important to me."

"Even though I'm a small animal practitioner, I have the ability to listen to all veterinarians. I don't pretend that I know their industry as well as they do, but I can use the office of president to get their views to the table." —Dr. James E. Nave

His philosophy is evident in the structure of the AVMA Legislative Advisory Committee and the independent, not-for-profit National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues, which he chairs. Dr. Nave was instrumental in the formation of both entities while serving in various capacities with the AVMA.

The Legislative Advisory Committee is a broad coalition of veterinary interests, from the veterinary colleges to industrial veterinarians, united to speak with one voice to legislative and regulatory issues affecting veterinary medicine.

Similarly, the national commission is made up of three associations that have not always worked well together: the AVMA, AAHA, and the AAVMC. With the KPMG LLP Megastudy predicting that the US veterinary profession faces a challenging future, the associations established the commission with the goal of remedying the profession's economic troubles.

After leaders of the AABP and AASP publicly criticized portions of the Megastudy relating to food animal medicine, Dr. Nave, ever the negotiator, met privately with both groups, assuring them they would not be excluded from the commission. The AABP and AASP have since made overtures toward better relations with the commission (see JAVMA, July 1, 2000, page 13).

A temptation for presidents, Dr. Nave said, is to try to do too much during their term. They should instead devote themselves to a smaller agenda that has a better shot at succeeding. But beneath his circumspection are a myriad of ideas, some doable, others he keeps to himself.

As president, Dr. Nave plans to focus primarily on the national commission. The KPMG LLP Megastudy indicates there is reason for concern about the future of the veterinary market, stating that veterinary income is stagnant and could, relatively speaking, decrease over the next 10 years.

Key to the commission's effectiveness will be how well it convinces the various segments of the profession, from the allied groups to the state and local associations, to abandon their tendency toward isolationism and recognize that what is bad for one group is ultimately bad for all.

"We're a tough profession to get our arms around because we're so diverse. I don't think we've always stopped to see what the problems are for everybody else," Dr. Nave said.

One way to potentially promote cohesion is through what he calls "mentoring for life."

"We should look at mentoring in all stages of life, starting with the preveterinary student and continuing with the student, and to the young new graduate, and middle age, and to retirement age," he explained, adding that he will ask the AVMA to seriously consider emphasizing the benefits of cross-generational relationships between veterinarians.

Dr. Nave credits much of his success to certain people who influenced him along the way, especially his mother. As a boy growing up fatherless in Missouri, particular farmers "gave me wisdom that I still use today." Similar mentors awaited him in veterinary college, the Army, and private practice. Even now, Dr. Nave meets occasionally with two men in their 80s for lunch and wisdom.

He himself tries to be a mentor to his daughter and younger veterinarians.

Dr. Nave acknowledges the inherent difficulties of his charge to the AVMA: he is not aware of any model for so comprehensive a program. Nonetheless, he will ask the Association to embrace the concept of mentoring, and explore the possibility of developing an agenda to see it through. He would make it a priority of his presidency but, he confesses, he does not have the time.

"There's only so much time you have for your agenda because your duties as AVMA president take so much time," he said.

When his term ends next year, Dr. Nave hopes that it will be said of him that he did the best he could, that he tried to be a president to all veterinarians. "What's important to me is that when it's over, all those folks who worked with me in the trenches say that I left things a little better than when I came."