Nave raises interesting governance issues

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R. Scott Nolen

Dr. James E. Nave pulled no punches in his address to the AVMA House of Delegates when it assembled July 20-21, the days prior to the AVMA Annual Convention in Salt Lake City.

Though recognizing some of his ideas to be "unpopular," the Nevada veterinarian nevertheless challenged delegates to investigate the current member representation for the 11 AVMA Executive Board districts, rethink how members of the AVMA Animal Welfare Committee are chosen, and consider restructuring the AVMA Committee on Environmental Affairs so that veterinarians become the leaders on environmental issues.

As 2000-2001 AVMA president, and as chair of the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues, Dr. Nave plans to devote the bulk of his term to economic matters. Yet in his address to the HOD, he also felt compelled to relate other concerns raised by AVMA members during his many travels across the country.

His other challenges included charging a task force with exploring development of a mentoring program for veterinarians at all stages of life, raising the bar for the people placed in leadership positions, fostering a closer relationship between the AVMA Committee on the Human-Animal Bond and AVMA PLIT, and co-sponsoring an AVMA/Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges summit next year looking at veterinary medicine in the future.

Of those, the most sensitive, at least in Dr. Nave's mind, is ensuring equal representation of AVMA members. Demographic changes over the years have led some to question whether the current structure of Executive Board districts allows for adequate representation on the board. District VI, for example, comprises Iowa and Minnesota and represents 2,782 members; District III is made up of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, and Tennessee, and represents 10,840 members.

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

This is not the first time the redistricting question has been raised. In 1987 the HOD failed to decide whether it wanted the districts to have equal numbers of AVMA members or equal numbers of states. Then in 1992, incoming president Dr. L. Everett Macomber suggested that a committee be impaneled to examine the demographic changes and make recommendations to the HOD. But again, there was no decision.

Now, eight years later, Dr. Nave has again raised the issue, saying that the AVMA should keep the current 11-district structure, yet each with an equal proportion of Association members. He also suggested that the AVMA Long-Range Planning Committee take a "serious look at this problem." "I realize these thoughts are not popular," he said. "But what is most important, in my opinion, is fairness, equal representation, and a structure that ensures that the great minds of this profession feel they have the opportunity to serve."

Dr. Nave observed that one constant in his travels is that the various species groups are all concerned with animal welfare. The difficulty in dealing with these issues will increase in the coming years. To remain at the forefront of this, Dr. Nave suggested using the AVMA Legislative Advisory Committee as a model for selecting members of the Animal Welfare Committee.

The Legislative Advisory Committee was designed as a coalition of animal interests that would speak for the veterinary profession on legislative and regulatory matters. Dr. Nave recommended that the AVMA Executive Board apply a similar formula for the composition of the Animal Welfare Committee.

"As was the case with the Legislative Advisory Committee, this committee must know the viewpoints and concerns of all allied groups in the House of Delegates. Recommendations to the Executive Board should come forward only after the wants, needs, and concerns of all AVMA members have been heard. At the present time, that is not always the case."

A veteran of the US Army Veterinary Corps, Dr. Nave spoke fondly of his military service and of the necessity for a brigadier general to lead the corps. "That is the rank that is in proportion to the magnitude and importance of the work" the commanding officer is doing, he said. Since the mid-1990s, a colonel has directed the veterinary corps. Dr. Nave called on the Legislative Advisory Committee to make restoring "the star" a priority, and on every AVMA president after him to work toward the return of a brigadier general to the corps' command.

To maintain its reputation in an ever-changing society, the veterinary profession must work hard to address its problems. As people increasingly place a higher value on their pets, they demand more from veterinarians. Consequently, the legal profession is recognizing the veterinary profession as a "profit center" and will expand its litigation against veterinarians, according to Dr. Nave. Animal interest groups differing with the AVMA on welfare issues are doing a better job at communicating their viewpoints to the public, he said. The AVMA Committee on the Human-Animal Bond and PLIT must work together closely to ensure that veterinarians continue to be esteemed in the public eye.

Dr. Nave also called for a reevaluation of the Committee on Environmental Affairs by experts within the veterinary profession. Consensus concerning environmental topics is admittedly rare, and there had been discussion of sunsetting the environmental committee. The Executive Board voted instead to review it after two years.

Dr. Nave believes veterinarians should be leaders on environmental issues but instead have been "on the sideline watching." Because of their understanding of the industries they represent, members of the AABP and AASP should be on the committee, he added. At this time, neither association is.

In closing, Dr. Nave said, "I would challenge all of you to please think about the issues I believe will determine our future."