Dr. Nave at a recent Executive Board meeting.
When his term as AVMA president ends this July, Dr. James E. Nave begins the twilight of his tenure on the Executive Board, a body he's been part of for nearly eight years. At the AVMA Annual Convention in Boston, Dr. James H. Brandt becomes the new president, and Dr. Nave remains on the board for only one more year. In a recent interview with JAVMA News, Dr. Nave spoke of some of what he's learned about the veterinary profession, especially as the elected head of a national association comprising men and women for whom his respect and admiration continues to grow.
Are the various sectors of the veterinary profession working together better?
The AVMA and the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges are working better today than ever, and that's so critically important to the profession. The AVMA has had a reputation for a very long time of being exclusive in nature, and I think that has changed. We are developing a reputation for being inclusive, and the relationships we have with the allied groups are much better than they've ever been.
As president-elect and president I've tried very, very hard to make sure that all the allied groups knew that, even though I wasn't a member of their group and didn't know their industry nearly as well as they did, I wanted very much to be their president and to learn their industry as best I could. But in areas where I couldn't, I wanted to at least do what I could so that their viewpoints were brought to the table, and we tried hard to do that.
[President-elect] Dr. Brandt and I have worked together very closely, and Dr. [Joe M.] Howell, as a candidate [for president-elect 2002-2003], has also worked closely with us. Since the first of the year, I've made sure that Dr. Brandt has been wherever I've been, at meetings of significance, so in July there will be a smooth transition in the office of the president.
You came to the office with ambitious proposals, and the board has supported much of them. Do you expect any challenges in the House of Delegates?
I had a large number of items that I asked the Executive Board, the House of Delegates, and the councils and committees to all take a look at. They have been unbelievably supportive of the things that I brought forth in Salt Lake City. I didn't ask anybody to start a single program until I first met with Dr. Brandt to make sure that he was a supporter.
My experience with the HOD is that every time they've been asked to do something that I've been involved in, if they were presented the facts in an honest, straightforward manner with no hidden agendas, they always did the right thing, and I think that's the way they will continue to function. I'm hopeful the HOD will approve the bylaws change to redraw the Executive Board district lines. It will give more people in each district an opportunity to be candidates for the Executive Board, and it will also spread the work out among board members much better.
Is your mentoring initiative coming along as you envisioned?
If the leaders over the next two or three years support this mentoring program, I think it could be one of the most important things we do. I stated last July, and I've stated many times since, that I believe there's a lack of understanding between generations. It is the greatest loss of human resources in our profession. And what is more valuable than human resources?
I think the Member Services Committee, particularly the subcommittee that is chaired by Dr. Blair Jones, is doing a wonderful job. The makeup of that committee is as it should be; it covers all generations, from a student up to veterinarians who are at retirement age. The committee is looking at generational issues and understanding how they affect us, and then they'll be moving toward developing the mentoring program.
The climate in Washington, DC, seems to be favorable for veterinarians and their issues. Can the AVMA be doing more?
Our situation in Washington, DC, is better than I've ever seen it since I've been involved with the AVMA. And to be quite honest, I've been very much a critic in the past of the [now defunct] Council on Governmental Affairs, so I'm very pleased with where the new Legislative Advisory Committee is now.
The demands of the public in the area of food safety are increasing daily. The public is very aware of foot-and-mouth disease, and I think that there is some awareness of the ramifications of what would happen if we got FMD in this country. So there is pressure on us, as the association that represents most of the veterinarians in the country, to be very involved in that area.
The AVMA focuses on national issues. But is it appropriate for the Association to get involved at the state and local levels, as it has with the latest licensing debate in California?
It is proper for the AVMA to get involved in state issues where there's a fairly high likelihood that that issue would have national implications. To be very candid with you, we cannot get involved in all the state issues, nor should we. And I think that it has to first pass the test of whether it would have national implications. If it does and the problem is very serious and it would really affect our profession, the sooner you can deal with that problem the better you are.
Should the AVMA be working toward global accreditation?
The policy the Executive Board has right now, in terms of approving foreign schools, is the correct policy. I've often said that our guiding force should be threefold: it should be visionary and global in nature, it should maintain high standards of veterinary education, and it should be fair to us.
Regarding accrediting [foreign accreditation] bodies, we don't have the structure or the expertise to do that right now, and we shouldn't consider it. In terms of setting up a global accrediting body—which could, one day, be the goal—that's another area where we need to be very, very careful. I wouldn't want to do anything to lower the standards of veterinary education, and right now we have much control over making sure that doesn't happen.
Within our country, why are the accreditation process and the Educational Commission for Foreign Veterinary Graduates program being so strongly challenged? For instance, the American Association of Veterinary State Boards has come forward with its Program for Assessment of Veterinary Education Equivalency as an alternative to the ECFVG.
Information has been put out there that there's a huge backlog in the ECFVG certification program, but that's not correct. It is unfortunate that false information has been circulated. The profession would be better served if groups that think there's something wrong with it would help change or modify that little bit to make it better. People who I have a great deal of respect for tell me that it has served us well, that it has made sure that the quality of foreign veterinarians who qualify for licensing examination has not decreased. Any alternative program that would, in effect, approve a foreign school without that school going through the Council on Education approval program would be a mistake. Unfortunately, I think we have a long struggle ahead of us.
One of the most important services the AVMA does is to maintain and increase the value of our diploma, a document that is critically important to every veterinarian. It's a document that everybody I know has worked very hard and sacrificed a great deal to get. It's a document that most of us, when we got it, looked at as a key to a better future and I think that if we as a profession or an association do anything to decrease the value of that diploma, then shame on us. Some of the things the AVMA has done in the past two years have certainly increased the value of the diploma.
What are the highlights and disappointments of your term?
I've not had any disappointments. I've had nothing but pleasure doing this and even the "bad" days have been wonderful. I certainly never dreamed that I would be president—it was never on my radar screen—but I'm very happy that the HOD and the Executive Board, the councils and committees, and the staff and all the volunteers have been so kind and supportive to me.
One of the things that happens when you're president-elect and president is you get a view of the profession different from most. You get a much broader view, and you see yourself changing how you look at things. I've always had great respect for veterinarians and for the veterinary medical profession, but after serving as president-elect and president, I'm almost in awe of it. We have veterinarians out there doing things that are unbelievable, doing things I don't believe I could do. However much respect I had for the profession—which was a tremendous amount—it's even greater today.