At your service: membership team moves into position

Published on
information-circle This article is more than 3 years old

Staff of the AVMA Membership and Field Services Division are bent on making AVMA members feel they have ownership in their Association.

"In this division, we support AVMA members from the time they become a first-year veterinary student, and then an active AVMA member, all the way until they reach honor roll status," said division director J. Karl Wise, PhD.

With the arrival in June of a third new assistant director, the division is well on its way to reorganizing its infrastructure, streamlining functions, and reviewing current and potential services to enhance the value of membership in the AVMA.

In the process, director Wise hopes to strengthen the perception of membership value, and possibly even increase the already gratifying 82 percent membership rate.

Transformation of the membership division began in August 1999 with the appointment of Dr. Wise as director. AVMA members had been familiar with his economic studies for the profession while he was the AVMA economist, and later, director of the Association's Centers for Information Management.

At the time of Dr. Wise's appointment to the membership division, the AVMA also moved its statistical research program (now supported by new research analyst Martin Gonzalez) and database applications management group (led by database manager Shelly Lamb) to the membership division.

Membership and Field Services staff
J. Karl Wise, PhD, director of the AVMA Membership and Field Services Division, with his three assistant directors: Diana J. Tomasek, Sharon Colwell, and Dr. Rosemary J. LoGiudice.

Then came the summer of 2000 and two of the three new assistant directors for the division.

In June, Diana J. Tomasek, MS, transferred to the membership division, as assistant director for member services, from the AVMA Centers for Information Management. Her move was sparked by the challenge to strengthen and streamline the division's member benefits and services programs. Tomasek has a graduate degree in integrated marketing communications.

In her previous position as AVMA online managing editor, Tomasek had developed and managed AVMA Internet services and resources, and increased traffic to the AVMA Network Web site. She developed relationships with constituent organizations, initiated industry-sponsored programs, managed the advisory team for the Network of Animal Health, and was staff consultant to the Committee on Veterinary Medical Informatics.

Development of member services is Tomasek's primary area of responsibility. "We've been taking a hard look at our operations and streamlining our processes. Everything we've worked on so far is going to lead to better member service—our ultimate goal, and hopefully, improve our response to inquiries and needs in faster turnaround time and member care."

In July, Sharon Colwell joined the AVMA membership division as assistant director for membership operations. She brought with her 16 years of experience from the American Dental Association, primarily in the areas of membership, marketing, and chapter relations. Immediately before coming to the AVMA, Colwell had been marketing manager for a Christian publishing company. A certified association executive, she has also held teaching positions, done free-lance writing, and consulted on leadership team building and strategic planning.

"I had had the opportunity to work with state and local chapters at the ADA and also to interact with students in dental school," Colwell said. "My AVMA position combines both of those activities. I also like the membership contact. One additional factor that attracted me was the 82 percent market share. That's very healthy compared to other professional associations."

The trio of assistant directors was complete with the arrival of Dr. Rosemary J. LoGiudice this June 4. A 1981 University of Illinois graduate, Dr. LoGiudice had owned an equine and small animal practice in Manhattan, Ill, from 1997-2006. From 1981-1997 she had been a practitioner and partner at an equine/large animal practice in nearby Joliet.

Dr. LoGiudice is currently president of the Illinois State VMA. She chaired the ISVMA board of directors from 1993-1995.

Her background attests to her abiding interest in veterinary students. For six years she has been an ISVMA/University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine mentor. She was ISVMA representative on the Council on Education site visit team to the U of I veterinary college. As a student herself, she was a representative to the ISVMA.

"When I became president-elect of the Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association, my primary focus was to try and increase the awareness of organized veterinary medicine at the U of I student chapter, and to increase involvement of the college's veterinarians with their state association," Dr. LoGiudice said. "That dovetails nicely with this position, which will be increasing awareness of organized veterinary medicine among student chapters on a national level."

Dr. LoGiudice and Colwell will share responsibilities for advising the Student AVMA, student chapter relations, and recruitment. Dr. LoGiudice will focus on medical and professional issues management, and Colwell on association and chapter management.

Colwell said, "We are looking forward to working with Dr. LoGiudice because she provides a key piece in the student relations part of the picture. Strategic management of professional issues is a strength that she'll bring." Likewise, Dr. LoGiudice said, "One of the weaknesses in veterinary education is management, primarily of practices, but also associations. We're not really trained for that, so it's a great asset to have Sharon Colwell, who is trained and experienced in that area. The three of us will blend our strengths nicely."

Dr. LoGiudice will be primary coordinator of the student chapter visits. Between her and Colwell, they will visit half the veterinary schools each year, and the AVMA vice president will continue to visit the other half. The next year, they'll switch schools. There will be 29 AVMA student chapters this fall, including the Atlantic Veterinary College at the University of Prince Edward Island in Canada and a newly forming chapter at the Western University of Health Sciences College of Veterinary Medicine in California.

According to Dr. Wise, his team is looking into involving other AVMA staff from Schaumburg and Washington in student chapter visits, so that the important messages are conveyed in new and creative ways.

Dr. LoGiudice said, "The integrity of veterinary medicine resides in the strength of AVMA and organized veterinary medicine at not only the national level but also the state and local levels. To develop a strong organized veterinary medicine platform, you need to have a strong student chapter platform."

She added that student chapter contact with the AVMA should extend beyond an annual visit. It's important, she said, to have regular contact with each chapter and to have strong ongoing communications for student chapter support.

On the national level, Colwell noted that the membership division staff have been working to put the Student AVMA leadership in closer contact with the AVMA staff and elected leadership, for more beneficial working relationships. Colwell is also working to strengthen and unify the faculty advisers network.

Professional issues management and career development are two key areas Dr. LoGiudice will direct. She will, for example, coordinate the division's response to frequent member inquiries about such workplace issues as environmental hazards, pregnancy, records retention, and work contracts.

By September the membership division hopes to convert the AVMA Veterinary Career Center from a PC-based operation to a Web-based format. At present, sponsorship of the new service is being sought. The new online veterinary career center will be managed by membership staff, with technology management outsourced to a company with expertise and technology in job-matching site management.

"Online services are the way to go," Dr. LoGiudice said. "You can check on information at your convenience, and if you find what you're interested in, you can pursue it before, during, or after business hours."

The Web-based format will also be timelier. Currently, subscribers receive information on position openings once a month. On the Web, they will be able to check postings as often as they wish. Specialized services will also be offered, including an e-mail alert to new job listings and new applicants. New database capabilities will enable applicants and employers to change their search criteria whenever they want.

Dr. LoGiudice will serve as staff support to the Council on Veterinary Service, which addresses professional issues, and eventually to the Mentorship Program Subcommittee, a component of the Member Services Committee, for which Tomasek is staff support.

Tomasek commented, "Our division is restructuring to enhance our overall performance to serve members better. In conjunction with the 12-member Member Services Committee, the entire AVMA membership team will be well-positioned to tackle new ideas, programs, and communication strategies that will be exciting for our members."