Veterinary history and law enthusiasts to assemble

Veterinary organizations to celebrate anniversaries at AVMA Annual Convention
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At this year's AVMA Annual Convention, two veterinary associations are celebrating anniversaries of their annual meetings: the American Veterinary Medical History Society and American Veterinary Medical Law Association.

The veterinary profession has boosted static economies, played a hand in military victories, provided safe animal products, and been instrumental in the development of human health measures. It's no wonder that the American Veterinary Medical History Society wants to keep tabs on the rich history of veterinary medicine. And at this year's convention, the AVMHS is celebrating a little history of its own, its 25th annual meeting.

The AVMHS was formed by a group of veterinarians enthusiastic about collecting and archiving items for future generations interested in veterinary heritage. Members collect items such as antique instruments, prints, medallions, old medicine bottles, stamps, diplomas, and logos. As a result, the United States currently has 13 important collections covering these items, plus pharmaceutical books, audio interviews of outstanding veterinarians, slides, memorabilia, photographs, catalogues, miscellaneous papers, and items representing veterinary practice, research, and regulatory activities.

The society puts out a bulletin twice a year called Veterinary Heritage, publishing original papers as well as news. Another big highlight is the annual student veterinary history essay contest, which has been occurring since 1991.

Dr. Leo Lemonds, secretary of the AVMHS and a retired mixed animal practitioner from Hastings, Neb., says the society has about 120 members. In addition, students who submit essays to the contest get a free membership for one year. "We are a small group," Dr. Lemonds said. "Our problem is that in the long run, probably half to two thirds of the AVMA members have never heard of the American Veterinary Medical History Society."

The AVMHS invites anyone interested in veterinary history to attend the society's 25th anniversary celebration, which will be held from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on July 22 at the Marriott Hotel. The program will feature speakers on veterinary history, including Dr. Diana Davis, an assistant professor in the department of geography at the University of Texas-Austin, who will talk about colonial veterinary medicine, and Dr. Susan Jones, an assistant professor of history at the University of Colorado-Boulder, who will talk about mapping and controlling bovine tuberculosis in the early 20th century. Dr. J. Fred Smithcors, co-founder of AVMHS, will be the keynote speaker, discussing the organization's roots.

"Dr. Smithcors has also written up a history of our 25 years, and that will be available to members and the public," Dr. Lemonds said. A book auction and exchange will take place from 3:30 p.m. to 4:55. AVMHS members will also be treated to a noon luncheon.

The organization also invites convention attendees to visit the AVMHS booth in the registration area to peruse various books about veterinary history or learn more about the organization.

Also feeling festive this July is the American Veterinary Medical Law Association, which is celebrating its 10th annual meeting at the AVMA Annual Convention. The AVMLA is a national association of attorneys, veterinarians, and other individuals and organizations with an interest in veterinary medical law and how it pertains to the veterinary profession and allied fields.

The association has 109 active members, 24 associate members, and 10 student members. Out of the 109 active members, 24 are veterinarians, 53 are lawyers, and 31 hold both a veterinary and law degree.

The association has three objectives. It provides information to members regarding pertinent issues in the field of veterinary medical law. It aims to increase public awareness and understanding of the law's impact on all aspects of veterinary medicine. And it facilitates interaction among organizations, regulatory agencies, and the courts for the benefit of society. It does not provide legal advice or recommendations.

The association publishes a newsletter four times a year and fosters discussion through a listserv. In addition to holding its annual convention, AVMLA helps other associations offer veterinary law programs at their meetings.

Association members discuss issues such as laws that permit damages against veterinarians for emotional distress over loss of a companion animal, as well as legal actions involving Internet veterinary pharmacies.

In recent years, the association has become actively involved in the pet guardian/ pet owner issue. "Last year, the California Veterinary Medical Association commissioned AVMLA to write a white paper for them on this topic for their membership," said Dr. Karen Wernette, executive director of the organization. "The association formed a task force to carry out the project and the paper was published in the CVMA newsletter."

Dr. Wernette encourages AVMA convention-goers to attend the AVMLA's annual continuing education seminar that will be held on July 20, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Speakers include Adam Karp, an Oregon-based lawyer, who will discuss the valuation of animals and damages in veterinary malpractice suits; Diane Balkin, a lawyer and public member of the AVMA Model Practice Act Task Force, who will address prosecution of animal cruelty cases; and Dr. George Cuellar, immediate past president of the California VMA, who will discuss the pet owner/guardian issue in California and its ramifications for other parts of the United States.

A luncheon will be held during the Hank Hannah Memorial Lecture, named after the association's first president, who died in the fall of 2001. Dr. James Wilson, one of the organization's charter members and a Pennsylvania-based lawyer, will deliver this second annual lecture on how the veterinary profession can respond to the rising tide of new legal precedents.