Veterinary leaders converge in Chicago

House of Delegates assembles during event
Published on February 15, 2005
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More than 400 veterinary leaders assembled in Chicago for the AVMA Veterinary Leadership Conference and House of Delegates Informational Assembly. Representatives from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Canada, veterinary and governmental organizations, and AVMA entities came together for the Jan. 14-16 event. Constituent organizations brought 64 recent graduates to participate.

Dr. Jim Kramer, a small animal practitioner in Columbus, Neb., was the opening and closing speaker. In the closing session Sunday, the humorist read his poetry, played the harmonica and blues guitar, commented on what he observed that weekend, and shared stories about veterinary practice. Being a leader means doing the right thing, he said, and many occasions present themselves in practice where veterinarians can make a difference in clients' lives, such as guiding a child through euthanasia of a pet. "Animals provide a great opportunity to provide leadership," Dr. Kramer said. A believer in organized veterinary medicine, the 1982 Iowa State University graduate said that the late ISU professor, Dr. Frank K. Ramsey, instilled its importance in him. Even when Dr. Kramer was a struggling new graduate, he said he found the means to pay his AVMA dues.

At the opening session Friday, AVMA President Bonnie V. Beaver reviewed the Association's recent efforts in the area of animal welfare. Veterinarians are not always comfortable in their role as experts on animal welfare, nor do they feel at ease discussing the intricacies of related ethical issues, Dr. Beaver said. Given the increased prominence of these issues, however, veterinarians can no longer afford to remain on the sidelines. The Executive Board has approved several initiatives to that end, including creating an animal welfare division within the AVMA, and replacing the Animal Welfare Committee with the smaller, more vision-oriented Animal Welfare Advisory Committee. Dr. Beaver said the AVMA is working hard to proactively position the profession for the future in animal welfare.

Executive Board member Dr. Larry Corry gave an update on activities of the Task Force on State Legislative and Regulatory Initiatives, which he chairs. The task force, which was sunset last November, was created in 2003 to propose ways the AVMA could serve as a resource for constituent organizations. Among other things, the task force has hosted a public policy symposium and developed a guiding document—approved by the board in November 2004—detailing the AVMA role in managing state legislative and regulatory affairs. Two new staff members in the AVMA Communications Division will focus solely on state legislative and regulatory matters. Additionally, the board approved use of a Web-based service for identifying and tracking policy proposals at the state level of interest to the veterinary profession.

Howard Rubin, chief executive officer of the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues, offered an assessment of the commission. The AVMA Executive Board recently authorized continued support for the NCVEI for another five years, and the other two founding members—the American Animal Hospital Association and the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges—concurred about another five years. Of the veterinarians who have used the free, interactive tools available on the commission's Web site, 85 percent perceive that it is having a positive impact on their income.

AVMA Executive Vice President Bruce W. Little introduced findings from the AVMA-Pfizer Animal Health business practices study; the executive summary was published in the Jan. 15, 2005 issue of JAVMA. The goal of the study was to identify business practices that might help veterinarians improve their incomes, Dr. Little explained.

Saturday workshops on leadership development covered mobilizing people for change, the human-animal bond, legislation and lobbying, media training, and podium speaking.

Held concurrently with the workshops, the House of Delegates Informational Assembly updated members of the HOD on issues, including those they will vote on in July. House Advisory Committee member, Dr. Charles Stoltenow, moderated the discussion.

AVMA President Beaver reported on international events, task forces, the first AVMA diversity policy, the new home for the AVMA Governmental Relations Division in Washington, and the Minneapolis convention.

As Executive Board chair, Dr. Roger K. Mahr noted that the board acted on 163 recommendations last November, including strategic planning priorities and creation of an Animal Welfare Division.

Dr. Michael Chaddock, director of the AVMA GRD, talked about how AVMA staff in Washington and Schaumburg work together on legislative initiatives, and successes in the 108th Congress. He invited veterinarians to stop at the GRD when visiting the capital and AVMA staff will arrange visits with their legislators.

AVMA Political Action Committee chair, Dr. George Bishop, said that during the 2004 election cycle (November 2002-November 2004), 95 percent of the more than 150 House and Senate candidates the PAC supported were elected to the 109th Congress, and the PAC is interested in veterinarians' input about future candidates.

Dr. Robert P. Gordon, chair of the American Veterinary Medical Foundation, reported that to date, the AVMF has given $1 million to the AVMA for disaster relief, and that the state VMAs in five states will be the first to receive grants to help the states become fully animal disaster-ready. Wisconsin and Colorado will receive challenge/matching grants, and Connecticut, Kansas, and Minnesota will receive startup grants.

Dr. Elizabeth Curry-Galvin, assistant director of the AVMA Scientific Activities Division, explained issues involved with drug compounding. She noted that a brochure on compounding that the AVMA developed in conjunction with the Food and Drug Administration's Center for Veterinary Medicine will soon be available from the AVMA, along with a Web site informational page.

Dr. Richard DeBowes, chair of the Department of Clinical Sciences at Washington State University College of Medicine, gave a presentation on the Veterinary Leadership Experience, an annual retreat that promotes nontechnical competencies such as personal growth, self-awareness, and leadership qualities among veterinary students. The event organizer, Dr. DeBowes explained that the VLE is a spin-off of WSU's orientation for first-year students, and it is offered to students and faculty from the North American and offshore veterinary colleges. Fourteen of the 22 colleges that were represented at the expanded 2004 event (made possible by sponsorship from Hill's Pet Nutrition Inc.) made changes to their curriculum or student orientation as a result of the experience. In November 2004, the AVMA Executive Board approved a recommendation for $15,000 in support of the VLE. Several AVMA delegates were so impressed after hearing Dr. DeBowes describe the initiative that they spoke in favor of the AVMA contributing a greater amount of funding in the future.

AVMA Treasurer James F. Peddie told the HOD that the AVMA appears to have had an excellent fiscal year, with record-level incomes exceeding the lower-than-budgeted expenses by approximately $2.9 million. The treasurer said that 2004 was a year that the Executive Board approved changes that will have major fiscal implications for the Association—a new building (in the capital), a new investment plan, and a new treasurer in training. Dr. Peddie acknowledged that there had been two excellent candidates for the position and congratulated Dr. Bret D. Marsh of Indianapolis, who the board elected last November. He will succeed Dr. Peddie in July. Florida delegate, Dr. Larry Dee congratulated Dr. Peddie and the Executive Board on the new AVMA investment plan, which he said more closely parallels what major foundations and investment bankers do, and will increase the buying power of the investment funds.

In HOD reference committees Saturday and an afternoon session of the Informational Assembly, delegates raised and discussed issues. Delegates had copies of the third draft revision of the AVMA Bylaws, and the respective comments of the Executive Board and House Advisory Committee on the draft. Last year, an amendment to strike the AVMA Constitution in its entirety was introduced, fulfilling the first phase of the two-year process required for constitutional changes. It is anticipated the HOD will vote on the revised bylaws this July. If adopted, the revised bylaws will supersede the current constitution and bylaws, but will incorporate information from the two documents. One provision that generated discussion would allow the board, by a two-thirds vote, to hold in abeyance any position statement adopted by the HOD until the House could reconsider it at its next session. It is being redrafted to reflect delegate feedback, which included concern that the process could cycle indefinitely between the board and the HOD. A revised version of the HOD manual is also under review.

Delegates discussed ways to streamline the HOD proceedings in July, recruit more mentors for the AVMA Mentoring Center as soon as possible ( so the program can begin accepting mentees; and consider making the HOD Informational Assembly in January an official HOD session, as it is in July. Dr. Dee advised delegates of a possible resolution on the microchip/scanner compatibility issue that may be introduced for HOD action in July. Dr. Susan Clubb, alternate delegate for the Association of Avian Veterinarians, suggested reapportioning the Executive Board districts to add an allied group representative or a nonvoting member to better two-way communication.

To access some of the Veterinary Leadership Conference presentations, AVMA members can go to