Interview By Allison Clark
Q: What are the AVMA's most recent efforts to form a strategy on animal welfare?
Dr. Henry E. Childers, AVMA president-elect, responds:
A: The Executive Board prioritized the critical issues facing the veterinary profession and decided that animal welfare was the most important. Animal welfare issues have increased and become more complex each year for the past decade. At its November 2004 meeting, the board established an Animal Welfare Division. This is a huge undertaking that sends the message that the AVMA is serious about its commitment to animal welfare. Animal welfare is not a new area of concern. The members of the AVMA House of Delegates have discussed and debated housing of pregnant sows, forced molting of laying hens, cosmetic surgery on companion animals, and the use of animals for entertainment.
At its April 2005 meeting, the board changed the composition of the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, rescinded the sunset of the Animal Welfare Committee, and established six goals on animal welfare for the AVMA to achieve over the next three years.
AVMA leadership has not developed a common agreement as to what exact position the profession should take concerning animal welfare. The AVMA's diversity is a strength and, on occasion, can be a challenge. It is understandable that because of our diversity, we would disagree on as important and complicated an issue as animal welfare. It is important that every constituent and every member be given the opportunity to express their opinion on what position the AVMA should take on the issue. In time we will develop a consensus as to what is in the best interest of animals, the public, and the profession. We must be ever aware that we are a small profession and, to maximize our effectiveness, we must speak with a single, unified voice.
Q: At its April meeting, the Executive Board approved the establishment of a Task Force on Diversity. Why is this task force necessary to the veterinary profession?
A: For years, the veterinary profession has been concerned about the lack of racial and ethnic diversity among its students and professionals. Fewer than 10 percent of the nation's veterinary students are minorities, while the U.S. Census Bureau indicates that 30 percent of the nation's population is a racial or ethnic group other than white or non-Hispanic. The veterinary profession's ability to respond to the nation's increasingly complex public health needs rests, in part, in its ability to recruit and retain students and professionals who are more reflective of the population. The new task force will research the many issues concerning diversity and recommend to the board a plan to resolve the problem.
Q: How has the AVMA handled state legislative and regulatory issues?
A: In 2003, the AVMA House of Delegates and Executive Board approved a plan for helping AVMA constituent organizations counter the legal challenges they face. The plan called for formation of the Task Force on State Legislative and Regulatory Initiatives. Two of the task force's goals were to facilitate the constituent organizations' participation in the public policy process, and to provide timely and appropriate responses to state legislative and regulatory issues. The task force surveyed the constituent associations concerning their perceived needs and hosted a public policy symposium for constituent members.
At the board's November 2004 meeting, the task force was sunset because it had accomplished its goals. Then at the April 2005 meeting, the board approved establishing a State Advocacy Committee that will work with AVMA staff to establish state legislative and regulatory priorities, scan for emergency issues, assess the constituent needs on an ongoing basis, and coordinate a comprehensive and prioritized state advocacy agenda.
Also, Adrian Hochstadt, JD, CAE, was hired as the new assistant director to orchestrate the AVMA's activities in the state legislative and regulatory arena. He has more than 15 years of experience in managing government affairs programs. Most recently, Hochstadt handled regulatory and legislative affairs at the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care.
The board recently adopted extensive guidelines recommended by the task force that will serve as a blueprint for the AVMA's involvement in state legislative and regulatory affairs. The AVMA has made tremendous progress addressing the need of constituent organizations relative to state and regional legislative initiatives. The AVMA also appreciates the cooperation of all segments of veterinary medicine concerning this issue.