Drs. Gregory S. Hammer and Charles L. Stoltenow officially kicked off their campaigns for 2006 AVMA president-elect at the Candidates' Introductory Breakfast July 15 in Minneapolis.
The candidates presented their respective qualifications for the office along with challenges confronting the veterinary profession.
Dr. Hammer, a small animal/equine practitioner who owns and operates an animal hospital in Dover, Del., spoke first. Animal welfare, continuity within the AVMA leadership, veterinary education, and timely communication were areas the outgoing Executive Board District II representative addressed.
"The greatest challenge currently facing our profession is the issue of animal welfare," Dr. Hammer stated. This issue, he added, has the greatest potential for splitting our profession and damaging the AVMA. "We cannot let this happen," he said.
No part of the profession is untouched by the debate over the humane treatment of animals. "From the use of antimicrobials to surgical procedures and animal housing, we are being asked to defend the science we cling to," Dr. Hammer said.
While the AVMA "must and will do more" to address animal welfare, Dr. Hammer called on every veterinarian to do their part, as well. "We must continue to provide compassion, gentle hands, and kind words to our friends, the animals," he said. "It is only by practicing in that way, every day, that we continue to show that veterinarians are protectors of the animal kingdom."
In this age of electronic communication, the AVMA must get its message out quickly, according to Dr. Hammer. "When broadcast e-mail takes minutes to reach thousands in the humane community, and the AVMA sends a letter to the membership, whose message reaches the target first?" he asked. "We cannot afford to let our message, the message of the veterinary profession, be second."
Dr. Hammer spoke also about the shortage of food animal and research veterinarians. With reductions in government funding to veterinary colleges, it is incumbent on the AVMA and veterinarians to become more involved with these institutions, he said. He called on veterinarians to ask their federal representatives to support the Veterinary Workforce Expansion Act.
In addition, Dr. Hammer pledged that, if elected, he would foster closer ties to the veterinary colleges.
Next to speak was Dr. Stoltenow, former chair of the House Advisory Committee and an extension veterinarian and associate professor at North Dakota State University. He pledged to "conduct my campaign and administration with integrity; I will provide service to all, and in my pursuit of perfection, I will strive for excellence."
Dr. Stoltenow of Great Bend, N.D., identified four cornerstones of his campaign for president-elect: veterinary medicine as a vital part of the U.S. system for medical care delivery, science-based AVMA policy, AVMA policy crafted by representative process, and ensuring the AVMA is an engaged and progressive association.
Along with keeping veterinary medicine a vital component of medical care delivery, Dr. Stoltenow committed himself to the principle of basing AVMA policy on scientific evidence where such evidence exists. Additionally, he supports the concept of state and allied associations shaping AVMA policy.
"If we as the AVMA rely on our grassroots veterinarians in our state and allied associations to lobby on behalf of the AVMA at the local, state, and national level, then we must allow these grassroots veterinarians the ability to develop and change AVMA policy through the state and allied associations," he said.
Dr. Stoltenow believes that if the AVMA fails to remedy the debt load of new veterinary graduates, the profession runs the risk of becoming a two-tiered system: one financially well-off, the other made ineffective by debt.
"We cannot let this happen," he said. "As a profession, we have made great strides in understanding the economic forces at work and defining the character traits that help to ensure success for our new associates."
The profession is also "losing the battle" to recruit the very best students into veterinary medicine, according to Dr. Stoltenow. Veterinarians must actively engage promising students by becoming mentors or role models.
The campaign for animal rights is here to stay, and as an organization, the AVMA is not big enough or strong enough to end it, Dr. Stoltenow explained. Therefore, the entire profession must come together and parlay its credibility with the public into sound action.
On a similar note, Dr. Stoltenow worries veterinarians are at risk of appearing hypocritical for supporting the human-animal bond while denying pets have a special value that exceeds market value. Acknowledging it would be a difficult task, Dr. Stoltenow believes the AVMA needs to create a "unifying policy" on an animal's worth.