Executive Board focuses on future of veterinary medicine, AVMA

Veterinary workforce study, AVMA headquarters expansion, strategic goals addressed
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From supporting a study on the veterinary workforce's future needs, to funding an AVMA headquarters expansion, to establishing strategic goals, the AVMA Executive Board approved a number of recommendations at its meeting June 8-10 that will help plan for the future of veterinary medicine and the Association.

Illustration: The concept for the reception area of a new conference center at AVMA headquarters

Dr. Robert E. "Bud" Hertzog, District VII, chaired the meeting, which was held in Schaumburg, Ill. During the meeting, the board authorized $26,922 from the contingency fund and $2.31 million from the reserve fund.

Key board highlights

One highlight from the meeting was the board's approval to provide $200,000 from reserves to support a National Academy of Sciences study on assessing current and future workforce needs in veterinary medicine. The study would provide the necessary impartial data needed to support funding of the Veterinary Workforce Expansion Act (S. 914/H.R. 2206), according to the AVMA/Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges Joint Committee, which submitted the recommendation.

The AVMA supported the 2005 NAS study titled "Critical Needs for Research in Veterinary Medicine," which concluded, among other things, that "additional veterinary researchers must be trained to alleviate the demands and to meet the societal needs for veterinary research." Other critical areas such as public practice were not addressed in the 2005 study, the committee reported.

Another highlight was the board's approval to spend $1.96 million to remodel AVMA headquarters to expand office and conference space for a growing staff and an increasing number of councils, committees, and task forces.

The headquarters moved to the current building in Schaumburg in 1991. Since then, headquarters staff has grown from 82 to 126 positions to meet the needs of expanding AVMA programs. The AVMA also has increased the number and size of advisory bodies, which need to meet on a regular basis.

The remodeling project will create a new conference center on the building's second floor with a larger board room; a lounge that includes two seating areas, a small conference room, and three communications carrels; and a larger kitchen and lunchroom. The project also will remodel the fifth floor to add space for 16 staff members along with a small conference room.

Construction will cost almost $1.2 million, and about $800,000 additional will pay for furniture, electronic systems, and professional services. The project schedule calls for completion by the end of October.

Also at the meeting, the board approved strategic goals for the AVMA's five critical issues. The board initially identified the critical issues—animal welfare, economic viability, veterinary workforce, veterinary education, and veterinary services—at its November 2004 meeting.

Some highlights from the list of goals identified are, under animal welfare, that the AVMA is the leading advocate for, and the authoritative, science-based resource on animal welfare, and has definitive core values and principles to guide policy development for animal welfare. Under veterinary workforce, the board will work to see that critical workforce shortages and global societal needs are identified and solutions developed in collaboration with key stakeholders.

When considering economic viability, one of the board's goals is to ensure that critical veterinary research is adequately funded by government and/or private resources. Another goal is that veterinarians and the public are fully educated to understand the implications of a change in the legal status of animals.

Under veterinary education, one of the board's goals is for robust support of veterinary medical education through public policy and other efforts. And under veterinary services, the board will strive for the AVMA to be a committed leader in legislative advocacy. It will also work to identify and respond to veterinary issues in a timely manner.

Also of note, the board re-elected Dr. Bruce W. Little to the office of AVMA executive vice president and Dr. Janet D. Donlin to the office of AVMA assistant executive vice president. They will serve one-year terms.

AVMA president, Dr. Henry E. ChildersDuring the meeting, Dr. Little announced he will retire at the end of 2007 from his position of executive vice president. (See related story.)

In addition to the key highlights, the board addressed the following recommendations sent to them by various councils, committees, or other entities.

Council on Biologic and Therapeutic Agents

The board revised the policy on Human-Labeled Drug Products, Sale to Veterinarians, to reaffirm that veterinarians need access to human-labeled prescription drugs to treat animals effectively—but that suppliers may not promote the sale of these products to veterinarians. The policy also notes that veterinarians must comply with the Animal Medicinal Drug Use Clarification Act.

The board did not approve the statement "Veterinarians bear full responsibility when using human-labeled prescription products in the treatment of animals" after receiving input from the AVMA PLIT about potential implications for professional liability. At the last meeting, board members had expressed concerns that extenuating circumstances can exist that would make parties other than veterinarians liable.

AVMAPAC Policy Board

The board approved spending $150,000 from reserves to fund a request from the AVMA Political Action Committee Policy Board to solicit donations to AVMAPAC from AVMA members through targeted direct mailings.

The AVMAPAC Marketing Plan was developed to market the AVMAPAC through education and targeted solicitations to increase the percentage of AVMA members who donate and increase the average donation. The plan was designed to achieve the AVMAPAC goal of raising $1 million during the 2006-2008 election cycle.

The board had approved in concept the marketing plan in November 2004, and authorized implementation of the strategic tactics described for budget year 2004-2005. The $150,000 budget request will fund three 50,000-person targeted solicitations to increase contributions.

Insurance Liaison Committee

The board approved the revised entity description for the AVMA Insurance Liaison Committee. The ILC had reviewed its charge and other pertinent information in the entity description and revised the document to more accurately reflect its communication-related goals and endeavors.

A standing committee of the board, the ILC is charged with maintaining open lines of communication among members of the board and representatives from the AVMA Group Health & Life Insurance Trust and AVMA PLIT.

Budget and Financial Review Committee

Related to finances, the board approved and forwarded to the AVMA House of Delegates the 2007 budget, which provides for $27,558,750 in income and $27,497,200 in expenses, resulting in $61,550 in income over expenses.

The board also approved a 10 percent increase in the AVMA Governmental Relations Division consultant's fee, effective fiscal year 2007. In its recommendation, the Budget and Financial Review Committee noted the consulting fee had not been increased in three years. Former senator, Dr. John Melcher, the AVMA consultant, is an invaluable resource in helping to promote the Association's legislative agenda, the committee reported.

State Advocacy Committee

On recommendation from the AVMA State Advocacy Committee, the board amended and approved the following policy statement.

The American Veterinary Medical Association believes that state legislatures and local municipalities should defer to the professional judgment of veterinarians when considering proposals to restrict or prohibit specific veterinary procedures.

The recommendation was submitted by the SAC in response to the growing number of legislative proposals at the state and local level to prohibit anyone, including veterinarians, from performing specific veterinary procedures. The committee was concerned that public policy decision makers are usually not trained in science or medicine, and there is a risk that decisions affecting the care and welfare of animals will be made in response to emotional appeals.

The statement was intended to convey the AVMA's sense that important decisions to restrict veterinary procedures should not be made without appropriate input by veterinarians, who are trained and experienced in the care and well-being of animals.

Committee on Veterinary Technician Education, Activities

As recommended by the AVMA Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities, the Executive Board approved recognizing the accreditation process for Canadian veterinary technology programs administered by the CVMA's Animal Health Technologist/Veterinary Technician Program Accreditation Committee as equivalent to the CVTEA accreditation process. This recognition is contingent upon the CVMA's reciprocal recognition of the CVTEA accreditation process.

Currently, most states that have formal recognition processes for veterinary technicians require graduation from an AVMA-accredited program. The Executive Board and CVMA actions will result in state and provincial entities responsible for credentialing veterinary technicians being informed that the AVMA and the CVMA encourage recognition of graduates of programs accredited by either the AVMA or the CVMA as being license-eligible.

The board then approved adding a position to the CVTEA representing the Canadian committee. In turn, the Canadian committee will add a CVTEA member.

A change was approved in a CVTEA standard to require that the advisory committees of accredited programs meet at least annually.

Aquatic Veterinary Medicine Committee

Drs. Brooks and KornegayThe board approved soliciting support to maintain, improve, and expand online Aquatic Veterinary Resources. The AVR is accessible at www.AquaVet.com and is used by members of the profession, potential clients, and other individuals to locate information on aquatic veterinarians and disease diagnostic laboratories.

Rather than using AVMA funds for AVR maintenance, improvement, and expansion, the AVMC proposed soliciting support from entities outside of the Association that have already expressed interested in supporting the online tool.

AVMA/AAVMC Joint Committee

A symposium on Veterinary Teaching Hospitals and the Future of Clinical Veterinary Education, running Nov. 9-11 in Kansas City, will receive $3,000 in support from the AVMA. A task force on teaching hospitals is working through the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges and the Association of Veterinary Clinicians in planning the meeting to address issues facing clinical education—particularly staff shortages arising at colleges as more specialists enter private practice.

"If we don't fix this problem, it's going to be to the detriment of our profession," said Dr. Henry E. Childers, AVMA president, during deliberations.

On recommendation from the AVMA/AAVMC Joint Committee, the board approved funding to support the Global Initiatives in Veterinary Education program at the level of $5,000 for three years, beginning in 2006. Organized by the AAVMC, the GIVE program assists veterinary colleges in developing countries by strengthening their curricula and human resource capabilities. The AVMA funding will help with the ongoing costs of developing, implementing, and administering the program, according to the committee.

Educational Commission for Foreign Veterinary Graduates

The board allocated $8,500 to produce informational folders about the Educational Commission for Foreign Veterinary Graduates certification program and distribute them to state associations and regulatory boards across the country. The ECFVG already has sent informational folders to stakeholders in states where legislatures might modify educational equivalence requirements to allow other certification for graduates of foreign veterinary colleges—such as the Program for Assessment of Veterinary Education Equivalence through the American Association of Veterinary State Boards.

AVMA/NAVTA Executive Board Liaison Committee

Dr. CoonDuring the 25th anniversary of the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America, the AVMA will recognize veterinary technicians and their contributions to the profession by supporting National Veterinary Technician Week from Oct. 15-21. The board approved spending $5,842 to advertise support of the event in the NAVTA Journal and in Veterinary Technician and also approved running a house ad in the JAVMA.

Executive Division

The board approved public acknowledgment of AVMA contributions to "Animal Care Guidelines for the Retail Pet Industry." The guidelines are an initiative of a stakeholder coalition that includes the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, Pet Industry Distributors Association, World Wide Pet Industry Association, Pet Food Institute, HH Backer Associates Inc., and retailers. At the request of the coalition, AVMA staff provided comment in the drafting and review of the guidelines, with input from AVMA leadership.

Membership and Field Services Division

For the remainder of 2006, a $30,000 marketing plan will promote participation in the AVMA Mentoring Program.

The board established the mentoring program in 2004 for three years, with $50,000 annually for operational costs. Triple Creek Associates Inc., provider of the program's Web site, has been working with the Model Mentoring Program Task Force and AVMA staff to improve functionality and acceptance of the Mentoring Program. Triple Creek has also agreed to reduce the operational costs for 2006 to $20,000—making available the $30,000 that the board approved for reallocation to marketing.

From officers, board members

The board approved renewing AVMA membership in the Pan-american Association of Veterinary Sciences for three years starting in 2007 at an approximate annual cost of $2,000. Membership in PANVET allows the AVMA to maintain relationships with key veterinarians in Latin America as well as a focus on global veterinary medicine.

In addition, the board approved adding a member who represents the American Association of Industrial Veterinarians to the AVMA Animal Welfare Committee. In April, the board approved an amended recommendation that modified the charge and composition of the AWC. The revised committee had 17 members but did not include an AAIV representative.

In a letter addressed to AVMA officials, AAIV president, Dr. Ray Glick, wrote, "Many of the AAIV members are involved in and/or are responsible for their organizations' position(s) and responses on animal welfare positions."

On another recommendation, the board formally acknowledged AVMA staff contributions in the state advocacy area prior to the creation of the State Legislative and Regulatory Affairs Department. The recommendation was meant to recognize the efforts of several AVMA employees in state advocacy before the current department was established in the Communications Division in 2005.

Looking ahead

The 2007 board meetings will be April 12-14 in Schaumburg; May 31-June 2 in Schaumburg; July 12 in Washington, D.C.; July 18 in Washington, D.C.; and Nov. 15-17 in Schaumburg.