AVMA Answers: The importance of coalitions

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Why should the AVMA participate in coalitions?

Dr. Henry E. ChildersDr. Henry E. Childers, AVMA immediate past president, responds:

The AVMA is all about veterinary medicine. How can we serve the needs of our members? How can we serve the needs of our nation, our public, and animals? One way is by proposing legislation that will be consistent with AVMA policy and positions on federal legislation and regulatory issues that influence animal and human health and advance the veterinary profession.

The Executive Board of the AVMA has set an aggressive federal legislative agenda for the Association. This proactive agenda was developed by working within the AVMA governance system. The Legislative Advisory Committee assists the Executive Board in formulating policies and positions on federal legislative and regulatory issues. The AVMA Governmental Relations Division staff works cooperatively with AVMA staff in Schaumburg to develop and implement strategy to advance the AVMA legislative agenda.

Examples of the aforementioned legislation include the National Veterinary Medical Service Act. This act authorizes the secretary of agriculture to enter into agreements with recent graduates to practice in underserved areas in exchange for forgiving a portion of their educational loans. The underserved areas include agriculture and inner-city areas.

Another extremely important legislative initiative is the Small Business Health Fairness Act. As health care costs continue to rise, veterinary small business owners find it difficult to provide health care coverage to their employees. Under current law, not all AVMA members are eligible to purchase health insurance from the AVMA Group Health & Life Insurance Trust. Passage of this act will allow veterinary small business owners in all 50 states to purchase affordable health insurance for themselves, their employees, and their families.

We are a small profession. There are only approximately 86,000 veterinarians in the United States. Although 87 percent of all veterinarians are members of the AVMA, the highest percentage of any health profession, we are small in number. We need the support of other professions, organizations, and associations to maximize our legislative successes.

Dr. Henry E. Childers (left) speaks with David Wiebers, MD, and Wayne Pacelle, board chair and president, respectively, of the Humane Society of the United States

What coalitions is the AVMA part of?

Six, including the Animal Agriculture Coalition, Association Health Plan Coalition, and the National Coalition for Food and Agricultural Research. The AVMA is also in ongoing discussions with the American Kennel Club and Humane Society of the United States about common interests.

What legislative successes has the AVMA had working through coalitions?

Our successes are many. Working through the MUMS coalition, we helped pass the Minor Use and Minor Species Animal Health Act; through the Coalition for Animal Health, the Animal Drug User Fee Act; through the Coalition for APHIS-Animal Care Appropriations, increased funds for Animal Welfare Act inspections; and through the Animal Agriculture Coalition, appropriations for the National Veterinary Medical Service Act.

How do you respond to criticisms that the AVMA should not be a part of any coalition in which one or more members are ideologically opposed to an organization in the coalition?

Coalitions allow for small organizations to have a stronger political voice collectively, either for or against legislation and regulations. Members of a coalition may not have the same views on other issues; however, they can "agree to disagree" on those matters and continue the collegial relations to achieve the coalition's goals.