Aligning decisions with critical issues

Executive Board approves new principles on animal welfare, receives report on workforce diversity, addresses concerns in education
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Initiatives ranging in nature from animal welfare to diversity in the veterinary profession occupied the AVMA Executive Board at its meeting Nov. 16-18. Navigating its agenda, the board was guided by the AVMA's five critical issues—animal welfare, veterinary workforce, economic viability, veterinary education, and veterinary services.

Dr. James Cook, District V, Lebanon, Ky., chaired the meeting, which was held in the newly opened conference center at AVMA headquarters in Schaumburg, Ill. (see article).

The board authorized $106,950 from the 2006 contingency fund. In addition to expenditures from the contingency fund, costs associated with two new staff positions were approved.

Of the $300,000 in the contingency fund for 2006, $64,888 was unspent this year. In the new year, the board will once again have $300,000 at its disposal.

Embracing diversity

The board received as information the final report of the AVMA Task Force on Diversity—"Unity through Diversity"—and approved a recommendation made in the report. Dr. Larry M. Kornegay, an Executive Board member, chaired the task force.

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The approved recommendation provides funding for three half-day diversity training sessions at a total cost of $10,000. Members of the Executive Board, House Advisory Committee, and staff assigned to AVMA entities will each attend a session.

Board members' commitment to diversity was evident during deliberations, and it was clear that, although only one of the three task force recommendations received approval, disposition of these specific initiatives does not diminish the AVMA's long-term commitment to pursuing diversity initiatives.

The task force's recommendation to approve a new AVMA staff position dedicated to diversity initiatives was referred to the Executive Division, which will report back to the board in April. Board discussion included issues such as the ability of existing staff to handle diversity issues and the appropriateness of investing diversity-related responsibilities in already existing AVMA entities.

The board disapproved the task force's recommendation to establish a separate Committee on Diversity, at a cost of $14,000 per year. In a memorandum, the AVMA Governance Performance Review Committee supported the need to proactively address diversity issues by integrating diversity into all AVMA entities, but did not support the establishment of a new committee.

One health initiative

The board disapproved a recommendation to establish a National Summit on the One Health Initiative Steering Committee and host a National One Health Summit. The recommendation was submitted by three AVMA councils and two committees, including the AVMA/Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges Joint Committee.

AVMA President Roger K. Mahr

The concept originated with AVMA President Roger K. Mahr, who, in his address to the House of Delegates this past July, presented his vision for a national one health initiative integrating animal health, human health, and ecosystem health, with a common focus to protect and improve both animal and public health worldwide.

Dr. Mahr remains committed to the initiative, acknowledging that visionary concepts take hold only over time and with concerted effort. Although the board did not support this particular approach, the initial recommendation has generated valuable discussions and demonstrated support for the concept from many entities.

"I will use that input, which we continue to receive, and I'll come forth with another one-health initiative recommendation as AVMA president in April," Dr. Mahr said.

The one-health concept was introduced in the 1800s, but Dr. Mahr's vision is for the veterinary profession to step up and lead an initiative to establish the collaboration necessary to advance this concept.

Dr. Clark Fobian, District VII

"There is no other profession that has as much impact on both animal health and public health," Dr. Mahr said. "The responsibility and opportunity are now, because the awareness of one health has never been as evident as it is now, particularly with the global nature of such concerns as avian influenza and food safety."

AVMA Animal Welfare Principles

The board approved the AVMA Animal Welfare Principles as a replacement for the AVMA Guiding Principles on animal welfare. The approval of these new principles concluded the work of the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee.

The committee's objective was to "develop a set of overarching veterinary animal welfare principles that are directly applicable to the veterinary profession, to serve as a basis for AVMA to develop and judge proposed and existing animal welfare policies, resolutions, and actions."

The committee members crafted the eight new principles to be highly functional and applicable across a range of species and practice areas. The committee tested the principles by applying them to welfare concerns such as induced molting, tail docking, declawing, horse slaughter, foie gras, and economic considerations. The members agreed that the principles provide good basic guidance.

On the committee's recommendation, the board also revised one of the strategic goals for the critical issue of animal welfare. The original statement was that the AVMA serves as "the" leading advocate for, and "the" authoritative, science-based resource on, animal welfare. Now the statement is that the AVMA serves as "a" leading advocate for, and "an" authoritative, science-based resource on, animal welfare.

During discussion of the new principles on animal welfare, the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee noted that multiple "authoritative, science-based resources" exist that can and should contribute to decisions on animal welfare—including the AVMA's constituent organizations and other professional scientific societies.

Student research program, symposium

The board approved budgeting $10,000 annually for five years, starting in 2007, toward the Merck-Merial Veterinary Scholars Symposium. The symposium brings together veterinary students at the conclusion of summer research projects to present their findings and network with researchers.

Dr. John Brooks, District II

The board disapproved spending $80,000 toward the 2007 Merck-Merial Veterinary Scholars Program, which provides support for students participating in summer research.

During discussion, board members offered their reasons for the AVMA to support or not support the symposium and summer research program.

Dr. John Brooks, District II, said research is vital to the future of the profession. Dr. Richard Coon, District XI, said research is in the mission of the American Veterinary Medical Foundation—yet the AVMF has not been able to raise funds to support research at the level that the Association would like or need.

Dr. Elizabeth Sabin, assistant director of the Education and Research Division, added that the summer program doesn't just place students in laboratories. It also teaches veterinary students how to be researchers.

At its April 2006 meeting, the board disapproved budgeting $100,000 annually for three years to expand the summer program but approved spending $10,000 to support the symposium in 2005 and again in 2006.

Public outreach to attract students

A recommendation from the Council on Communications to fund the development of a new AVMA Educational Outreach Program was postponed until April. In the intervening time, the AVMA will investigate relevant initiatives of prospective partners for their potential to be integrated with the outreach program recommended by the council.

Drs. John Scamahorn, District VI, and Larry Corry, board vice chair and District IV representative

The postponed recommendation is for a proactive public outreach program directed to students from kindergarten through high school and the adults who influence them. Through the Web, media outlets, AVMA sponsors and partners, and other channels, the Association would reach out with messages describing veterinarians' contributions to human and animal health, the need for students of diverse ethnic backgrounds to pursue veterinary careers, and the value of AVMA and family veterinarians as information resources. The anticipated cost is $450,000 over three years.

Education standards

The board received the report of the Education Standards Task Force regarding outside influences on the education and licensure of veterinarians and veterinary technicians in the United States.

The task force offered one recommendation to the board and a long list of suggestions to six other AVMA entities.

The board voted to approve the recommendation to establish a Council Selection Task Force. This task force will explore means to modify the current process for choosing members of the Council on Education to ensure selection of the best candidates.

Several suggestions from the report are for the joint committee of the AVMA and Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges. One suggestion is to hold a series of town hall meetings or workshops across the country to discuss licensure issues that intersect with accreditation and curriculum development. Another suggestion is to redefine large animal and rural practice within the bigger picture of public practice and the food supply—to encompass environmental health, public health, homeland security, and disaster response.

The report also suggested that the Council on Education and the AVMA Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities should encourage veterinary technology programs to work with veterinary colleges to develop educational strategies that foster a teamwork concept.

A further suggestion is that the Council on Education should continue to comprehensively re-evaluate accreditation standards, with the goals of providing more specific guidelines for all standards and for outcomes assessment in particular.

Responding to disasters

The board disapproved a policy on AVMA Charitable Response to National and International Disasters. The policy would have provided guidelines for how the board may make donations from AVMA reserves after a disaster if the American Veterinary Medical Foundation has insufficient funds to address requests for assistance from AVMA members or from humanitarian agencies.

AVMA President-elect Gregory Hammer

The Committee on Disaster and Emergency Issues loosely patterned the guidelines on how the board handled donations to Heifer International for tsunami relief and grants to veterinarians following Hurricane Katrina. The protocols provide for the committee to make recommendations to the board regarding financial support in future disasters.

The board disapproved the protocols partly because the document did not address the role of the AVMA in regard to charitable giving. Earlier this year, the HOD disapproved a resolution to determine whether charitable giving is part of the organization's mission and, if so, to establish a policy.

In other action relevant to disasters, the board approved endorsing a resolution of the U.S. Animal Health Association on the development of management systems for animal emergencies. The resolution calls for the Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to be the lead federal agency to coordinate all-hazards, all-species animal emergency management. The resolution charges APHIS with establishing a coalition of national stakeholders, such as the AVMA, to ensure coordination and maintenance of emergency management capabilities.

Prioritizing strategic goals for the AVMA

In 2004, the board approved the AVMA Strategic Planning Framework to set and achieve direction for the Association. The board later identified the five critical issues of animal welfare, veterinary workforce, economic viability, veterinary education, and veterinary services.

Dr. Theodore Cohn, District IX

In June 2006, the board approved 22 strategic goals for the critical issues.

Dr. John Brooks, District II, commented in reference committee at the November meeting that the goals need to be flexible and dynamic. Dr. David McCrystle, District X, emphasized that the board must buy in to strategic planning, for the plan to be successful.

During the full board meeting, the board approved prioritizing the 22 strategic goals. The board then established a subcommittee to develop recommendations for aligning the budget with critical issues—beginning with the 2008 budget. The subcommittee also will look at a proposal to allow the executive vice president to approve, refer, or disapprove expenditure requests of less than $5,000 rather than sending them to the board.

The board postponed decisions regarding staff management of critical issues and a new structure for future board meeting agendas that would emphasize critical issues and strategic goals.

The board held a discussion after the meeting to start prioritizing goals and sent the input back to the Strategic Planning Committee.

Mentoring resources

The board voted to sunset the online AVMA Mentoring Center and save $30,000 by not implementing a marketing campaign to promote participation in the program.

The Mentoring Center was launched in July 2004 for a three-year run, with $50,000 annually for operational costs. Participation has been below expectations, so the provider of the program Web site agreed this year to reduce the operational costs to $20,000—making $30,000 available for marketing. Staff prepared the marketing campaign, but by the end of August 2006, the center had only 30 active mentoring relationships. At that time, the center counted a total of 329 mentees and 649 mentors, but many mentees were seeking mentors, interviewing mentors, or waiting for acceptance by mentors.

The Member Services Committee believes mentoring is important to the AVMA but that the program in place did not meet goals. The committee is investigating other existing online AVMA programs as avenues for providing a mentoring resource.

Additional coverage of Executive Board actions will follow in the Jan. 15 issue.

AVMA Animal Welfare Principles

The AVMA, as a medical authority for the health and welfare of animals, offers the following eight integrated principles for developing and evaluating animal welfare policies, resolutions, and actions.

  • The responsible use of animals for human purposes, such as companionship, food, fiber, recreation, work, education, exhibition, and research conducted for the benefit of both humans and animals, is consistent with the Veterinarian's Oath.
  • Decisions regarding animal care, use, and welfare shall be made by balancing scientific knowledge and professional judgment with consideration of ethical and societal values.
  • Animals must be provided water, food, proper handling, health care, and an environment appropriate to their care and use, with thoughtful consideration of their species-typical biology and behavior.
  • Animals should be cared for in ways that minimize fear, pain, stress, and suffering.
  • Procedures related to animal housing, management, care, and use should be continuously evaluated, and when indicated, refined or replaced.
  • Conservation and management of animal populations should be humane, socially responsible, and scientifically prudent.
  • Animals shall be treated with respect and dignity throughout their lives and, when necessary, provided a humane death.
  • The veterinary profession shall continually strive to improve animal health and welfare through scientific research, education, collaboration, advocacy, and the development of legislation and regulations.