Board enhances AVMA visibility

Traveling exhibit, transparency policy, release of data top recommendations
Published on December 01, 2007
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The AVMA Executive Board approved a number of recommendations that will boost the Association's visibility to its members and the public.

In one move, the board approved seed funding for a traveling exhibit on zoonotic diseases to celebrate the upcoming 150th anniversary of the AVMA.

Also at the meeting, the board approved an AVMA transparency policy and three recommendations involving the release of AVMA data from its member records and surveys.

Dr. Larry R. CorryDr. Larry R. Corry, District IV, chaired the meeting, which was held Nov. 15-16 at Association headquarters in Schaumburg, Ill. The board authorized $72,185 from the contingency fund and $150,000 from the reserve fund. 

Zoonotic disease exhibit takes shape

The board approved seed funding to the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service for an exhibit on zoonotic diseases commemorating the AVMA's 150th anniversary in 2013.

The AVMA and SITES will develop a traveling exhibit exploring the worldwide origins and impacts of zoonotic diseases, the role of veterinarians and other health professionals in combating these diseases, and steps that the public can take to reduce their risk of exposure. The highly interactive exhibit will be designed primarily for middle school-aged visitors, but will also appeal to a more general audience.

The AVMA will fund SITES $100,000 from reserves. The funding will help support development of materials to attract sponsors to underwrite the estimated $5 million it will cost to create and manage the exhibit. The funding will also support preliminary drawings of the exhibit and formation of a SITES team, which will provide curatorial oversight and develop concept and educational goals.

The exhibit is expected to travel to 10 cities nationwide over four years. In addition to exploring the topic of zoonotic diseases, the exhibit will introduce visitors to a range of careers in animal health.

Transparency policy approved

The board approved a policy on transparency, which states the following:

Policy on Transparency

All approved AVMA professional policies (with pertinent background information) will be made available to all audiences. Other AVMA information may be made available at the discretion of the Executive Vice President.

The Council on Communications and the Member Services Committee had been tasked with developing a general policy to guide the release of Association information to internal and external audiences to achieve an appropriate degree of transparency.

Instead of the policy drafted by the joint committee, however, the board approved a substitute policy from Dr. John Scamahorn, District VI Executive Board member and board liaison to the Member Services Committee.

"I felt that the revised policy was more specific in delineating what needed to be transparent to our members as well as the public," Dr. Scamahorn said.

Releasing AVMA member, survey data

The board approved three recommendations from the AVMA Communications Division and the Membership and Field Services Division involving the release of AVMA data from its member records and surveys.

Because a 1978 AVMA policy on raw economic data no longer addresses contemporary issues, the board approved the following new policy:

Policy on Release of Data

Data owned by the AVMA may be released to individuals, nationally recognized research organizations, publicly-supported educational institutions, and federal or state governmental agencies for use in specific research projects that may have an impact on the veterinary profession. Data may also be released at the request of organizations represented in the AVMA House of Delegates, organizations that are part of the American Board of Veterinary Specialties, or any AVMA-accredited veterinary college/school or AVMA-accredited school of veterinary technology.

The AVMA may release member records data as well as raw data obtained through questionnaires or other survey instruments. In all cases, respondent/member anonymity will be maintained, and at no time will data be released that would reveal the identity of any individual.

Each request for data will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis by the Executive Vice President for approval, disapproval or referral to the Executive Board.

Expansion of the AVMA's veterinary economic research in recent years has been accompanied by an increase in requests for data and information from the Association. In November, after careful deliberation, the board approved two requests.

The AVMA will provide economic, anonymous member, and market research data to the University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute in conjunction with an economic impact study sponsored by the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. This initiative would promote the standing of veterinary medicine as an economic driver in New England.

This summer, the AVMA provided select information about veterinarians from its member record database to the National Academy of Sciences for analysis in a study on veterinary workforce issues, a study funded in part by the AVMA. Now the board has approved providing nonanonymous member data and e-mail addresses to the NAS so that it can follow up on patterns it has identified in the data by conducting surveys of narrowly defined subgroups.

Audit committee established

Also of note, the board approved establishment of an Audit Committee to oversee the financial audit of the Association. Board member Dr. Joseph H. Kinnarney, District III Executive Board member, submitted the recommendation.

The committee will assist the board in fulfilling its oversight responsibilities with respect to the financial audit of the AVMA's books and records and the AVMA's system of internal controls and procedures. The Association's outside auditors will hold an open and transparent relationship with the committee, and will be ultimately responsible to the committee and the board.

The three board members appointed to the committee were Drs. David L. McCrystle, District X, who will serve as chair; Kinnarney; and Scamahorn. The cost to the AVMA will total $6,000 per year.

"Informed consent" versus "owner consent"

On recommendation from the Council on Veterinary Service, the board approved discontinuing the use of the term "informed consent" and replacing it with the term "owner consent" in all AVMA documents and references.

In the background, the council reported it believes that "because the informed consent doctrine in human medicine evolved from a cause of action for an unauthorized touching or invasion of the body, it would be wise to preclude the use of this term in veterinary medicine and the potential legal precedents to which it could be linked. Since animals are still property under law, guidelines from the AVMA, the Animal Health Institute, and other veterinary legal advocates should explain this legal difference and seek to keep it that way."

Had the AVMA continued to use the term "informed consent" in matters relating to veterinary medicine, the council stated, proponents of animal guardianship could have used it in support of their arguments.

AVMA GHLIT to offer input to pet insurance industry

The pet insurance industry is experiencing growing demand for coverage for a number of reasons, such as increased availability of specialty services. As a result, the AVMA Group Health and Life Insurance Trust is positioning the profession to provide direction to the industry as it formulates future programs.

The board approved a recommendation from its Insurance Liaison Committee to amend the GHLIT charter to include pet insurance as an avenue of service to AVMA members. This authorizes the Trust primarily to provide guidance to the industry. This could include exploring partnership opportunities. A GHLIT-endorsed pet insurance program would promote quality veterinary medicine and reduce euthanasia while at the same time accommodating practitioners' needs.

Aetna Signature Administrators, the Trust's new preferred provider organization network (see page 1792), has been researching the pet insurance industry and is interested in exploring this arena with the GHLIT.

Property review report

As chair of the Property Review Task Force formed by the board in July, Dr. Clark Fobian, District VII Executive Board member, presented a comprehensive report on the pros and cons of submitting a bid on a 2.9-acre parcel of property located adjacent to AVMA headquarters in Schaumburg, Ill., and across from a convention center. The task force did not recommend whether to purchase the property.

The board accepted the report as information and, after deliberating over the report and current terms of sale, took no action to continue pursuit of the property at this time.

Acclimation certificate revised

The board approved revisions to the AVMA Guidelines on Acclimation Certificates. The Council on Veterinary Service, which presented the recommendation, reported that the previous wording of the guidelines was not understood and, as a result, not readily accepted by airline companies.

The council believes that the revised wording of the guidelines and the certifying statement itself provide veterinarians with sufficient background information and language to help them and their clients assess the risks involved in shipping animals with acclimation certificates.

Of note, the certifying statement allows for clearer, more detailed directions on temperature ranges. The statement now reads as follows: "The animal(s) in this shipment appear healthy for transport but need(s) to be maintained at a range of ambient temperatures to which the animal(s) has/have been acclimated, as determined in consultation with the owner/authorized agent to be no lower than (W degrees) F for (X) minutes and no higher than (Y degrees) F (not to exceed 85 F) for no longer than (Z) minutes."

Also, the guidelines more clearly describe what information is needed when attaching an acclimation certificate to a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection.

To view the guidelines, visit the AVMA Web site,, click on Issues, AVMA Policies, and then Acclimation Certificates.

Environmental responsibility policy

Contemporary environmental issues, including long-term sustainability and global warming, are integrated into a revised AVMA policy titled Environmental Responsibility. The board approved this revised policy, drafted and recommended by the Committee on Environmental Issues. It states as follows:

Environmental Responsibility

The AVMA supports environmental responsibility including:

  1. Education of veterinarians and the public on the importance of maintenance and restoration of a healthy environment using cost analysis and science-based, peer-reviewed information, and the importance of sustainability, conservation and long term planning.
  2. Understanding control and prevention of the environmental impacts of chemicals, medical and animal wastes, greenhouse gases, and other man made products that may negatively effect the environment.
  3. Promotion of scientifically-based, environmentally sensitive practices of veterinary medicine to ensure a viable ecosystem for future generations.

State regulation of veterinary medicine

According to Dr. Scamahorn, who is board liaison to the AVMA State Advocacy Committee, it is not unusual for the Association to receive inquiries about its stance on measures initiated by state and local governments to regulate the practice of veterinary medicine. Because the AVMA had no policy, the committee drafted one for board consideration. The board amended the term "veterinary procedures" to "specific procedures" and approved it. The policy reads as follows:

State Regulation of Veterinary Medicine

State governments, rather than local governments, are the appropriate entities to regulate the practice of veterinary medicine, including allowing or restricting specific procedures.

The State Advocacy Committee has been concerned about some recently enacted local ordinances, such as the city of West Hollywood's ban on animal declawing, infringing on state authority. By adopting this regulation, the AVMA is on record as supporting a uniform system of state regulation of veterinary medicine.

Beef cattle welfare meeting supported

The board approved sponsorship for the First International Symposium on Beef Cattle Welfare. The Beef Cattle Institute will host the symposium at Kansas State University in Manhattan, May 29-30, 2008. The AVMA will provide $5,000 in funding.

The Animal Welfare Committee presented the recommendation to the board. In the background, the committee expressed its enthusiasm for forums that facilitate balanced discussions of how to better assess and improve the welfare of animals—in this case, beef cattle.

Assessing resident, internship quality

Representatives from the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, American Association of Veterinary Clinicians, and recognized veterinary specialty organizations will meet to discuss the future and ongoing quality of residency and internship programs. The board approved the half-day meeting, which will be held in conjunction with the American Board of Veterinary Specialties meeting, Feb. 23-24, 2008.

In the background to its recommendation, the AVMA/AAVMC Joint Committee reported that such a meeting is critical to allow better understanding of the role of veterinary colleges and schools, AAVC, ABVS, and recognized specialty organizations in developing, overseeing, and maintaining residency and internship programs.

Improved understanding will be important in addressing critical issues related to training quality and workforce shortages and needs, the committee stated.

More coverage of the Executive Board meeting will follow in the Jan. 1 issue of JAVMA.