Leadership workshops emphasize communication, collaboration

Published on February 15, 2008
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Attendees at the recent AVMA Veterinary Leadership Conference participated in a variety of leadership development workshops, several of which tackled the intertwining topics of communication and collaboration.

Dr. Althea A. Jones, AVMA online professional services editor, spoke about new communications technologies ranging from wikis to webinars.

A wiki is a Web page that anyone can edit, she said, and wikis can help groups work together despite separations in space and time. A webinar, or Web seminar, combines a conference call with content on the computer screen via the Internet. Webinars are becoming more practical, even as the technology continues to evolve.

"You're always playing catch-up with technology," Dr. Jones said. "That's just how it is."

Ralph Johnson, executive director of the Colorado VMA, and Bob Rohde, president of the Dumb Friends League of Denver, discussed how veterinary associations and humane organizations can collaborate.

Johnson and Rohde said veterinary associations may view humane organizations, particularly organizations that offer free spay/neuter procedures, as the competition. Animal shelters may believe veterinarians can afford to offer them more free services. Despite any distrust, though, the groups share the goal of responsible pet ownership.

Johnson said the Colorado VMA and humane organizations have worked together on multiple initiatives. Pet owners who can't pay for spay/neuter procedures benefit from initiatives such as vouchers for free procedures, a check-off on state income tax returns for the Colorado Pet Overpopulation Fund, and mobile spay/neuter units.

"I hear, 'If they can't afford an animal, then they shouldn't have one,' but they do, and they always will," Rohde said.

The AVMA Communications Division led workshops featuring interactive scenarios in crisis communication. Sessions began with an overview of the subject, emphasizing the need for a communication plan. Then participants broke into groups, each acting as the crisis team of a state VMA.

The scenarios included the recall of a diabetes drug, an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, and a series of newspaper articles about filthy conditions and unprofessional conduct at local veterinary clinics. With each situation, new developments arose during the exercise.

The other two workshops focused on effective leadership and on gender and generational diversity. Dr. Jeff Thoren of Gifted Leaders and Brian Sorge of Lambert and Associates were the speakers for the respective sessions.