NAVC events educate, entertain attendees

Economy, practice management a focus in a few sessions
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A mix of continuing education, hands-on laboratories, entertainment, and of course, sun greeted attendees of the North American Veterinary Conference Jan. 17-21 in Orlando, Fla. More than 1,400 hours of CE were offered at three hotels.

During the 2009 conference, 14,036 registrants checked in, among them, 5,420 veterinarians, 1,361 veterinary technicians, 462 practice managers, 302 veterinary students, and 296 veterinary technician students.

2009 NAVC board of directors
Members of the 2009 NAVC board of directors: Front row: Lynne M. Johnson; Dr. Earl H. Rippie, secretary/treasurer; Dr. Christine B. Navarre; Dr. Jorge Guerrero; Dr. Charlotte A. Lacroix; and Dr. Don J. Harris, immediate past president. Back row: Drs. Colin F. Burrows, executive director; Douglas R. Mader, president-elect; Earl M. Gaughan, president; David F. Senior, conference coordinator; Mark M. Smith; M. Gatz Riddell; Laurel A. Kaddatz, vice president; and Mark R. Crootof.

"Our numbers dropped from last year's record high of 16,051, but we consider ourselves fortunate in this time of economic uncertainty," said NAVC executive director, Dr. Colin F. Burrows.

The economy figured prominently in the minds of a number of attendees and was the focus of several NAVC lectures. For the second year, the well-attended "Elephant in the Room" program looked at the alarming rise in veterinary student debt. One speaker touched on changes in the educational lending market between the spring and fall of 2008, and one student talked about results from a survey she conducted at U.S. veterinary schools and colleges evaluating students' business acumen. The remainder of the program largely comprised an open discussion facilitated by themes of sharing best practices, equipping students for success, and finding creative sources of funding and financing. Attendees talked about how to work with colleges and schools to enhance students' business education and life skills, and how to become more politically involved to improve funding of higher education and student loan programs.

A special half-day symposium examined the current veterinary economic situation. The interactive sessions allowed the audience to respond to questions such as whether their gross income and average charge per transactions in 2008 were up, down, or comparable with those in 2007, using a handheld digital keypad that was then projected on-screen.

For the second year, the interactive educational program FutureVet, sponsored by the AVMA and Banfield Charitable Trust, took place at the conference. Eighty-five children, ages 5 to 14, participated in the program, which was offered for two days this year, Jan. 19-20, instead of one. Children learned about basic pet care, nutrition, and parasites as it pertained to their newly adopted dog.

Merial launched a new educational CD for veterinarians on heartworm disease in dogs, complete with animation and graphics. The CD is titled "Heartworm Infection, Prevention and Treatment" and will be available from Merial field veterinarians and sales representatives. According to Merial, the CD provides veterinarians a dynamic view of the interaction of heartworm development in a dog, using case scenarios frequently seen in practice.

Dr. Buffington
Dr. C.A. Tony Buffington

Dr. C.A. Tony Buffington was presented with the 2009 Mark L. Morris Sr. Lifetime Achievement Award. Dr. Buffington is a professor at The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine. He was honored for his work in helping understand the causes of urinary tract disease in cats and in identifying the role of the environment in the health of indoor cats. Dr. Buffington identified the role of acid-base balance in foods and its relationship to the formation of feline uroliths, work that resulted in broad reformulation of commercial pet diets. He also was the first to identify the commonalities between feline urologic syndrome and interstitial cystitis in women.

Susan Bartlett of Fort Dodge Animal Health was presented with the inaugural Neill P. Overman Award. The award honors Overman, founder of Veterinary Learning Systems and NAVC's first director of exhibits. Nominated by fellow exhibitors for her ethical behavior, salesmanship, and knowledge of the veterinary profession, Bartlett received an award and $1,000 check.

For entertainment, comedian Bill Engvall provided laughs while actor and musician Jim Belushi and the Sacred Hearts Band from The House of Blues played a rhythm and blues set.