Seattle convention offers in-depth education and much more

AVMF volunteer project, AVMA governance activities run concurrently with convention
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Veterinary professionals flocked to Seattle for the 146th AVMA Annual Convention, July 11-14, for four full days of continuing education and social activities.

The strong attendance in uncertain economic times indicated that the convention was a success, said Dr. James E. Creed, chair of the AVMA Convention Management and Program Committee.

AVMA Opening Session
An employee of Seattle's Pike Place Fish Market tosses a fish during the AVMA Opening Session.

The convention drew a total attendance of 9,488, including a high turnout of 4,321 veterinarians. Attendees also included 497 veterinary students and 587 veterinary technicians and technician students.

Seattle's appeal as a tourist destination was not the only draw, said Kelly Fox, director of the AVMA Convention and Meeting Planning Division.

"The attendance is a huge accolade to the planning committee for ensuring that the program was appealing to veterinarians," Fox said. She added, "The attendees were at the convention center from beginning to end each day."

Inside the Washington State Convention and Trade Center, the AVMA convention presented an array of educational sessions and special events. The exhibit hall housed 232 booths highlighting the latest veterinary products and services. Numerous sponsors helped make the convention possible—particularly gold sponsors Bayer Animal Health, Fort Dodge Animal Health, Hill's Pet Nutrition, and Merial.

Interactive lab
Participants in an interactive lab practice techniques for laser surgery.

Opening session

"The city of Seattle provided a great site for our convention, and we celebrated that by inviting their famous fishmongers to do a team-building demonstration at our opening session," Dr. Creed said.

The AVMA Opening Session began with award presentations. Dr. James E. Nave of Las Vegas received the AVMA Award for contributions to the advancement of veterinary medical organizations (see story).

Six fishmongers from Pike Place Fish Market started the keynote presentation by demonstrating how they throw and catch fish at the market. Then, owner John Yokoyama and business coach Jim Bergquist spoke about fostering teamwork and creating a niche. The market's business principles include creating the future by looking at possibilities, not by extrapolating from the past, and embracing the idea that teammates must take responsibility for one another's success.

Bayer Bash
Convention-goers paint decorative tiles during the Bayer Bash.

The AVMA proceeded with the presentation despite objections from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which argued that the fish-tossing demonstration would be disrespectful and "supportive of cruelty of the fishing industry." The AVMA had responded that the demonstration is integral to the team-building presentation and consistent with AVMA policies for responsible use of animals. After the opening session, PETA members staged a peaceful protest outside the convention center.

Continuing education

The AVMA convention offered about 1,100 educational sessions in all. A new feature was the Beyond the Basics sessions, which allowed attendees familiar with subjects to delve deeper into the topics. The One Medicine track encompassed a two-day summit about the role of the veterinary profession in improving global health. As always, the interactive labs were popular, with many of them selling out as convention-goers sought to practice skills ranging from surgical techniques to critical care.

Other educational sessions drew more participants than the AVMA planning team had anticipated. Dr. Creed noted afterward that the AVMA chose Seattle as the site for the 2009 convention six years ago, when the convention center there could comfortably accommodate the projected attendance.

"Over the past few years, we have seen an increase in attendance at the AVMA Annual Convention," Dr. Creed wrote in a message to attendees posted July 25 on the convention Web site. "Although this is good news for the convention, it did cause overcrowding and significant inconvenience for attendees in many of the sessions. Be assured the planning team is aware of the importance of this issue and will avoid cities that cannot accommodate future growth."

Special events

In addition to the educational program, the convention offered a number of other activities for attendees.

The inaugural AVMA Town Hall Meeting provided a forum for AVMA members and leaders to discuss issues such as standards of veterinary education, diversity in the profession, and member engagement with the Association (watch for a report in the Sept. 15 JAVMA News). Fox said the Association plans to repeat the event at future conventions so more members can attend.

Convention-goers took part in the American Veterinary Medical Foundation's second voluntourism project to spruce up several local animal shelters, including a shelter for horses (see story).

"All shelters were immensely appreciative of our efforts," said Dr. Bruce W. Little, AVMF board member and coordinator of the voluntourism project. "We will now move on to Atlanta next year."

Space Needle

This year's convention entertainment started the night of July 10 with the Fort Dodge Comedy Kickoff, featuring the humor of Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald and John Pinette. At the July 11 Bayer Bash, attendees participated in demonstrations by local artisans and enjoyed flavors of the Pacific Northwest. The 3rd Annual Merial Concert Series, July 12, featured pop singer-songwriter Natasha Bedingfield. Attendees at the July 13 alumni receptions had a chance to relax, visit with classmates and colleagues, and support their alma maters.

AVMA matters

In AVMA governance, Dr. Larry R. Corry assumed the presidency, succeeding Dr. James O. Cook. The AVMA House of Delegates elected Dr. Larry M. Kornegay as president-elect and gave Dr. Gary S. Brown a second term as vice president. Dr. René A. Carlson declared her candidacy for 2009-2010 president-elect, and Dr. Jan K. Strother declared her candidacy for vice president.

The HOD deliberated on a number of resolutions and bylaws amendments. Delegates voted to retain the current AVMA policy against ear cropping and tail docking of dogs for cosmetic purposes, to include the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians in the HOD Advisory Panel, and to sunset the AVMA Council on Communications.

The Executive Board also considered a variety of items. The board approved a policy outlining "Best Management Practices for Pharmaceutical Disposal." The board did not approve continuing AVMA sponsorship of the Veterinary Leadership Experience for veterinary students at $75,000 per year for 2010-2013.

See story for more details about board actions and story for full coverage of HOD actions.

Convention coverage begins in this issue and will continue in the Sept. 15 issue of JAVMA News. Reports from veterinary organizations that met at convention will run in the Oct. 1 issue.