Changes take shape for SAVMA at symposium

President envisions more member outreach
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Student leaders took a big-picture focus during the 41st annual Student AVMA Educational Symposium March 10-13 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine.

The two-day SAVMA House of Delegates session drew nearly 1,200 attendees and saw the passage of two major initiatives and the consideration of another.

Rebecca Steers at the podium
Rebecca Steers, outgoing Student AVMA president, speaks to the SAVMA House of Delegates.

Members approved changing the Native American Project Committee to the Committee for Promoting Practice in Underserved Areas. The old committee's charge was to grant scholarships for veterinary students wishing to provide animal care on Native American Nation reservations.

The new committee will have a broader purpose as it seeks to do the same work not only with Native Americans but also in sectors such as food animal medicine that are deficient in veterinary care.

Aaron Gibbons, SAVMA president, said the change to the Native American Project Committee reflects how he'd like the student association to continue evolving—by taking a broader approach to issues.

This past fall, SAVMA sent a student survey to assess member opinions. Gibbons said the results showed that many students want to be educated more on what SAVMA does for them.

"It also gives us a chance to broaden our scope. We can take information from the survey and take a specific project or task or item and ask committees to figure out a solution for it and let people take ownership in what we do," Gibbons said.

The SAVMA HOD also voted in favor of changing the position of global and public health officer from ad hoc to full and permanent.

Members discussed the SAVMA governance documents during their meeting. Plans are to combine the SAVMA Constitution and Bylaws into a single bylaws document. The move would mimic what the AVMA HOD did in 2006 (see JAVMA, Sept. 1, 2006). Current practice among many organizations is adoption of governing bylaws without a constitution, as this allows for greater flexibility and efficiency, said Dr. Derrick Hall, SAVMA adviser.

Gibbons said he thinks the bylaws changes might also give SAVMA a chance to reevaluate what it does and how it operates.

"Are we effectively communicating with members? I think we need to be more visible to students across countries, (to) empower students and get the word out more," Gibbons said.

He continued, "I get the feeling from students that they're interested in the future of the profession and the association, they're just lacking a little bit of direction. … The easier we can make that information available to them, the more likely we'll get people more involved."

The AVMA held its second town hall meeting during the symposium. Topics ranged from recent graduate involvement in the AVMA, the Food Animal Veterinarian Recruitment and Retention Program, and the Pfizer-AVMF scholarship program to changes in veterinary education, the North American Veterinary Medical Education Consortium, and the One Health Commission. The question-and-answer format provided an open forum for students attending the symposium to hear responses directly from AVMA officials, including Drs. John R. Brooks (Executive Board chair), Thomas F. Meyer (District XI board member), and Gary S. Brown (vice president), and from Dr. W. Ron DeHaven (executive vice president).

Diversity in veterinary medicine and disaster preparedness were the topics of two new lecture series offered at the symposium. In the diversity series, speakers touched on complementary/alternative medicine, veterinary medicine and the onset of the AIDS epidemic, and designing paradigms in veterinary business management.

The disaster preparedness series taught students how to become veterinary responders and to consider the human-animal bond during emergencies.

On the international front, the International Veterinary Student Association collected donations of basic science and veterinary textbooks for its Development Fund. The supplies will go to disadvantaged veterinary schools in Moldova, Mozambique, Colombia, and Ghana.

The IVSA also held an auction of veterinary supplies; the proceeds went to the Development Fund.

Outgoing 2009-2010 SAVMA officers are Rebecca Steers, Tufts University, president; David Laubert, University of Illinois, secretary; Jennifer Bruno, Louisiana State University, treasurer; Brandon Boren, Western University of Health Sciences, information technology officer; Virginia Kiefer, University of Tennessee, international exchange officer; Christopher Hall, Purdue University, editor of The Vet Gazette; and Ryan Colburn, Michigan State University, global and public health officer ad hoc.

Incoming 2010-2011 SAVMA officers are Aaron Gibbons, Washington State University, president; Joseph Esch, The Ohio State University, president-elect; Jennifer Lu, Oklahoma State University, secretary; Brian Zulauf, Oregon State University, treasurer; Garrett Stewart, Kansas State University, information technology officer; Deirdre Murdy, Western University of Health Sciences, international exchange officer; Robin Hansen, University of Illinois, editor of The Vet Gazette; Christopher Koivisto, North Carolina State University, global and public health officer; Rayne Johnson, Purdue University, international exchange officer-elect; and Claire McPhee, North Carolina State University, global and public health officer-elect.

The next SAVMA symposium will be March 24-27, 2011, at the University of California-Davis.