SAVMA heading in a new direction

Duty hours guidelines the first step in new advocacy, communication focus
Published on
information-circle This article is more than 3 years old

The Student AVMA governing bodies are poised to advocate more on the behalf of students and improve communication with SAVMA members. The new initiatives were made possible at the most recent SAVMA House of Delegates and Executive Board meetings, where the entities approved major revisions to their governing documents.

The meetings took place during the 2011 SAVMA Symposium March 24-25 at the University of California-Davis. More than 1,400 veterinary students attended the weekend event, which included guest speakers and social events.

SAVMA committees
The SAVMA HOD Animal Welfare and Human Animal Bond Committee discusses projects and awards for the upcoming year.

Keeping up-to-date

For more than a year, the SAVMA leadership has worked to simplify the organization's governance process. The SAVMA HOD voted to approve new bylaws and dissolve the previous SAVMA Constitution at its biannual meeting Aug. 1-2, 2010, in Atlanta. President Joseph Esch (OSU '12) explained that this was done to mirror what the AVMA did in 2006.

The SAVMA HOD body finalized these governance changes by revising and updating its HOD manual at the most recent meeting. The SAVMA Executive Board, for its part, approved the creation of its own manual at its meeting. Some of the language addressed travel policies, for example, which had not been made explicit before.

Esch said all these changes mean not only that SAVMA is now up-to-date on governance trends and policies but also that there has been a fundamental shift in the way the organization operates.

"There are a lot of things we're trying to look to the future with instead of having a reactive approach to working on items. That way we can serve students better, and that's really what all these changes have been about," Esch said. "We had to make it physically possible first. Now if there are student issues, we can work to fulfill them or work to identify them before they become issues."

Duty hours proposal

The SAVMA HOD already took a step in that direction when delegates approved guidelines regarding duty hours during clinical rotations for fourth-year students. The document recommends that students not work more than 80 hours a week, not work more than 24 consecutive hours in continuous on-site duty, and be provided with breaks when they are on call.

"There are some schools that don't necessarily have this issue. There are some that do," Esch said. "This came from students driving home from clinics and getting into accidents, or making medical errors because they're on for so many hours. There was spirited debate about whether we should move forward with this or not. In the end, (the SAVMA) HOD approved the policy."

The guidelines were influenced by the American Medical Association's Resident Work Hours Policy. Esch said the delegates focused on fourth-year rotations because SAVMA doesn't have authority over internship or residency programs. The guidelines will be sent to the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges board of directors and the AVMA Executive Board along with an explanation of the document and reasons for its creation.

"It's certainly a very different viewpoint for SAVMA, because in the past it's been confined to working on reports and grants and scholarships. While that's all important, we're taking a firm position on something, which is new for us at least in recent memory. I think part of what made that easier were the changes, which ensured that we even had time for the discussion. I expect more things like that will come from SAVMA now that it has the time," Esch said.

Open lines of communication

Another area where SAVMA leaders see potential for improvement is communication. A past survey of SAVMA members revealed that many were unfamiliar with what the student association actually does.

To change this, Esch said SAVMA leaders anticipate increasing communication between chapter presidents and their members, between chapter presidents and SAVMA delegates, and between SAVMA delegates and SAVMA Executive Board members. Much of that takes place electronically now, he said, but he's open to the idea of also creating posters or handouts to get the word out about SAVMA activities, grants, and scholarships on school campuses.

SAVMA's website,, offers similar information, but also allows students to give feedback to the association. And is a blog filled with writings and artwork from SAVMA members.

At this year's symposium SAVMA members were encouraged to speak their mind at the town hall meeting, which featured AVMA Executive Board members, Drs. John R. Brooks (chair), Clark K. Fobian, and Janver D. Krehbiel; Dr. Jan K. Strother, AVMA vice president; and Dr. Gail C. Golab, director of the AVMA Animal Welfare Division.

Students also heard Dr. Krehbiel's updates from the North American Veterinary Medical Education Consortium.

And finally, vector-borne diseases will be the new One-Health Challenge for the next two years. Through this initiative, first started in 2007, SAVMA and the student chapters of the AVMA educate the public about veterinary medicine's role in the public health realm. The past two One-Health Challenges were rabies and obesity.

Coming and going

Outgoing 2010-2011 SAVMA officers are Aaron Gibbons, Washington State University, president; 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; Christopher Koivisto, North Carolina State University, global and public health officer; and Robin Hansen, University of Illinois, editor of The Vet Gazette.

Incoming 2011-2012 SAVMA officers are Joseph Esch, The Ohio State University, president; Jennifer Linton, University of Pennsylvania, secretary; Daniel Tappmeyer, University of Missouri-Columbia, treasurer; Jessica Trichel, Louisiana State University, information technology officer; Rayne Johnson, Purdue University, international exchange officer; Claire McPhee, North Carolina State University, global and public health officer; Ashley Smit, Kansas State University, editor of The Vet Gazette; Bridget Heilsberg, Colorado State University, president-elect; Julie Stafford, Oregon State University, international exchange officer-elect; and Andrew Stas, University of Pennsylvania, global and public health officer-elect.

The next SAVMA symposium will be March 15-17, 2012, at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind.

Joseph Esch
SAVMA President Joseph Esch attends the AVMA Executive Board meeting in April.

Joseph Esch, a third-year student at The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, is the 2011-2012 Student AVMA president. He earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a major in animal science.

At Ohio State, Esch is a member of the Veterinary Business Management Association, Theriogenology Club, and veterinary fraternity Omega Tau Sigma.

Esch has earned the prestigious national American Kennel Club Student Award for two years in a row for his interest in and work with purebred Collies. He also has earned the Selma and Edward Levy Endowed Scholarship, Harry E. Goldstein Scholarship, A. Hartman Scholarship, and Ohio State's Board of Trustees Student Recognition Award. He is also a student ambassador for the AKC and a member of the AVMA Member Services Committee, and he previously served as the delegate representing Ohio State's AVMA student chapter.

Esch's goal for his presidency is to identify four to six areas of opportunity, and rather than react to problems, create a plan for the future to do better for other students.

"We need to work to become more inclusive as an organization. I look at a lot of the fractioning that exists within our profession, and if we can get our students to work together better, maybe someday everyone would get along a lot better. There needs to be a little idealism—not to focus on the negatives, but the positives we can create," Esch said.

Following graduation, he plans to become an associate veterinarian at a small animal veterinary hospital, and then eventually own a veterinary hospital. Esch also plans to continue his involvement as a volunteer with organized veterinary medicine at the local and national levels.