20/20 foresight

Commission offers a vision to advance the AVMA, veterinary medicine
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The AVMA should allow various levels of membership for veterinarians to accommodate different levels of participation, according to recommendations in a new report, and the Association should expand its membership to include veterinary technicians and add a category of nonmember affiliation for the lay public.

The AVMA 20/20 Vision Commission offered these and many other recommendations in its final report to the AVMA Executive Board in April. The board established the commission to create a vision for the Association in the year 2020 that would "position the AVMA as a dynamic association that is increasingly relevant and responsive to the membership and the public."

The commission presented a vision for the Association to advance veterinary medicine as well as the organization by 2020 (see sidebar). To achieve the vision, the commission proposed strategic approaches for various aspects of the Association ranging from membership to public awareness to global impact.

"This wasn't a criticism of the organization, but it was about real opportunities that we saw for AVMA to be the national, even global, leader in advancing veterinary medicine," said Dr. Lonnie King, chair of the commission, after the April board meeting. "The old solutions and old ways of doing work probably aren't going to be successful strategies for the future, so the report is offering some new thinking, new options to be considered as we move ahead."

How will the AVMA be different in 2020? Following are a sampling of the commission's ideas for changing 11 dimensions of the Association.

1. Societal impact

By 2020, the AVMA should achieve a new level of social responsibility and help meet societal needs. The first aspect of this goal is that the AVMA should provide leadership in enabling veterinarians "to make major improvements for the health of more animals and humans."

One recommendation is for the Association to establish a strategy for social responsibility, partly for the purpose of creating programs to address critical societal needs.

2. Public awareness

By 2020, the AVMA should become more influential—by focusing externally, spanning boundaries, and sparking a new public awareness of the profession's contributions to society.

Among other approaches to this goal, the commission proposed that the Association "develop and implement a strategy that orients veterinary practitioners toward preventive care and encourages animal owners to utilize veterinary services to achieve a high level of wellness for all animals."

3. Economics

By 2020, the AVMA should help improve economic performance and long-term financial stability for the profession.

One of the recommendations is for the Association to "develop and implement a national economic strategy for veterinary medicine to drive markets and opportunities within the context of the national and global economy," with attention to providing services to underserved communities and addressing the debt of veterinary students.

4. Relationships

By 2020, the AVMA should develop "dynamic and mutually satisfying relationships with other veterinary organizations and key stakeholders that result in significant progress or resolution of shared issues."

The Association should rebrand itself, according to one recommendation, as the legitimate convener of issue forums and joint strategy development with other veterinary organizations and between the profession and other groups.

5. Global impact

By 2020, the AVMA should be global in its perspective and action, engaging in strategic new international activities.

The commission proposed that the Association develop a global plan to expand and strengthen international relationships, enlarge the AVMA's scope of influence, develop a brand with global recognition, and ensure that the Association is in a position and has the capacity to drive international economic opportunities for the membership.

The report is offering some new thinking, new options to be considered as we move ahead.


6. Membership

By 2020, the AVMA should expand the structure of its membership.

The recommendations for this goal include allowing various levels of membership for veterinarians and veterinary technicians to accommodate different levels of participation and adding a category of nonmember affiliation for the lay public. According to the commission's report, the lay public can "provide specialized services and address varied areas of interest."

7. Demographics

By 2020, the AVMA should ensure representation of women in leadership roles, develop an array of products and services to attract and retain members of each generation, and use modes of communication and interaction that are appropriate across generational and other demographic differences.

Recommendations include engaging members from various demographic groups to fill roles on Association entities and developing strategies to ensure that the profession's demographics are representative of the diversity of the U.S. population.

8. Technology

By 2020, the AVMA should use advances in technology to improve communications with members and the public.

For example, the Association should use communications technologies "to constantly assess member needs and concerns and to scan the environment for key changes or challenges that need immediate attention."

The AVMA also should use new technologies to enhance the Association's publications, including the journals, and to provide information to, and communicate with, the public.

9. Governance

By 2020, the AVMA should adopt a new governance structure that ensures "high levels of participation in decision-making" by members, transparency, flexibility and adaptability, emphasis on substance over politics, and opportunities for members to participate at multiple levels of interest.

The commission proposed reinventing the Association's governance structure on the basis of an external review. A specific recommendation is for the general membership, rather than the House of Delegates, to elect the president.

10. Culture

By 2020, the AVMA should "create a strong and diverse sense of community within the veterinary profession" that bolsters veterinarians' pride in the profession and respect for colleagues' contributions in all roles and that fosters a bold approach to change and a commitment to social responsibility.

The Association's own culture should become more inclusive, nimble, and accountable. The commission proposed designing a strategy for AVMA leadership to lead a widespread culture shift within the Association.

11. Knowledge

By 2020, the AVMA should root itself in learning and knowledge.

This goal for the Association focuses on improving capabilities for collecting and analyzing data to inform decision-making, detecting and analyzing trends, and supplying leaders and members with high-quality information.

One recommendation is for the AVMA to create a plan to improve the way in which the Association learns and adapts.

Next steps

Could the AVMA accomplish this vision by 2020?

"It is attainable, but it does represent a new pace, a new sense of urgency by people in the leadership roles," Dr. King said. "If we consider that the vision was designed for 2020, then we could consider creating an eight-year plan. Thus, the recommendations and vision don't seem to be so overwhelming and are certainly doable with good priority setting and commitment for implementations."

The commission offered some informal suggestions to the board about the next steps to take.

"The commission strongly believed that further engagement of members would really be helpful, so that they could react to the vision and the recommendations," Dr. King said. "They would actually refine it and help make it better and help make some decisions about what should be implemented and what priorities ought to be set."

The commission also suggested that the AVMA would need to create a team to implement the vision for 2020.

The AVMA has posted the commission's report at avma.org/2020vision. Comments are welcome on the Network of Animal Health, on the AVMA@Work blog, or at EBMail. Members can access NOAH, then search for "AVMA 20/20 Commission Report." Anyone can access the AVMA@Work blog at http://atwork.avma.org, then look for the April 27 post on "A Vision for AVMA's Future."

The Association is the nation's leader in advancing veterinary medicine by:

  • Establishing and advancing a national agenda focused on the health and welfare of animals and their importance to our society.
  • Securing a vital and economically viable future for all facets of the veterinary profession.
  • Ensuring public appreciation and support for veterinary medicine to enable the profession to fulfill its essential role.
  • Operating in a global context, recognizing the critical contribution that U.S. veterinarians play internationally, including global health, trade, food safety and security, and education.
  • Building dynamic partnerships with key groups and sectors, both internally and externally, to ensure effective collaboration on issues of shared importance.
  • Contributing to the growth and health of the veterinary profession, including ensuring that membership in the profession reflects the full spectrum of Americans.
  • Functioning in a manner that promotes high trust, broad participation, and commitment among its diverse membership and other key stakeholders.
  • Ensuring the organization expands its portfolio of opportunities and activities in animal welfare, research, emergency response, and public health, and drives demand.
  • Unifying the diverse interests and specialties in the profession toward a common purpose and sense of community.
  • Operating and governing proactively and strategically and incorporating technological advances.