Meet me in St. Louis

AVMA Annual Convention attracts thousands of attendees
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About 8,800 attendees convened July 16-19 in St. Louis for four full days of education, exhibits, and events during the 2011 AVMA Annual Convention.

Many sponsors supported the 2011 convention—notably Hill's Pet Nutrition Inc. and Merial, the AVMA's P3 Partners, as well as Bayer Animal Health.

Convention educational session
The AVMA Annual Convention in St. Louis offered a wide variety of educational sessions, including interactive labs. Photos by Matt Alexandre/Robb Cohen Photography

Dr. Ron Banks, chair of the AVMA Convention Management and Program Committee, said, "An outstanding continuing education program assembled by the CMPC section managers, truly top-notch social and entertainment opportunities organized by the AVMA convention division, and partnerships with numerous allied professional groups such as the Poultry Science Association all combined to create the one spot in 2011 where attendees could obtain what they needed and what they wanted."

Kelly Fox, director of the Convention and Meeting Planning Division, noted that the AVMA MapIt! online agenda planner, sponsored by Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, was back for a second year. One of the MapIt! improvements for 2011 was an application for iPads.

Among numerous other new technologies, the AVMA introduced radio-frequency identification chips in convention-goers' badges to track continuing education. Attendees may print CE certificates by visiting

Convention highlights

The convention program began with the opening session, sponsored by Hill's, in a new talk show format. Keynote speaker Philippe Cousteau Jr., grandson of aquatic explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau, talked about the animals in his life and shared experiences from his nature expeditions (see story).

Convention exhibit hall
The exhibit hall drew crowds of convention-goers to visit hundreds of booths.

The educational program this year offered more than 600 sessions. The Beyond the Basics sessions were back for a third year, providing in-depth information on a variety of clinical topics. New for 2011 were Inside the Issues sessions, frank discussions about controversial issues affecting the profession, and Hot Topics sessions on late-breaking subjects such as the impacts of the tsunami in Japan. Also new for this year, some sessions featured audience polls via text messaging.

The AVMA Pavilion in the exhibit hall was the location for two AVMA Live town hall meetings. Dr. Banks described the meetings as "an opportunity to ask questions of AVMA leaders and subject matter experts concerning any aspect of the AVMA, to openly discuss what's important to you."

Dr. Banks and Fox invited convention-goers to celebrate World Veterinary Year. 2011 is the 250th anniversary of the founding of the first veterinary school in Lyon, France, and, therefore, the 250th anniversary of veterinary medicine as a profession.

America's Center conference complex
The America's Center conference complex in St. Louis bustles with activity during the AVMA Annual Convention.

The convention celebration featured a daylong Vet2011 educational symposium with a reception afterward for symposium attendees. The AVMA Pavilion included a Vet2011 display.

The exhibit hall housed hundreds of booths. This year, convention-goers could earn two hours of CE credit for spending time with exhibitors discussing how various services and products can impact the clinical care of patients.

Among the highlights of the hall were the New Product Showcase and a reception for all convention-goers. The AVMA Pavilion provided information about all things AVMA and served as the location for a live broadcast of the AgriTalk radio show.

Convention entertainment included a night at the St. Louis Zoo in support of the American Veterinary Medical Foundation, with premier sponsor Nestle Purina; a concert by the Plain White T's, sponsored by Merial; and Sunday Night Live, sponsored by Bayer Animal Health. Sunday Night Live began with the three finalists in the AVMA's Got Talent contest warming up the crowd for comedian Jay Mohr.

Giving back

Fox said the AVMA convention is about giving as well as receiving. She noted that convention participants gave back to the St. Louis community with the Convention to Community events and other efforts.

AVMA's Got Talent contest
Actor Dean Haglund, host for many convention events, introduces the finalists in the AVMA's Got Talent contest.

Dozens of convention-goers volunteered to spruce up area animal shelters as part of the AVMF Our Oath in Action Shelter Rehab project, with Hill's as the premier partner.

Proceeds from the AVMF Trails for Tails 5K Walk/Run, with partners Abbott Animal Health and, benefited area animal shelters and AVMF animal welfare programs.

A new program allowed convention-goers to donate their convention bags for distribution to local schoolchildren in need of book bags.

Moreover, at the close of the convention, exhibitors donated leftover products to animal shelters and educational programs for veterinary technicians.

The AVMA convention remains unique as a major veterinary CE conference that is a not-for-profit event and rotates among locations across the country, Dr. Banks and Fox said. A multitude of groups, this year including the Poultry Science Association, also meet in conjunction with the convention.

The Sept. 15 JAVMA News will feature coverage of AVMA Live and the Vet2011 symposium and additional convention highlights. Reports from veterinary groups that met at the convention and Diversity Symposium coverage will run in the Oct. 1 issue.