AVMA details its international work

Report shows leaders, members how AVMA spends time, money
Published on December 15, 2011
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International activities will account for about 2 percent each of the AVMA's expenses and income during 2012, according to a report given to AVMA leaders in November.

In 2012, the AVMA is projected to spend about $616,000 on international activities and bring in about $598,000. Projected expenses are down from about $713,000 in 2011, and projected income is up from the $566,000 brought in during 2011.

The figures are from a 69-page report developed by AVMA staff to address concerns raised early in 2011 by the Arizona and California VMAs, which questioned whether the national association was spending appropriate amounts of resources on global activities compared with domestic ones. Although the two state associations had called for a task force of members to examine the issue, the AVMA House of Delegates had passed a competing resolution for AVMA staff to develop a report on international involvement, the rationale and costs for that involvement, and changes expected in 2012.

Dr. Douglas G. Aspros, AVMA president-elect, said global activities are critically important for U.S. veterinarians and their profession, and the report clearly shows that the AVMA is not overspending resources, time, or attention on such activities. He is among Executive Board members who received and reviewed the report in early November.

House of Delegates members received the report in late November. The AVMA planned to provide the report to members Dec. 15 at www.avma.org.

Dr. George W. Bishop received the report through his work as alternate delegate of the California VMA, chair of the AVMA House Advisory Committee, and invited participant of the Executive Board. He praised the report as detailed, comprehensive, and unbiased, and he thinks it meets the intent of the House of Delegates resolution. He did not know whether the California and Arizona VMAs would call for additional actions.

Activities detailed, Board responds

Examples of the AVMA's recent international activities include working with U.S. delegates to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and Codex Alimentarius on sanitary and phytosanitary standards that could affect trade agreements, developing with the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe policies on antimicrobial use and veterinarians' roles in promoting good animal welfare, conducting accreditation site visits at four schools outside the U.S., establishing an International Veterinary Specialty Working Group, collaborating on meetings that included instruction on infectious and contagious aquatic animal diseases, and celebrating 2011 as World Veterinary Year, the 250th anniversary of the founding of the first veterinary school in Lyon, France.

Staff salaries and benefits account for half the global activity expenses in 2011 and 56 percent in 2012, according to the report. They account for just under 3 percent of the AVMA's total salaries and benefits both years. Volunteer and staff travel is the second largest cost, and Vet2011 activities were connected with one-time expenses of $126,000. Other expenses included organizational dues, volunteer leader meetings, student activities, and symposia and workshops. Schools outside the U.S. and Canada cover accreditation costs connected with their own schools.

"Efforts to ensure that the U.S. veterinary profession's voice is heard in the international arena are intimately connected to AVMA's national efforts to advance its strategic plan," the report's conclusion states, in part. "Further, because current AVMA international activities are minimal in terms of overall resources, there is no evidence that the Association's international activities result in any measurable loss of national opportunities."

Dr. Aspros has performed international work for the AVMA in previous years as chair of the Council on Education, chair of a meeting on veterinary education standards in Europe, and a representative for U.S. veterinarians at a recent World Small Animal Veterinary Association meeting in South Korea. International travel and transport of livestock can present risks to public health and food security, he said, and the AVMA wants to ensure that animals and animal products destined for the United States are overseen by veterinarians who meet U.S. standards.

"We know that we live in an increasingly small global village and, while the practice of veterinary medicine can feel like a very local activity, it is really far from that," Dr. Aspros said.

Dr. V. Hugh "Chip" Price, who represents District VIII on the Executive Board, said the AVMA needs to spread the word about the report's findings. He thinks the Association's global activities are appropriate and the AVMA needs to do more to show members the need for continued involvement in international activities.

"We obviously have a leadership role, and it behooves us to keep that," Dr. Price said. "If we don't, we may have things thrust upon us that we may not agree with."

Dr. Price's own work at Louisiana State University involves shipping rodents to laboratories around the world, a practice regulated in many areas under standards set by the OIE.

Questions from VMAs

The report was developed following debates in the AVMA House of Delegates in July 2011, when the HOD considered three resolutions on foreign activities. One sought a task force study on the effects of accrediting foreign schools, another sought task force examination of the AVMA's involvement in international activities, and a third sought the report by AVMA staff on international involvement.

The delegates voted in favor of developing a task force on accreditation, and the Executive Board concurred in August.

In the second resolution, the Arizona and California VMAs expressed concern over AVMA resources being spent on work such as accrediting foreign veterinary colleges, rebuilding animal health infrastructure in Iraq and Afghanistan, and participating in international veterinary meetings. Instead of another task force, however, delegates approved a resolution from the HAC and Executive Board that directed AVMA staff to develop a report.