Dynamic personality ready to lead AAEP

Dwyer started at racetrack, now a practice owner
Published on January 30, 2013
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 ​Dr. Ann E. Dwyer
 (Photos courtesy of AAEP)
Dr. Ann E. Dwyer recalls the culture of equine practice 30 years ago as truly being 24/7 with lots of time on call.

“The last thing you wanted anyone to do was to accuse you of being soft or not being able to cut it, so you just did it,” she said.
But when she took over in 1995 as director and principal owner of the Genesee Valley Equine Clinic in Scottsville, N.Y., Dr. Dwyer resolved to make some changes. She figured if she could grow the practice to support multiple practitioners, a more civil schedule was possible for everyone, which it has been.
“Out of adversity is born innovation, I guess,” she told JAVMA News during the American Association of Equine Practitioners Annual Convention Dec. 1-5, 2012, in Anaheim, Calif.
That attitude will likely serve Dr. Dwyer well in the AAEP presidency this year as the organization continues to grapple with how to handle issues that threaten equine practice.

State of affairs

For one thing, nonveterinary health care providers continue to perform services that compete with veterinarians. The main areas where this occurs are equine dentistry, reproductive services, and complementary and alternative veterinary medicine.
Dr. Stephen S. Galloway said during a presentation in Anaheim on scope of practice that laypeople who perform equine dentistry claim more than a dozen different titles.
The 2013 AAEP officers: Drs. James P. Morehead, treasurer; Ann E. Dwyer, president; Jeff Blea, president-elect; G. Kent Carter, vice president; and John S. Mitchell, immediate past president
 “It’s a confusing thing for the horse owner to decide and determine what their level of training is,” Dr. Galloway said.
According to an AAEP survey of members, 62 percent of respondents said they were concerned about nonveterinary health care providers; only 12 percent said they were satisfied with what the AAEP is doing about it.
Dr. Dwyer said state VMAs, not the AAEP, should be responsible for lobbying on these matters. Instead, the AAEP can be a resource to help members educate legislators when state practice acts are opened for changes.
She has personally been involved with legislative efforts in New York involving equine dentistry.

“AAEP helped me from an education standpoint, and just to be able to say what’s happening in other states.
I was a couple of phone calls away from that information. It would have been harder if I had to do the research on my own,” she said.
Dr. Dwyer and the AAEP have also been keeping a close eye on the greater scrutiny of horse racing. The New York Times ran a series of articles last year chronicling an “industry still mired in a culture of drugs and lax regulation and a fatal breakdown rate that remains far worse than in most of the world,” according to a March 24, 2012, story.
An analysis by the newspaper of data from more than 150,000 races showed that from 2009-2011, trainers at U.S. tracks were caught illegally drugging horses 3,800 times. In the same period, 6,600 horses broke down or were injured. A state-by-state survey by the Times showed that about 3,600 horses had died racing or training at state-regulated tracks during that time.
Dr. Dwyer said the Times articles have helped galvanize the blueprint for racing changes that the AAEP has been calling for all along.
“If you read the 50 years of history of the AAEP, it has been a constant evolution of trying to put a stake in the ground and saying this is how racing should operate. It’s very difficult to do that, but we keep getting closer and closer, I think,” she said.
Dr. Dwyer and the AAEP continue to refer to the Racing Committee’s “Clinical Guidelines for Veterinarians Practicing in a Pari-Mutuel Environment,” which came out in October 2010. Among other things, the document called for the following: no medication, with the exception of furosemide, to be given to a horse on race day; integrative therapies to be based on valid medical diagnoses; all procedures performed to be documented in a medical record; and all communication with owners and trainers to be transparent.
On the last point, Dr. Dwyer said the AAEP is working to provide tools that would facilitate better communication among trainers, owners, and veterinarians. The association also has stated support for the concept of a national, uniform medication policy.
Dr. Dwyer notes that issues of medication are not unique to racing but cover every aspect of the performance horse world.
“It’s a fine tightrope to walk, because there is definitely medication that is therapeutic. That’s why we went to veterinary school—to learn what tools we have available to help horses,” Dr. Dwyer said.
“However, there are times where there is too much medication, in my opinion. And I think we need to raise member and public awareness of this and help our members with guidelines, and we have. And we may need to emphasize them more.”

Bare essentials

The AAEP is not only dealing with external issues but also with changes internally. Much of Dr. Dwyer’s time as president will be spent implementing governance changes and continuing to advance the association’s strategic plan.
On Dec. 4, 2012, members voted to pare down the 20-member AAEP board of directors to 12. Future board members will now be elected to at-large positions rather than as geographic representatives. Plus, the association is reducing the number of standing committees.
“Three key advisory councils will provide continuous oversight for philanthropy, issues relating to leadership succession, and equine welfare and public policy. Action items formerly assigned to committees will become completed by targeted groups of members working as task forces. Important issues will always be tackled, but now by groups of members with specific expertise, a defined goal, and a finite timeline,” Dr. Dwyer said.
The biggest challenge, she says, will be communicating to members and volunteers the value of the structural changes and the point that none of these changes was made to fix a broken system. Instead, they were made proactively to address a changing culture, demographics, and technology.
“I want to help our profession be sustained for a long time. Since we have challenges coming from every direction, I have to work hard in whatever areas I can influence to make sure that the greater world knows how relevant we are and how much we can do to benefit the welfare of the horse,” Dr. Dwyer said.

New officers, board members

The 2013 AAEP officers and new members of the board of directors took office Dec. 5, 2012. New members of the board are Drs. Monty McInturff, Thompson’s Station, Tenn., District IV; Wendy Vaala, Alma, Wis., District V; and Kenton Morgan, Pleasant Hill, Mo., District VI.
See accompanying photo of the officers.


The Ann E. Dwyer file

  • Worked as a groom and exercise rider for trainers at racetracks in New York and Florida.
  • During veterinary school, worked as a veterinary assistant at Belmont Park, Gulfstream Park, and Finger Lakes Racetrack.
  • Received her DVM degree from Cornell University in 1983.
  • Hired after graduation as an associate at Genesee Valley Equine Clinic (Scottsville, N.Y.), which serves the area’s pleasure and performance horses.
  • Purchased the practice from AAEP past president Dr. Bob Pearson in 1995.
  • Published four book chapters on equine eye disease.
  • Serves as a reviewer for Equine Veterinary Ophthalmology and Equine Veterinary Journal.
  • Named an honorary diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists in 2011.
  • Enjoys kayaking and playing the cello.