Plenty on AVMA's plate for 2013

Conference provided preview for future leadership, governance
Published on
information-circle This article is more than 3 years old

The AVMA looks to have a busy year, that is, if events at the 2013 AVMA Veterinary Leadership Conference Jan. 3-6 are any indication.

There, veterinary stakeholders met for the Governance Dialog to discuss changes to the way the AVMA is governed (see article). Members of the AVMA House of Delegates, during their regular winter session, took on controversial topics such as homeopathy (article) and devocalization (article). And a variety of speakers talked about their visions for the future of the Association. More than 70 attendees registered for a new workshop offered this year on how to become a dynamic leader by building culturally competent organizations and creating an environment of inclusion.

In all, 526 veterinary professionals, emerging leaders, association leaders, and others attended the event.

AVMA CEO Ron DeHaven welcomed attendees to the conference, which also served as the kickoff event for the AVMA’s 150th anniversary (see JAVMA, Jan. 1, 2013).

Two videos produced by the AVMA for the sesquicentennial made their debut. The first, called “My AVMA,” features introductions of members from across the country and across generations, their memberships ranging from two weeks to 47 years. The other video is a historical look at the 150 years of the AVMA. Complimentary copies of the 150th Anniversary book, “The AVMA: 150 years of education, science, and service,” also were given to attendees.

Dr. DeHaven said the book not only captured some of the key events in the Association’s history but also illustrated the important role the AVMA has had in every aspect of the veterinary profession.

“Hats off to (AVMA staff) for producing a historic book. I can see members of the AVMA looking back 150 years from now and seeing it as a really good history of the profession,” he said. “I also think it will renew a sense of pride we have for the profession and our many contributions.”

There’s no “I” in team

Opening speaker Robyn Benincasa inspired the audience with her talk “The 8 Essential Elements of Human Synergy” on Jan. 5.

She defined human synergy as “what makes us better together than any team members could be alone.”

Robyn Benincasa
Robyn Benincasa keynotes the Veterinary Leadership Conference opening session. She has earned two Guinness World Records as well as World Champion honors in both the Eco-Challenge and the Raid Gauloises, (Photos by R. Scott Nolen)

The San Diego firefighter and two-time Guinness World Record holder is best known for her exploits as a professional adventure racer. Over the past 15 years, Benincasa has competed in close to 40 multiday, multisport competitions that have taken her into remote areas throughout the world. The events require teams to travel long distances by foot, bike, and kayak. Benincasa interwove tales of her expeditions with her message of teamwork.

Talking about the first-ever Eco-Challenge in 2000 in Borneo, Benincasa recounted how she was so focused on not losing her team’s position that she kept looking back at the French team trailing her team during the white-water portion of the challenge.

“My team leader at one point took my head and turned it forward and told me ‘Winning is that way,’” Benincasa said. “Doing what it takes to win instead of not lose makes the difference.”

Although her team was not predicted to win, it prevailed and took first place. Benincasa said in doing so, the team discovered how winning really works—through teamwork built on the following traits: total commitment, empathy and awareness, adversity management, mutual respect, “we” thinking, ownership of the project, relinquishment of ego, and kinetic leadership.

Adventure racing is a good analogy for everyday life, she said, because people are often part of a team that has to go through a series of challenges with a deadline and lots of pressures and a common goal.

“There are lots of goals and dreams ahead of you and for your practice. It’s up to the teams you build and inspire that allow you to capitalize on your strengths as a doctor. You also have to dare to do mighty things to get where you want,” Benincasa said.

She challenged audience members to write down two professional goals and two personal goals and put the list in their wallet “so you’ll see it often and be reminded.”

Change is inevitable

AVMA President Douglas G. Aspros spoke to conference attendees Jan. 4 about advancements the AVMA and the profession have seen in 150 years and the need to continue evolving.

Thus far, “It has been a period of unprecedented progress in the art and science of veterinary medicine,” he said, “a period of awesome advances in human and animal health. We rightly take pride in these accomplishments, for what veterinary medicine, in all its complexity, offers today.”

The AVMA has, too, faced challenges and opportunities along the way. “Don’t expect it to stop now,” he said.

Members’ expectations of the AVMA are changing and increasing: They expect more products, more services, and more attention to their concerns, particularly in light of today’s economic challenges.

“It is our collective challenge to help transform this historically effective organization into one that not only better meets the needs of our current members but is prepared for the demands of our future members and tomorrow’s veterinary profession,” Dr. Aspros said.

“To continue our success, we need to evolve ourselves, and it’s the folks in this room who need to work together to help AVMA meet the demands of the future that is already upon us.”

He was referring to those gathered for the Governance Dialog to discuss a potential model for the governance structure of the Association.

Dr. Aspros said attendees were playing a critical role in imagining and molding tomorrow’s AVMA.

“So, as we begin our journey into the future, AVMA is committed to be the one voice for those we serve, their best voice. Let us find the courage and the wisdom to face the changes of our times, and to be leaders worthy of being celebrated at our next birthday,” he said.

‘An exciting time at AVMA’

Through careful strategic planning, keeping the interests of the members first, and maintaining a solid fiscal foundation, the AVMA will remain vital, strong, responsive, and proactive as it continues to provide benefits and relevance to its members, according to AVMA Treasurer Barbara Schmidt.

She gave a financial update on the AVMA in her semi­annual treasurer’s report Jan. 4.

Though the 2012 year-end figures were not yet finalized when she gave her report, the year is projected to end with a surplus in income over expenses close to $370,000; initial estimates had been $64,000. This would be the fourth year in a row the AVMA has seen a surplus.

Dr. Schmidt then listed several projects supported by the AVMA Strategic Goal Fund. In 2012, the Executive Board agreed to allocate $1.75 million from this fund to develop, promote, and launch the Animal Health Network in 2013; support the Veterinary Intra-professional Communications Summit and working group, which will gather leaders from various species groups this year for a conversation about approaches to animal welfare; and support the Task Force on AVMA Governance and Member Participation, among other initiatives.

The primary strategic activity this year will be the $1 million Partners for Healthy Pets direct-to-consumer campaign, to be launched in coming months (see JAVMA, Sept. 15, 2012).

The AVMA’s 2013 budget projects revenues of $31.5 million and expenditures of $30.7 million; the projected income over expenses is $828,000.

Dr. Cohn
Dr. Ted Cohn, AVMA president-elect candidate, said he’d like the AVMA to work more closely with veterinary schools to address ongoing funding difficulties through innovative education models that could reduce school costs and, ultimately, student debt.

Membership dues account for 73 percent of the AVMA’s projected revenue this year, which is a 13 percent increase over the 2012 budget. This indicates that AVMA membership has strong ownership of the Association, Dr. Schmidt said. More than 84,000 veterinarians are AVMA members, which represents more than 80 percent of all veterinarians in the U.S. The AVMA has a member-to-staff ratio of 615:1.

“This speaks to the efficiency of operations at AVMA,” she said.

The 2014 budget will be presented at the April Executive Board meeting. Helping with the budgeting process is John Nocera, the new director of the AVMA Finance and Business Services Division. After an extensive search and several rounds of interviews, Nocera began his new role in mid-November 2012 (see JAVMA, Jan. 15, 2013).

Dr. Schmidt said, “It truly is an exciting time at AVMA—to be a part of this forward-thinking strategic course to bring value and relevance to our members. In doing so, we will accomplish our purpose to further strengthen, lead, and move the AVMA’s strategic priorities and our profession forward.”


Dr. Ted Cohn, AVMA president-elect candidate for 2013-2014, addressed conference attendees Jan. 4 to encourage their support of his candidacy. Dr. Cohn co-owns a seven-doctor small animal practice in Denver. He served six years on the AVMA Executive Board as District IX representative, with the last year (2011-2012) as board chair. He also represented Colorado veterinarians in the AVMA House of Delegates.

Dr. Cohn outlined his platform, which focuses on working to increase the value of the DVM/VMD degree and increasing the value and relevance of AVMA membership. He suggested the former would require close collaboration with the veterinary colleges.

Addressing the lack of diversity and inclusivity in the profession, reinvigorating the AVMA’s support for one health, and better marketing veterinarians’ skills were other ideas mentioned.

As for increasing the relevance of AVMA membership, Dr. Cohn said he supports preserving and cultivating professional unity within the AVMA and enhancing member engagement and participation.

The HOD will elect the new president-elect this July during the House’s regular annual session in Chicago.

In other leadership conference action, AVMA Group Health & Life Insurance Trust CEO Libby Wallace spoke about the decision by its underwriter, New York Life Insurance Co., to discontinue providing health insurance (see JAVMA, Feb. 15, 2013).

And American Veterinary Medical Foundation President Richard Streett Jr. talked about the charity’s ongoing “Go for Gold” fundraising campaign. It not only commemorates the Foundation’s 50th anniversary but also raises awareness about the AVMF’s mission to embrace and advance the well-being and medical care of animals.