SAVMA strengthening international relationships

Membership benefits, AVMA governance also at forefront
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Veterinary students are often taught that veterinary medicine is becoming an increasingly global profession, and from July 21-22 in Chicago, the Student AVMA House of Delegates took tangible actions to advance its international impact. The SAVMA House held its second meeting of the year during the AVMA Annual Convention; SAVMA President Elise Ackley (LSU ’14) presided. She stressed SAVMA’s role as an increasingly international organization and highlighted the need for students to proactively address problems facing the student body. Steps taken by Ackley and the student delegates to achieve this goal include fostering interorganizational dialogue with other national associations and identifying ways to increase public awareness of SAVMA.

The Student AVMA House of Delegates meeting July 21-22 in Chicago heavily featured international engagement. (Photos by Chase Crawford/SAVMA information technology officer)

It’s a small world, after all

One of the themes during the meeting was SAVMA’s growing presence as a member of the global community. In an effort to be as inclusive as possible, SAVMA continued to work through its Task Force on International Membership to outline ways that international students can have a voice in the SAVMA House of Delegates and contribute to the work undertaken there.

In addition, the International Veterinary Exchange Committee prepared to launch a position that will allow a SAVMA general student body member to attend the International Veterinary Students’ Association’s annual meetings. SAVMA already sends its international exchange officer and IEO-elect to these meetings, so the creation of the new position— IVSA Symposium and Congress SAVMA delegate—is an effort to increase SAVMA’s presence at the IVSA meeting and contribute to the global conversation. The delegate position is also meant to help better spread the word about what happens at IVSA events. The application for the delegate position is set to release this fall.

The president of the IVSA, Frederic Lohr, joined the SAVMA HOD to describe how American students can become more involved in this international organization, reminding those present that all SAVMA members are automatically a part of the IVSA. After the SAVMA HOD meeting concluded, Lohr and SAVMA Executive Board members flew to Utrecht, The Netherlands, to attended the IVSA meeting July 28-Aug. 7.

SAVMA House guests

Representatives of several other national organizations attended the SAVMA House meeting, including members of the American Veterinary Medical Foundation, the AVMA Congressional Science Fellows Program, the AVMA Political Action Committee, and the AVMA Governance Engagement Team.

A consistent presence during the SAVMA meeting was AVMA Vice President Walter Threlfall. Dr. Threlfall addressed the SAVMA delegates during the meeting and offered himself as a student resource. During his term as 2012-2014 AVMA vice president, Dr. Threlfall has served as a mentor to SAVMA, and the SAVMA House was receptive to the lessons he shared regarding his career as a theriogenologist and his work with the AVMA. During his talk, he encouraged students to challenge the accepted norms of governance and to always ask, “Why?”

Other points of discussion centered on improving member benefits and how to best serve and represent the general student body.

Committees convene during the SAVMA House of Delegates meeting.

Dr. Bridget Heilsberg discussed recommendations from the AVMA Task Force on Governance and Member Participation regarding potential changes to the AVMA governance structure. In its report to the AVMA, the task force pointed out that 43 percent of AVMA members are millennials. The task force, which having submitted its final report, was sunset in July, recommended a new AVMA governance structure based on 4 pillars: a veterinary issues forum, board of directors, advisory councils, and volunteer resource committee. Dr. Heilsberg focused on relaying how the proposed AVMA restructuring would give more power back to the AVMA membership. The purpose of the proposed restructure is to increase member participation, she emphasized. The newly formed AVMA Governance Engagement Team then joined the SAVMA House for a question-and-answer period, during which GET members stressed that increased representation in a new governance system could help help address some of the current student issues.

Students asked how restructuring the entire AVMA governance would provide a better approach to controversial issues such as increasing class size, increasing tuition rates, and the establishment of more veterinary schools. The GET responded that the proposed restructuring would allow both students and members to have an increased voice in AVMA policies and decisions.

Looking ahead

SAVMA’s push to improve member benefits is kicking off with the establishment of the Task Force for Member Benefits. This task force will report back during the SAVMA Symposium in March 2014 at Colorado State University with data on how each student chapter of the AVMA functions, what current member benefits are, and what SAVMA can be doing better for members.

One current benefit includes the many scholarship opportunities available to SAVMA members across the country. The varied committees of SAVMA awarded several scholarships and grants to students at this meeting, including the Cultural Awareness and Diversity Grant, the SAVMA North American Veterinary Licensing Examination Student Testing Preparation Report Survey contest, and the One Health Project Awards. Many other awards are decided in the spring.

The SAVMA Executive Board welcomed newly elected members Hannah Leventhal (KSU ’15), secretary-elect; Christopher Thomson (MIN ‘15), treasurer-elect; Matthew Seller (OKL ‘15), information technology officer–elect; and Amanda DiMascio (GA ‘15), The Vet Gazette editor-elect.

The SAVMA House of Delegates will reconvene in March at the 2014 SAVMA Symposium at Colorado State. Outgoing AVMA President Douglas G. Aspros reminded the SAVMA House during the last moments of the meeting, “Don’t be complacent; make noise.” If history has any bearing on how veterinary students occupy their time until the SAVMA Symposium, this shouldn’t be a problem.

For more information about Student AVMA activities, visit their Facebook page or The Vet Gazette online.