On the world stage

World Veterinary Association looks to past, future during congress
Published on November 20, 2013
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​The first international congress of veterinarians in 1863 led to the modern World Veterinary Congress and World Veterinary Association. (Photos courtesy of the WVA)
In 1863, Dr. John Gamgee of Britain convened the first international congress of veterinarians to discuss control of epizootic diseases. From that meeting in Germany evolved the modern World Veterinary Congress and World Veterinary Association.

The WVA celebrated its 150th anniversary during the 31st WVC, Sept. 17-20 in Prague. The 2013 conference offered multiple tracks—with a symposium on animal welfare, a summit on partnerships in animal and human health, and a summit on mental health in the veterinary profession. The conference attracted more than 1,350 attendees from 75 countries, including a delegation from the AVMA.

The functions of the WVA have expanded beyond conducting scientific congresses, said Dr. Lyle P. Vogel, one of two North American councilors to the WVA and previous AVMA assistant executive vice president.

“The WVA is the organization that gets the voice on the world stage to speak for the profession and to advance the interests of veterinarians worldwide,” Dr. Vogel said.

He said the WVA has a seat at the table with global organizations. The association has memorandums of understanding with groups such as the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Organisation of Animal Health (OIE), and the World Health Organization.

At the 2013 congress, the WVA signed a memorandum of understanding with the World Society for the Protection of Animals. The groups agreed to work together to promote education in animal welfare, awareness of welfare issues, and effective rabies control.

Dr. Vogel said the WVA is taking more ownership of its congresses, traditionally hosted by member organizations. The association also has moved from holding congresses every three years to every two years and might move to holding a congress or other conference every year.

The WVA Presidents Assembly, meeting at the 2013 congress, approved changes to simplify and modernize governance of the association. Dr. René A. Carlson, volunteer AVMA director of international affairs, led the committee that developed the final proposal.

The WVA Presidents Assembly celebrated the 150th anniversary of the association during
the 31st WVC.
Two key changes provide for a new officer structure and for equal geographic representation on the WVA Council, Dr. Carlson said. The officers will be a president-elect, president, and immediate past president rather than a president, immediate past president, and two vice presidents. The WVA Council will consist of the officers plus two representatives each from six regions and two from international veterinary organizations. Europe had more representatives than other regions.

Dr. Carlson recently announced that she will be a candidate for president of the WVA. Among her goals is to expand the membership so the association is truly the global voice of veterinary medicine.

“WVA, I really think, has great potential that just hasn’t been realized,” Dr. Carlson said. “We have to help each other to build all of us up—whether it’s animal welfare, education, or food safety. We have to all work together.”

The scientific program at the 2013 congress covered a spectrum of species and other subjects.

The two-day Global Veterinary Seminar on Animal Welfare concluded that veterinarians should be shepherds in the field of animal welfare but with close collaboration with others. Among the speakers was Dr. Gail C. Golab, director of the AVMA Animal Welfare Division.

The second WVA summit was on “Global Well-being—a Partnership of Animal and Human Health.” Topics included institutional collaboration, partnerships in disease control and emergency response, and cooperation in education and research. High-level support for the WVA summit came from the FAO, OIE, and WHO.

The Veterinary Professional Wellness Summit focused on mental health of veterinarians and veterinary students (see JAVMA, Nov. 15, 2013). The International Veterinary Officers Coalition sponsored the wellness summit, and Dr. Carlson served as the moderator.

Also at the 2013 congress, the WVA presented three veterinarians with the John Gamgee Award for outstanding contributions to veterinary science and the veterinary profession. The awardees are Dr. James H. Steele of the United States, the father of veterinary public health; Dr. Milton Thiago de Mello of Brazil, an educator and a pioneer in microbiology and primatology, and Dr. Bernard Vallat of France, director general of the OIE.