AVMF adds to its charitable programs

Fund will help donors assist in-need veterinary patients
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The American Veterinary Medical Foundation is expanding its reach once again, this time with an emphasis on partnering with veterinary practices to help support the charitable efforts of those practices. The Foundation announced the launch of its Veterinary Care Charitable Fund at its Partnership Breakfast July 27 during the AVMA Annual Convention in Denver.

With the fund, the AVMF aims to serve as an umbrella charitable organization to accept donations and make payments directly to veterinarians for care they provide to pets of their clients who do not have the means or ability to afford certain treatments.

Rick Yount, the founder of Warrior Canine Connection, interacts with Huff during his presentation announcing a new AVMF program to help provide funding for veterinary care of military service dogs. His organization uses clinically based canine connection therapy to help wounded veterans. The WCC program has 40 dogs in training right now. It takes two years for a dog to be fully trained, and 40 to 50 volunteer military service members are involved in the dog’s training.(Photo by Malinda Larkin)

Michael Cathey, AVMF executive director, explained that clinics often have angel funds to cover special-needs cases that come through the door. The Foundation, because it is a nonprofit organization, allows contributions to its fund to be tax-deductible—meaning that money will not have to be claimed as income for the veterinarians. Donations received by the AVMF fund for a particular clinic can be used at the veterinarian’s discretion. The AVMF will not charge the annual fee that other organizations with similar programs sometimes do. Instead, the Foundation asks that practices allow a small portion of donated funds to go to other animal care initiatives rather than their practice.

“It is going to be a big undertaking, as we’re trying to harness all these practices’ resources to help us fundraise for funds they’ll get back,” Cathey said. He added that more details on the logistics need to be worked out.

An example of how the fund could help is allowing the public to donate to veterinarians who care for military service dogs. Currently, Veterans Affairs provides veterinary insurance for assistance dogs that serve veterans with physical disabilities but does not cover dogs used for post-traumatic stress disorder and other invisible wounds. Also, the insurance covers only the veterinary care of these dogs after they are placed with a veteran.

According to the 2012 Veteran Census Report for Assistance Dogs International of North America, the number of veterans waiting for placement with a service dog was more than 220, and the number of veterans denied a service dog by the VA was 112.

Rick Yount, the founder of Warrior Canine Connection, said July 26, “These AVMF efforts are incredibly helpful to support the military and use of man’s best friend to reintegrate people back into society. We have a lot of work ahead of us, and to have a nonpharmaceutical way to address these problems (is) unique and important.”

Helping in Kentucky

The AVMF also launched during convention an offshoot of the Veterinary Care Charitable Fund, called the Drs. Chandra and Mahendra Varia Animal Care Fund. Dr. Mahendra Varia (Bombay ’58) was a veterinarian at Martin Animal Hospital in Martin, Kentucky, which is located in an impoverished area. He died earlier this year (see JAVMA, Aug. 15, 2014), and his widow, Chandra Varia, MD, wanted to do something to help animals in his honor. The Varia fund will help practitioners in eastern Kentucky assist low-income clients in affording their pets’ care. Dr. Chandra Varia has asked that the money not be touched for three years so that the money can be invested and grow.

In the meantime, she has agreed to give money toward regular events in the area to help these veterinary clients in need. A one-health event in September kicked off the initiative.

Dr. Shawn K. Tussey of Beaver Creek Veterinary Hospital in Langley, Kentucky, is a local practitioner who will help develop the follow-up events as well as the Varia fund once it begins awarding money.

The Drs. Chandra and Mahendra Varia Animal Care Fund will help practitioners in eastern Kentucky assist low-income clients in affording their pets’ care. Chandra Varia, MD, (second from left) was on hand for the announcement at the AVMF Partnership Breakfast, July 27 in Denver. (Photo by R. Scott Nolen)

The program will be concentrated in five counties in eastern Kentucky. In Floyd County, there are only three veterinary hospitals, which have struggled to develop angel funds. Also, if there is need in other parts of the state, say for disaster relief, the funds could be allocated there to meet the demand.

“When you look at the skeleton of the project, you find we have bridged differences in religion, age, and geography. The advent of the program is what I hope to be one of many set up around the country,” Dr. Tussey said. “It shows that the profession is a genuine profession and does things to help people and animals. Whatever the details, this program will be extraordinary.”

America’s Favorite Veterinarian

In other AVMF news, Ginger Brainard, AVMF board member, announced July 26 the 20 finalists for America’s Favorite Veterinarian. These individuals were selected by an AVMF review panel from more than 700 nominees. Nominations were submitted online by clients, who were asked to include a brief essay explaining why their veterinarian deserved recognition for his or her work. The committee evaluated nominees on the basis of the nominators’ essays, the veterinarians’ responses to questions about their practices and professional philosophies, and other criteria. The list of finalists is available at americasfavoriteveterinarian.org.

Voting to select the winner of America’s Favorite Veterinarian lasted from July 26-Sept. 1. The winning veterinarian will be announced later this fall.

Dr. Carlos Campos, last year’s winner, said the award has changed his life professionally and personally. For example, since July 2013, his practice, San Francis Veterinary Hospital in Spring Hill, Florida, has grown from three doctors to potentially six by the end of this year, and he has plans to move into a new facility twice the size of the original.

Dr. Campos teared up during his speech July 27 when recounting how his wife, Lisa, helped put him through veterinary college and the amazing journey he’s had to get to where he is today.

“My hope is to bring exposure to the AVMF on the things they do for the things we veterinarians do every day. America’s Favorite Veterinarian could have gone to anyone. I was just the lucky recipient, and I know the 20 new nominees are just as deserving as I am,” he said.

Mobile exhibit, service events

The “Animal Connections: Our Journey Together” traveling exhibition, another project sponsored in part by the Foundation, made a stop at the AVMA convention, too. “Animal Connections” is a free mobile exhibition on an 18-wheel truck that introduces visitors of all ages to the complex bond between humans and animals, highlighting the critical role veterinarians play in ensuring the health of both. The AVMA, the Smithsonian Institution, and Zoetis are also co-sponsors.

And finally, Our Oath in Action service events will take place once again on Make a Difference Day, Oct. 25, in Alabama, California, Michigan, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, and Oregon. This is the second year since the service event went nationwide, and this year the focus is on hosting clinics for low-income clients. These activities will once again be co-sponsored in part by the AVMF and Hill’s Pet Nutrition.

Charity leader recognized for efforts

Michael Cathey was honored with the first American Veterinary Medical Foundation Chair Impact Award by Dr. Richard P. Streett, outgoing AVMF board of directors chair, for his dedication to increasing the Foundation’s charitable contributions and programs.

Michael Cathey (Photo by R. Scott Nolen)

“In the last seven years, we have come a long way. It’s been a team effort, but there’s one individual who has shown guidance to get us that way. It all trickles back to one person who has cracked the whip and stayed on point,” Dr. Streett said.

Cathey has served as AVMF executive director since August 2008. Since then, the Foundation has gone from a one-star rating from Charity Navigator to earning a four-star rating for the past three years. The AVMF also increased its revenue from less than $1 million in 2008 to $8.5 million in 2013, and the budget spent on programs and services went from 50 percent to 91 percent in that time frame.

Previously, Cathey worked six years at the National Safety Council as executive director of development. While at NSC, he launched a refocused and restructured development operation and led the organization in successfully implementing its first $1 million event.

Before then, Cathey had a 17-year stint with the Boy Scouts of America. His final position there was director of major gifts and planned giving with the National Capital Area Council in Washington, D.C. He grew up on a farm in eastern Oklahoma, joined the Boy Scouts, and became an Eagle Scout.

Related JAVMA content:

AVMF puts mission into action (Dec. 15, 2013)