AVMF chair service-oriented

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Dr. John R. Brooks of Kingsville, Maryland, has long been a part of organized veterinary medicine, but now he’s focusing on leading its charitable side.

Four years ago, Dr. Brooks chaired the AVMA Board of Directors. Now he’s chair of the American Veterinary Medical Foundation’s board of directors, following his appointment during the AVMA Annual Convention in July in Denver.

Dr. Brooks joined the AVMF board in 2006 at the encouragement of former AVMF chair Dr. Robert E. “Bud” Hertzog. From the start, Dr. Brooks has been involved with the Foundation board’s subcommittee on disaster and emergency issues, which he says “dovetailed into my education in veterinary medicine and my passion.”

Dr. Brooks
Dr. John R. Brooks (Photo by R. Scott Nolen)

Dedication to lead

Dr. Brooks grew up on a hog farm north of Baltimore, which instilled in him an abiding affinity toward agriculture and large animal medicine.

After earning a preveterinary degree, Dr. Brooks had the option to join the Navy for flight training or go to veterinary school. He chose the latter and was accepted into the University of the Philippines, receiving his DVM degree in 1974.

“It didn’t have all the bells and whistles, but it gave me a good, basic education. Years later, my experience proved to be an absolute significant advantage for me,” Dr. Brooks said. “I got to see firsthand issues of major importance, such as agricultural security issues, hog cholera, and rinderpest. I was able to be directly involved in ongoing issues there that allowed me to develop a grounding few stateside veterinarians could experience, or frankly, would never experience.”

Dr. Brooks also developed a passion for service. He has served on a number of boards and committees at his church, in his community, and in organized veterinary medicine, including the AVMA board from 2005-2011. Prior to that, he represented Maryland in the AVMA House of Delegates for about 14 years and chaired the House Advisory Committee from 2004-2005.

He spent most of his career in a mixed animal private practice in the Baltimore area as owner of Fork Veterinary Hospital, where he was a solo practitioner. Dr. Brooks left his clinic in 2003 when he was appointed deputy secretary of the Maryland Department of Agriculture, a position he held for four years.

During his time at the Maryland Department of Agriculture, Dr. Brooks would often remind his colleagues during tabletop exercises that agriculture is the “Achilles’ heel of the U.S.”

“There needs to be an emphasis on food production security. Whether or not it’s an intentional disaster or natural disease, the ability for us to train community members and first responders is critical,” Dr. Brooks said.

Getting the word out

Unsurprisingly, he’s taken great interest in the AVMA Veterinary Medical Assistance Teams, funded by the AVMF, and the Foundation’s Saving the Whole Family and Our Oath in Action initiatives.

A goal he has as AVMF chair is to encourage and promote the work of the VMATs, which are prepared to deploy to states when called on. That’s why he says memorandums of understanding for each state are critical.

Dr. Brooks says he also hopes to continue the work of outgoing chair Dr. Richard P. Streett in a way that will move forward the existing goals and visions for the charity. He anticipates doing this by maintaining the AVMF’s close relationship with the AVMA and increasing its grassroots support within the veterinary community to build a reputation as a charity that advocates for and represents practitioners.

“I’ve been around organized veterinary medicine now for 25 years, and I know at times the Foundation has struggled in times past with identity and internal issues and leadership. One of the greatest commitments for me going forward is to make sure the AVMF becomes the advocate for all veterinarians,” Dr. Brooks said.

He continued, “We are like a candle under a basket. I want to remove that basket and get our light to shine. We are and should be the go-to charity for the care and welfare of animals. We are the only animal advocate charity directed predominantly by veterinarians. There’s a lot to be said for that.”