Veterinary academia celebrates milestone

AAVMC’s conference, gala mark 50th anniversary
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The organization that has built public awareness and recognition for academic veterinary medicine is turning 50.

The Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges’ yearlong anniversary celebration culminated March 4-6 in Washington, D.C., when about 250 gathered from around the world for the AAVMC’s Annual Conference, centered on the theme of “Fifty and Forward.”

Dr. Eleanor M. Green, president of the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, presents an optimistic view of the future of academic veterinary medicine during the association’s Annual Conference, which celebrated the AAVMC’s 50th anniversary. She also announced that the AAVMC Recognition Lecture was being renamed the Billy E. Hooper Lecture Award for Distinguished Service to Veterinary Medical Education. Dr. Hooper was the AAVMC’s first executive director and was a former editor of the Journal of Veterinary Medical Education.

At the event, a book on the history of the AAVMC debuted. Conference programming examined 50 years of progress in veterinary education and the critical role veterinary medicine plays in promoting public health and safety. And during a gala March 5, attendees experienced a multimedia celebration featuring a host of international officials from the profession, higher education, business, and government.

Tracing its history

Prior to the conference, the AAVMC’s publication, the Journal of Veterinary Medical Education, put together an extensive account of the association’s history along with the issues and initiatives that have shaped academic veterinary medicine over the years. These articles appear in a special 50th anniversary edition published this past December.

“To fully understand the magnitude of the AAVMC’s contributions, we must consider the enduring contributions made by our member institutions in agriculture and food security, biomedical research, and companion clinical medicine as well as their contributions in addressing the core mission of training new generations of veterinarians to serve society,” according to the issue’s introduction.

Dr. Deborah Kochevar, dean of the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, wrote about the important milestones in veterinary education, including the development of offshore schools, the growing international scope of the organization, and the expanded role of the AAVMC in the accreditation process. She explained how the AAVMC’s part in the progression of academic veterinary education has been about building successful partnerships in the U.S. and internationally, and that the association has become a source of information and a place for debate on educational trends, innovative pedagogy, and the value of a diverse learning environment.

Dr. James Lloyd, dean of the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, analyzed how economic trends in government funding and support, philanthropic support, student debt, and other elements of the changing fiscal environment have shaped academics, with no exception for veterinary colleges. He wrote, “The recent precipitous decline in public funding highlights the urgent need to develop and maintain an economically sustainable model that can adapt to the changing landscape and serve societal needs.”

Dr. Andrew Maccabe, AAVMC executive director, serves as master of ceremonies during the evening gala. (Photos courtesy of AAVMC)

Finally, Lisa Greenhill, EdD, the AAVMC’s director of institutional research and diversity, and others examined how AAVMC’s data-driven organization has enriched academia by developing more sophisticated recruitment and admission programs, expanding diversity programs, and improving student life.

The authors laid out some of the major changes in veterinary student life over the past 50 years, which include the following:

  • The doubling of the number of AAVMC member institutions as well as an increase in mean class size, resulting in a dramatic decrease in the number of applicants per class seat.
  • A major gender shift from predominantly male to female.
  • More students from urban and suburban communities than previously.
  • More open admissions in states that previously admitted only their own residents.
  • The creation and disappearance of institutions with three-year veterinary degree programs and the development of 2+2 programs.
  • An increase in enrollment of diverse student bodies.
  • Improvements in pedagogy because of technological advancements such as computerized notes and online resources.
  • Increased interest in dual-degree and certificate programs.
  • More diverse career goals, including research, academia, commercial companies, and specialization through board certification.
  • Greater use of services related to mental health and well-being as well as formal mentoring.
  • Substantial increases in educational debt without equivalent increases in entry-level salaries.
  • Increased extracurricular opportunities with clubs and chapters.

Strength in numbers

The AAVMC meeting in March began with the introduction of the book “Pathways to Progress,” authored by Dr. Donald F. Smith, dean emeritus of the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. The limited-edition, 280-page volume explores the history of academic veterinary medicine, profiles AAVMC member institutions, and tells the story of the founding and development of the AAVMC.

Dr. Donald F. Smith, dean emeritus of the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, autographs his new book, “Pathways to Progress,” which explores the history of academic veterinary medicine, profiles AAVMC member institutions, and follows the AAVMC’s founding and development.

Dr. Trevor Ames, AAVMC immediate past president, examined the AAVMC’s beginnings. Former University of Guelph Ontario Veterinary College Dean Elizabeth Stone discussed major initiatives by the association such as the Pew National Veterinary Education Program and North American Veterinary Medical Education Consortium. Dr. Oscar Fletcher, former dean of the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine, looked at advancements in curriculum and design over 50 years. Other presentations featured the history of the Journal of Veterinary Medical Education, global academic veterinary medicine and one health, and the new Public Policy Faculty Fellows program.

AAVMC President Eleanor M. Green ended the meeting with a presentation that challenged faculty and administrators to embrace their role as change agents in an emerging new world of veterinary medicine being transformed by advancements in information technology.

More than 300 attended the AAVMC 50th anniversary gala celebration. A dozen colorful flags representing the AAVMC’s international member institutions framed a stage that featured tributes from more than a dozen dignitaries throughout the evening.

The dinner debuted two new AAVMC videos: one that describes the organization’s direction and values, and another that features comments from past and present AAVMC leaders and friends on the value of the organization, its achievements, and future directions.

Early leaders of the AAVMC, including Drs. John Welser of Naples, Florida; Lester Crawford of Georgetown, South Carolina; and Billy Hooper of Lafayette, Indiana, were honored for their leadership.

The inaugural AAVMC President’s Award for Meritorious Service was presented to Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota for the leadership role he has played in advancing one health on Capitol Hill (see article).

AAVMC President Green announced the establishment of the Council for International Veterinary Medical Education, a group designed to help inspire higher-quality academic veterinary medicine in developing areas of the world. She discussed important new initiatives in one health and how that framework was a logical approach to expanding the organization’s international initiatives.

Dr. Green concluded her remarks by announcing that the AAVMC would join other academic associations in the health professions by moving into the new Association of American Medical Colleges building in September at 655 K St. in Washington, D.C. Referring to the complex as an “incubator for collaboration in the health professions,” she predicted that the AAVMC’s move would further bolster the one-health movement.

The announcements were fitting, particularly in light of the article Dr. Smith composed for the JVME anniversary issue. After crafting a minihistory of academic veterinary medicine, he ended by suggesting four future themes in veterinary medicine inspired by his interpretation of the AAVMC’s 50-year history. They were one health and expanding the impact of the profession in the medical and biomedical sciences; investing in more experienced or second-career students who have proven skills and an array of aptitudes; a national strategy for veterinary colleges to accomplish shared goals; and zooeyia, or the positive benefits of animals to human health, and the potential impact veterinary medicine can have on the economy and health care.

50 years and counting

At the time of the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges’ establishment in 1966, there were 18 U.S. veterinary colleges, with all but two located at land-grant universities. Since then, 12 additional veterinary degree–granting programs have been established within the U.S. Five Canadian and 14 international veterinary institutions hold membership in the AAVMC as well. Plus, the association has 23 affiliate members that represent not only veterinary colleges but also departments of veterinary science or comparative medicine in addition to Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston. For more information about the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges’ 50th anniversary, visit visit In addition, the 2015-2016 AAVMC Annual Report is now available here (PDF).

Related JAVMA content:

Golden anniversary for AAVMC (May 1, 2015)