Nearly four years ago, the AVMA created a position to coordinate the Association’s foreign affairs and promote diversity within the veterinary profession. Now the AVMA Board of Directors wants to look at the progress made and, consistent with the AVMA’s goals, potentially expand the Association’s involvement in both of these areas.
Dr. Beth Sabin became associate director of international and diversity initiatives in August 2012. A large part of her time—80 percent, to be exact—is spent on global-related efforts, from building relationships to developing policy to advocating for the AVMA’s existing policies. For example, Dr. Sabin helped the AVMA develop joint policies with the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe as well as Canadian and Mexican veterinary associations on topics such as horse slaughter and rabies.
The Committee on International Veterinary Affairs, for which Dr. Sabin serves as staff liaison, wrote a memo to the Board that said, “Recognizing the increasing impact of globalization on both opportunities and challenges for AVMA member veterinarians and the U.S. veterinary profession at large, CIVA firmly believes there is a growing need for AVMA leadership in the international arena. Collaboration and participation in international networks are necessary first steps to ensure the Association has a voice in the development of international policy and a role in the conduct of international programs.”
In its memo, CIVA listed antimicrobial resistance; accessibility of veterinary drugs; human and animal welfare; veterinary education, accreditation, and licensure; and disease prevention, control, and eradication as examples of the types of issues the AVMA should have a voice on when policies and programs are developed internationally.
The increased interest expressed by AVMA and Student AVMA members in global veterinary medicine and the growing number of international issues and opportunities need to be matched by appropriate capacity and readiness on the part of the AVMA, CIVA added. That is why the committee suggested expanding Dr. Sabin’s position into a division within the Advocacy and Public Policy Strategic Business Unit of the AVMA.
Board members discussed the topic, including the CIVA memo, April 7, and the following day, AVMA President Joe Kinnarney made a recommendation that the Board subsequently approved, which says consideration will be given to establishing a division or department that is focused on global advocacy and outreach.
As captured by Dr. Kinnarney in the recommendation background, Board members had acknowledged in their April 7 discussions that some segments of the AVMA’s membership may not agree that the Association should spend resources—either in terms of staff time or money—on international activities. However, other segments of the profession have a strong interest in and commitment to global veterinary medicine and believe the AVMA should be doing more, not less, on this front, the Board noted.
“With a stronger infrastructure, the AVMA will also be better able to enhance efforts aimed at providing tangible member benefits within the international arena and developing additional and appropriate sources of international income,” the recommendation background stated.
Enhancing the diversity of the profession
A smaller portion of Dr. Sabin’s time is spent on diversity and inclusion initiatives. One area of focus has been recruiting and retaining a diverse set of Association members and leaders, whether by attending career fairs or working with groups such as the Women’s Veterinary Leadership Development Initiative.
Another area of concentration for Dr. Sabin has been building the AVMA’s capacity to address demographic changes the Association and the nation face. Dr. Sabin has done this by creating the “Access and Opportunity in Veterinary Medicine” LinkedIn page, for example. The hope is to facilitate conversations on topics related to diversity and inclusion to help members better navigate that area of their life.
Finally, to get a better handle on diversity within the membership and leadership, Dr. Sabin has coordinated a demographics report that will be released soon. Groups will be broken down according to not only age, gender, and race but also school and year of graduation, geographic location, employment type, and species focus. The plan is to report these data annually to monitor and assess progress.
Despite the progress made, only 20 percent of Dr. Sabin’s position is dedicated to diversity and inclusion efforts, per her job description. The general consensus reached during discussions by the Board was that the AVMA needed to make a more concentrated effort to move the profession forward in terms of diversity, as defined in the AVMA Policy on Diversity.
Key points raised included the need to either enhance or initiate the following:
Use the Association’s expertise to better understand the economic impact of increasing diversity in veterinary workplaces, many of which are small businesses.
Develop and promote tools members can use to enhance their cultural competence and recognize the role it can play in increasing the economic success of veterinary businesses.
Work collaboratively with other organizations on areas of mutual interest and shared responsibilities, such as outreach efforts to K-12 and undergraduate populations that are demographically diverse so that such populations better understand the breadth of career opportunities available in the veterinary profession.
Understand AVMA members’ needs and their expectations of the Association in terms of its role in creating a diverse and inclusive profession and organization.
Review and potentially implement any remaining relevant recommendations in reports from previous AVMA working groups and task forces, such as the Task Force on Diversity, which issued a report and was sunset in 2006.
Understand how other professional associations have successfully integrated diversity and inclusion activities within staff and volunteer leadership infrastructures.
A recommendation approved by the Board directed staff and potentially AVMA volunteer entities to look into “strengthening AVMA infrastructure so that the Association can become a leader in creating a more diverse and inclusive veterinary profession.” Staff members will report their findings later this year.