The AVMA House of Delegates held its first Veterinary Issues Forum during its regular annual session Aug. 4 in San Antonio. The forum allowed time for open discussion of issues brought forth by the delegates after listening to their constituents. Three issues were identified ahead of time for discussion: cyberbullying, educational debt, and AVMA efforts to support large animal practitioners.
Dr. Mark Cox, delegate from Texas, cited an AVMA survey conducted in December 2014 that found 1 in 5 veterinarians had been a victim of cyberbullying. Dr. Frederick Baum, delegate from Vermont, said prevention “is worth everything,” but once cyberbullying happens, keeping responses fact based and unemotional goes a long way toward resolving problems. Cyberbullying resources exist to help practitioners, including those provided by the AVMA here and the American Bar Association here.
Regarding educational debt, Matt Holland, Student AVMA president, informed delegates that up to 3 1/2 times as much money from students’ loans goes to tuition as to living costs, citing a paper by Bridgette Bain, PhD, a statistical data analyst in the AVMA Veterinary Economics Division, titled “Are veterinary students accumulating unreasonable amounts of debt?” (J Am Vet Med 2016;249:285-288). “Sure, we can be frugal with rent, but these strategies can’t overcome the overwhelming burden we shoulder,” Holland said.
Dr. James McDonald, delegate from Arizona, suggested a funding mechanism to help first- and second-year students cover loan points and fees, potentially as a SAVMA member benefit.
As for AVMA efforts to support large animal practitioners, delegates had a number of opinions and suggestions. This cohort of veterinarians comprises 11.8 percent of AVMA members. Dr. Gatz Riddell, alternate delegate from the American Association of Bovine Practitioners, said large animal veterinarians may not be large in number, but they have a huge societal impact, especially with regard to antimicrobial resistance and food safety.
Dr. Gatz Riddell, alternate delegate from the American Association of Bovine Practitioners, said large animal veterinarians may not be large in number, but they have a huge societal impact, especially with regard to antimicrobial resistance and food safety. (Photo by R. Scott Nolen)
Dr. Joan Bowen, delegate from the American Association of Small Ruminant Practitioners, would like to see the AVMA help more states develop reciprocity agreements. She said this would greatly aid veterinarians practicing along state lines who issue health certificates; in addition to a state license, practitioners must be accredited by the Department of Agriculture in each state they issue health certificates. HOD members also expressed the desire for more large animal interactive labs at the AVMA Convention.
Following the forum, HOD members attended reference committees, then reconvened Aug. 5 and took the following actions that were approved by the full House:
Recommended that the AVMA Board of Directors elevate cyberbullying as a priority, with emphasis on continuing education, member awareness, crisis management, and collaboration with AVMA PLIT on reputation management tools.
Recommended that the Board provide a progress report at the 2017 HOD winter session in January on the Economics of Veterinary Medical Education Summit (aka, Fix the Debt summit), held in April at Michigan State. The House also urged all HOD members to spread the information that came from the summit to colleagues and constituents to raise awareness of the educational debt issue.
Recommended that the Board consider a few items: make it a priority to update information about large animal medicine on the AVMA website and ensure that the information is accurate, consider revising the Veterinary Oath to include a reference to agriculture or livestock, provide an HOD reference committee with historic information regarding convention programs such as number of CE hours for each species, and make available to AVMA members the expertise of all AVMA staff at the assistant director level and above.
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