AVMA Board adds candidate rules, acts on emergency and leadership programs

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The AVMA Board of Directors has expanded rules on district director candidates and added provisions intended to ensure campaigns for district director positions are fair.

The Board members have also decided to end an AVMA disaster medical assistance team program and examine the purpose and direction of an annual leadership meeting. And they committed to contributing $75,000 to the nonprofit Veterinary Leadership Institute over three years.

The Board members voted in September to edit their manual to add provisions related to messages to constituents, limits on campaign activities, and candidate attendance at Board meetings.

Dr. Joe Kinnarney, AVMA immediate past president, presented the proposal to the Board. He said some of the changes were intended to make the manual consistent with existing business practices, ensure fairness in district elections for representatives on the Board, protect mailing lists of AVMA members, and give the AVMA better-informed Board members.

The AVMA, on request from candidates and veterinary medical associations, will contract with third-party vendors to mail campaign materials to AVMA members eligible to vote in the candidates’ districts. The Association also will send two emails to eligible voters on behalf of all district director candidates in their district; those messages will contain candidate statements approved by the AVMA.

Drs. Mark Helfat (center), chair of the AVMA Board of Directors; Barbara Schmidt, AVMA treasurer; and Ron DeHaven, then AVMA executive vice president, are shown during deliberations in September’s Board meeting at AVMA headquarters in Schaumburg, Illinois. (Photo by R. Scott Nolen)

Dr. Kinnarney said the AVMA had given state and allied VMAs mailing lists of members within their districts, but candidates are not required to be affiliated with any of those groups. The AVMA is reluctant to allow broad access to mailing lists, so the Association will ensure equal footing among independent veterinarians and those backed by associations by providing the lists only to approved third parties, he said.

The manual’s rules now also prohibit campaign events by district director candidates at AVMA meetings or hotels connected with those meetings during the campaign season, which starts just before the AVMA Convention in late July or early August and ends the following March 31.

By changing the Board manual to let elected candidates attend all Board meetings before the start of their terms, rather than only one meeting, the AVMA also will benefit by having better-informed candidates, Dr. Kinnarney said.

The Board members also edited their manual to require that Board members support decisions made by the full Board even when they voted in opposition.

Veterinary Medical Assistance Teams

The AVMA also is phasing out its Veterinary Medical Assistance Teams over the next 12 to 18 months.

The teams were formed as a partnership with the federal government, partly as a response to Hurricane Andrew in 1992, and team members have responded to disasters including hurricanes and the attacks of Sept. 11. The program became a disaster response resource for states after the federal government developed its own veterinary medical response teams, which led the AVMA to re-launch the program in 2009 with a focus on educating and training emergency responders.

Veterinary Leadership Conference

An AVMA task force will study the purpose and goals of a meeting for leadership development and AVMA governance.

The Board members voted in favor of examining the purpose and accomplishments of the AVMA Veterinary Leadership Conference. The recommendation given to Board members suggests the conference lacks strategic focus, long-term objectives, and measured goals other than attendee satisfaction. It also has growing costs.

Dr. Michael Newman, Board representative for the District III states of Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee, said in a later interview that he thinks the VLC is one of AVMA’s most successful programs, as shown by the positive reviews by attendees and the success in leadership development within the veterinary profession. The Board wants to “find any rusty spots that need to be cleaned.”

The AVMA House of Delegates and Board of Directors meet in conjunction with the VLC, and Dr. Newman said the task force members will consider how those meetings are and should be integrated. They also will consider whether leaders in private companies unrelated to veterinary medicine could be asked to help with leadership development programming as well as whether the AVMA could bring in more corporate sponsors.

The Board considers the VLC to be an investment, Dr. Newman said. The January 2016 VLC had record-high attendance and survey satisfaction, yet the AVMA spent about $70,000 more than it received, he said.

In 2017, “we’re adding even more students at our conference,” Dr. Newman said. “We need to be sure that we’re spending our money and investing appropriately.”