AVMA president-elect candidates look to future

Angela Demaree, John Howe share their visions for AVMA
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The agenda for the AVMA House of Delegates regular annual session in Denver this July includes electing the 2018-19 AVMA president-elect. Two veterinarians—Drs. Angela Demaree of Indianapolis and John Howe of Grand Rapids, Minnesota—are candidates for the office, hoping to be next in line for the AVMA presidency.

Dr. Demaree was a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives for Indiana's 5th Congressional District in 2016 and is a former equine medical director for the Indiana Horse Racing Commission, for which she oversaw the equine drug testing program at the two Indiana racetracks.

Prior to joining the IHRC, Dr. Demaree was an assistant director for the AVMA Governmental Relations Division. She was also an associate in a companion animal practice and completed a surgical internship at an equine sports medicine and surgery practice.

Dr. Demaree, who was deployed in 2012 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, received her DVM degree from Purdue University in 2002 and anticipates completing her master's of public health in biostatistics and epidemiology from the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine this August.

Dr. Howe is in his sixth and final year as District VII member of the AVMA Board of Directors. During his term, he has chaired the AVMA State Advocacy Committee, was a member of the Board's Diversity and Inclusion subcommittee, and was the Board liaison to several AVMA councils and committees.

After receiving his DVM degree from the University of Minnesota in 1977, Dr. Howe started a solo mixed practice in North Branch, Minnesota. After selling the practice, he established an equine and large animal practice that evolved into North Country Veterinary Clinic, a five-doctor mixed practice. It became part of National Veterinary Associates in 2007, and Dr. Howe manages the practice.

Here, the candidates explain why they're ready to lead the Association.

Dr. Demaree responds:

Why are you running for AVMA president-elect?

Dr. Demaree
Dr. Angela Demaree

I'm running to inspire more veterinarians in the middle of their careers to participate fully in shaping the future of our profession. Through this campaign, I hope to share the value that membership in the AVMA and participation in organized veterinary medicine can provide, both personally and professionally.

I'm running to tear down barriers, real and perceived. The AVMA Bylaws allow for participation of our members with a diverse set of experiences, and it's important that our members know there is more than one path to participate in leadership positions within the AVMA.

The AVMA serves an important role as the voice of our profession, and we need to ensure we are effectively communicating with and engaging our diverse membership.

We have a profession with limitless possibilities and one of the most versatile degrees that can be obtained today. Manageable debt-to-income ratios are possible, and veterinary medicine will continue to be a sustainable career path for generations to come.

I'm running because I believe we can improve our personal health and wellness, serve our clients and our communities, and have fulfilling family lives. It's not an either-or, it's not about perfectly balancing everything; it's about living a life full of joy, meaning, and purpose.

What skills and experiences do you offer?

I have been an active AVMA member for 16 years and spent three years on the AVMA staff at the Governmental Relations Division in Washington, D.C. During my time at the GRD, I had a unique vantage point to see firsthand how the AVMA's councils, committees, House of Delegates, and Board of Directors all interacted and how our volunteer members ideas worked through the process to become policy.

I served for six years on the AVMA's State Advocacy Committee and currently serve on the American Association of Equine Practitioners' Welfare and Public Policy Advisory Council and on the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine's Alumni Board.

As a veterinarian, I've served our clients in companion animal and equine sports medicine practice, including a surgical internship. I've served the state of Indiana as the equine medical director for the Indiana Horse Racing Commission, ensuring the health and welfare of our equine athletes, overseeing multiyear contracts, up to 40 part-time employees, and collaborating with Purdue University on original research that we presented at the International Conference on Equine Exercise Physiology in 2014 in Chester, United Kingdom.

I continue to serve our country as a major in the U.S. Army Reserve including one deployment to the Middle East in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2012. During this deployment, I led a team of soldiers stationed in two countries and several remote locations. We were a diverse group of people from all around the United States; many of us had never met before our predeployment training, and yet, we came together to complete a successful mission.

These are examples of my diverse leadership experiences that I will bring to serve our profession as your 2018 president-elect of the AVMA.

Why are you the best candidate?

I have a diverse background and professional experience that I will rely on to ensure I best represent our entire profession. I will seek input from others and make strategic decisions to ensure the sustainable future of our profession. I firmly believe that the best ideas and solutions come from our volunteer members, and we should continue to engage them in meaningful ways.

I have gained a valuable perspective having served as staff at the AVMA, having a seat at the table while our volunteer leaders developed AVMA policy, and then being responsible for implementing that policy on behalf of our members at the national level to our elected and regulatory officials.

Then I took a step back and became a volunteer member serving on the State Advocacy Committee. I saw the AVMA through the eyes of our members rather than from inside the organization. These experiences have broadened my perspective and prepared me to serve as 2018 president-elect of the AVMA.

What should AVMA members know about you?

I love our profession. I feel truly blessed to share this profession with so many amazing colleagues and to have chosen to participate in a truly versatile profession with limitless and diverse opportunities for personal and professional growth.

I believe that the most important part of communication is listening. I don't have all of the answers, but I've met some of our members who have great and amazing insights during my travels around the United States. I greatly appreciate and value these conversations.

I am dedicated to lifelong learning and am completing a master's degree of public health in biostatistics and epidemiology.

My purpose in life is advocating on behalf of and serving others. I hope to have the opportunity to serve you as your 2018 president-elect of the AVMA.

In your estimation, what is the AVMA doing right?

The AVMA has many wonderful initiatives underway. Members can comment on proposed and current policy through the website, the AVMA@WorkBlog highlights achievements of member veterinarians, and our advocacy efforts in Washington, D.C., and collaboration between the state and federal levels continues to improve. The AVMA is recognizing health and wellness to be an important priority for our members, and our economic division continues to work toward ensuring our profession has a sustainable future. The AVMA provides valuable member resources such as access to a 24/7 cyberbullying hotline and online reputation and crisis management resources.

And where does AVMA need to improve?

There is always more that can be done. My number one goal is to improve the communication between the AVMA and our membership. In this day and age, we should be able to get the information to our members, where and how they want the information, when they need the information. Our website should be infinitely easier for our members to navigate. I stand by my comments from the Candidates' Introductory Breakfast: "When our members need information, no answer should be more than three clicks away. When our clients need information, no answer should be more than three clicks away. And when our new and recent graduates visit avma.org to understand the value of their membership, no answer should be more than three clicks away."

Another issue that's been brought to my attention is related to inclusion of our diverse membership. I've been thanked for simply asking someone how to correctly pronounce their name when I was unsure; members have relayed to me that this is one sign of respect that they greatly appreciate, yet don't always experience. I've also heard how great it was that AVMA staff went above and beyond to ensure that a member's name was printed correctly on their name badge at an event. We need to continue to be mindful of small acts of kindness that ensure our members feel valued and continue to seek improved understanding of their perspectives.

If elected, what would you do to make this happen?

I will be a strong voice on the Board of Directors to encourage and ensure that improved communication is an underpinning of our strategic vision. The AVMA can do great and amazing things, but if our members don't know about it, then we aren't doing enough to serve our members or our profession.

I personally commit to leading by example and completing the online certificate program for diversity and inclusion in veterinary medicine founded by the AVMA, AAVMC, and Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine to improve my ability to lead a truly inclusive profession. After all, this is our passion, it is our profession, and it is our AVMA.

I will continue to ensure our members' priorities and efforts of past presidents continue in the areas of leadership development, advocacy, one health, animal welfare, personal health and wellness, and the debt-to-income ratio, to name a few of the important issues facing our profession.

Is there anything else you want to share?

I'm dedicated to serving our profession and have started a podcast called "Beyond the Stethoscope" to discuss issues of importance to veterinarians and busy professionals and share ideas from experts within and outside of our profession.

I'm often asked how AVMA members can participate in this election. Your AVMA delegates will be voting at their July meeting before the start of convention. You can share your thoughts and have your voice heard by reaching out to the AVMA delegates of your state and allied organizations.

You can participate in the campaign by following us on Twitter and Facebook (@DemareeDVM). Feel free to reach out; I love to speak with our members and learn about what you'd like to see from the AVMA. You can message me on Facebook or send an email to angelaatangelademaree [dot] com (angela[at]angelademaree[dot]com).

Dr. Howe responds:

Why are you running for AVMA president-elect?

Dr. Howe
Dr. John Howe

Even after many years of serving organized veterinary medicine in various ways, I have an overwhelming passion to continue to serve the profession. I have had an extremely rewarding life during my many years of veterinary practice. Veterinary medicine has provided an opportunity to meet some wonderful people—both professionals and clients. I have enjoyed the challenges associated with the advances in veterinary medicine and want to do what I can to ensure that veterinary medicine remains rewarding to all associated with this wonderful profession. A strong, responsive AVMA is one way to accomplish this objective, and I want to be a part of helping AVMA to fulfill its mission.

I view AVMA as a bridge between this great profession and each of us. We are a diverse group of veterinary professionals—that is part of what makes us able to relate to a wide range of clientele and take so many paths. We are general practitioners, specialists, owners, and associates. We work in industry, government, private practice, academia, and laboratories. We live in the city, suburbs, or rural areas. We are vegans and meat eaters, fitness advocates and couch potatoes. In my vision, AVMA must continue to be the bridge that holds us together with shared goals and objectives. This bridge must be maintained, and that is done by listening and responding to the concerns of its membership. The time I have spent with councils and committees has rounded out my understanding of the workings of the AVMA. I have met countless wonderful veterinarians from around the country, have listened to their concerns, and have come to appreciate the diversity of perspectives and ideas that make up our great profession. It is because of these experiences I can contribute to this profession by serving further in leadership.

What skills and experiences do you offer?

I have over 30 years of experience in organized veterinary medicine serving in various capacities at the state, regional, and national level. I came up "through the ranks." I have served as an officer of my regional association, as president of my state association, and served on several committees for my state association. I was selected as Minnesota's Veterinarian of the Year in 2011 and additionally was honored to receive Minnesota's Distinguished Service Award in 2015.

Nationally, I have served on numerous councils and committees for AVMA as either a member or a board liaison, including for such groups as the American Association of Equine Practitioners and American Association of Swine Veterinarians. I served as vice chair of the AVMA Council on Veterinary Service, vice chair of the Governance Performance Review Committee, and on the State Advocacy Committee and the Budget, Finance, and Review Committee, among others. I am now finishing my sixth year on the Board of Directors representing District VII. These activities have given me a broad knowledge base, and I feel I have been able to effectively represent my district and constituents.

Beyond the organized medicine aspect of my experiences, I have 41 years of mixed animal practice experience working with small animals, swine, and equine, bovine, aquatic, and exotic animals. I have had the opportunity to experience multiple forms of practice life. I began as a solo mixed animal practitioner, grew my practice into a five-doctor practice, and have managed a practice for a corporate entity. Starting, growing, and selling two mixed animal practices gave me a strong business sense and helped me to see the struggles that many practitioners face in their day-to-day lives. I worked in a sale barn one day a week in my first practice. I served on the State Board of Animal Health as a governor-appointed member for two terms (two years as president) overseeing the activities of the state veterinarian. This gave me great insight into regulatory veterinary medicine. I have worked in aquaculture involving the Minnesota (Department of Natural Resources) and private practice. These experiences allow me to see veterinary medicine from many angles and to better serve the AVMA membership.

Why are you the best candidate?

I believe my experiences as outlined above uniquely qualify me to see many sides of this umbrella organization. As I mentioned earlier, I have served on many different councils, committees, and BOD subcommittees. I believe I understand the workings of the AVMA. I have seen the great strides AVMA has made in the last six years and especially the last three years. I know where we have come from, and I know where we are heading. I want to continue this effort to help keep us heading in the right direction.

I can personally relate to many of your concerns and challenges because I have experienced them. I am an advocate for unity in our profession as we cross our bridge and confront our challenges together. Team efforts are needed, and leadership means bringing out the best in everyone on the team. I have worked with interns, students, new graduates, and old graduates. AVMA must remain focused on items which unite us, must secure the confidence of our members, and must be well-maintained. I want to ensure that there are enough lanes running across our bridge to accommodate all of us.

While I am a volunteer leader with great experience, I never forget that I am also a member and, as such, membership value is a high priority for me. I have been a voice for our membership. I have a unified vision of one AVMA: member, leader, and staff working toward common goals.

What should AVMA members know about you?

I am very passionate about veterinary medicine. I love mentoring students and early-career veterinarians. I have never been afraid to try new things, and I always strive for the best. I am a listener.

In your estimation, what is the AVMA doing right?

As a member of the Board of Directors, I have been able to see firsthand the benefits of recent actions. We have greatly strengthened the tie between the House of Delegates and the Board of Directors by including House members on Board subcommittees. This has been very effective and has brought us together. Involving the House of Delegates in many of our workings and decisions has helped to lessen the us-versus-them syndrome. The Veterinary Economics Division has been greatly expanded. This has given us valuable data to see where we've been, where we are going, and what changes may need to take place. The changes in the Marketing Division will enable AVMA to better communicate to our members the things this Association can (do) and is doing for them. We have strengthened the Governmental Relations Division and the State Advocacy Committee. This is critical to keep our members informed so they can respond to good and bad legislation. We are much more diverse than we were six years ago. We have just decided as a Board to finally upgrade our website, which will be much appreciated. There are so many things AVMA is doing right at this time. I'm excited to talk to members when I travel and have the opportunity to answer their questions.

And where does AVMA need to improve?

Even though we are doing a lot of things right, the general membership doesn't always get the message. Our communication has improved, but the average member doesn't always take the time to read through the Journal. We still need to be that inspiring voice sometimes on a one-to-one basis. People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. When people see that we care as a profession about all aspects of veterinary medicine, they tend to listen more.

I also think we need a stronger public presence. People don't understand all that AVMA does and is capable of doing. We need to continue the push for one-health issues and strengthen our ties to the entire medical profession, especially regarding antibiotic-resistance issues.

If elected, what would you do to make this happen?

Member polls show that member satisfaction has increased, and I want to continue doing what we need to do to increase that further. We need to continue the strategy of measuring everything AVMA does to see if it is improving member value. We need to continue to look at things strategically to see if they are appropriate and if we have the time and resources to do them. I would continue the push to make sure we can be represented positively nationally on radio and/or television when possible. I think there are a few more areas we can improve on, but we will need a team effort.

Is there anything else you want to share?

One last issue that I have not mentioned and that is extremely important to me is scope-of-practice issues. Many states battle the same issues. It is critical that veterinarians get involved and stay abreast of what is going on in their state. Knowing your local representative is very important. If your state (veterinary association) has a political action committee, please donate to it. Also donate to the AVMA PAC. We need to open many doors to have a positive influence. If elected, I will do my best to continue to serve this profession to the best of my ability.

Related JAVMA content:

Candidates introduce themselves in Indy (Sept. 15, 2017)

Indiana veterinarian runs for Congress (April 1, 2016)