AVMA Convention had plenty to offer, from beginning to end

More than 9,100 flocked to Denver, including over 4,900 veterinarians
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AVMA Convention 2018 had plenty new to offer this year, between a diversity and inclusion jam session; demonstrations on telehealth, augmented and virtual reality, and 3D printing; and even a street clinic for low-income and homeless pet owners (see story).

Brass band
AVMA Convention 2018 had plenty to offer attendees, both in the way of education and entertainment. A brass band (pictured) opened the keynote speech by Shiza Shahid. (Photos by R. Scott Nolen)

The annual meeting exceeded expectations with a total of 9,154 attendees. That figure includes the most veterinarians in attendance ever, with over 4,900 veterinarians.

The convention took place July 13-17 in scenic Denver. Dr. Christine O'Rourke, chair of the AVMA Convention Management and Program Committee, said she hopes the educational program contributed to the turnout as well.

"One thing the committee tried to do this year is ensure that the continuing education sessions had enough breadth and depth. We wanted to make sure the CE was at the level that people needed and wanted," she said. "We also tried to coordinate between programs, such as between companion animal and corporate and public practice, so as to not have much overlap. We still had some similar topics scheduled at the same time because it's hard to avoid, but we really decreased that and could bring the program together better."

AVMA Vet Clinic Live
This year's AVMA Vet Clinic Live focused on innovative technology and tools for practices. Vet Clinic Live allows vendors in the exhibit hall to demonstrate their products and services in a clinic setting.

The convention offered over 1,000 CE sessions, with some of the most-attended sessions focused on dermatology, cardiology, and anesthesia.

Another change this year by the committee was to shift the schedule so that the first day would have sessions all day rather than half a day. Attendees responded and filled registration and CE sessions that day, which will mean further refinement for next year's convention, taking place Aug. 2-6, 2019, in Washington, D.C. The plan is to expand registration to the Thursday of convention and earlier that Friday. Convention organizers are also looking to prevent overflow sessions.

"We're thinking of new ideas for next year that might be able to solve that problem, possibly through streaming lectures so people can watch on their devices," Dr. O'Rourke said.

The convention this year debuted the use of livestreaming with two convention events that AVMA members could watch for free and earn CE credit. These were the keynote address, "When Passion Meets Empowerment," given by entrepreneur, investor, and women's rights advocate Shiza Shahid (see story), and the panel discussion "Perspectives on Access to Veterinary Care." Both were available for a limited time after convention on the AVMA website.

Social hour

The keynote by Shahid helped to kick off the convention and to get the attendees engaged, said Michael Wilson, director of the AVMA Convention and Meeting Planning Division.

Other events happening at convention saw just as much enthusiasm from convention-goers as the CE sessions and keynote. These included new events such as goat yoga, which drew a capacity 25 participants who rose early to mingle with the small ruminants; a closing party for the exhibit hall; and a happy hour on the last night of the convention.

The Meet the Experts roundtable and the poster sessions had good feedback from attendees, who said they appreciated the chance to interact with speakers and researchers one on one, Dr. O'Rourke said.

The AVMA concert by rock band O.A.R. drew a crowd despite the rain thanks to a last-minute expansion into the covered Galleria area near Sculpture Park.

And the inaugural Live Life, Love All event saw a great turnout. Wilson said he had hoped to get 150 people to come and be a part of the diversity and inclusion jam session.

He said: "The event exceeded my expectations. We had a packed house with great performances from the Barkin' Kats," spearheaded by Deborah Stone, PhD, of Stone Veterinary Practice Management as well as members of the AVMA Board of Directors, which included now-President John de Jong along with Drs. José Arce, George Bishop, and Arnold Goldman. At the end, the crowd participated in a modified version of the song "YMCA," called "AVMA."

AVMA Convention 2018 By the Numbers infographic "It really brought people together through music," Wilson said, adding: "The energy in Denver was exciting. We wanted to increase the social aspects of convention to give people something to do after a long day of continuing education."

On display

When convention-goers weren't at sessions or events, they also packed the exhibit hall.

"We did change the schedule this year for people not only to attend more CE, but also to have more unopposed time to visit vendors. I think people appreciated that, both attendees and vendors," Dr. O'Rourke said.

More than 330 booths showcased their wares and other offerings. Five awards were handed out to the best booths. They are as follows:

  • Best of Show, island: Henry Schein Animal Health.
  • Best of Show, linear booth, 200 square feet or greater: Royal Canin.
  • Best of Show, linear booth, 100 square feet: Nationwide Pet Insurance.
  • Most Innovative Startup or Technology Company: Vet2Pet.
  • Our Passion, Our Profession: Hill's Pet Nutrition.

The last two awards were voted on by convention attendees via the convention mobile app.

This year's theme for the AVMA's Vet Clinic Live was "The Connected Veterinary Experience," with a focus on innovative technology and tools for practices. Vet Clinic Live allows vendors in the exhibit hall to demonstrate their products and services in a clinic setting.

The area "The Connected Care Journey" allowed startup and technology vendors to showcase their wares for providing teleadvice, wearable and home-connected technologies such as smart collars and video monitoring systems, personalized diagnostic tests, and voice-enabled services.

Another area in the exhibit hall delved into "The Digitized Practice," with demonstrations of products related to digital radiography, augmented and virtual reality, and 3D printing.

Dr. O'Rourke said what she heard from people overall was they really enjoyed the meeting—even people who had attended a number of AVMA conventions.

"At convention, (veterinarians) like to get our CE and learn things and bring that back to our clinics and use it, but we also like to have fun," Dr. O'Rourke said. "We added some fun this year, and people appreciated that. I think we gave people more options this year from beginning to end."