AVMA president works to raise veterinarians' profile

de Jong wants ‘AVMA’ to be a household name
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As the “worldwide standard of excellence in veterinary medicine,” the AVMA should be a household name, as well known as the American Medical Association or American Dental Association, said Dr. John de Jong, who plans to use his platform as AVMA president over the next year to make his vision a reality.

Dr. de Jong speaks to the AVMA House of Delegates
Dr. John de Jong speaks to the AVMA House of Delegates about his plans as the Association's 2018-19 president.

Dr. de Jong was installed as 2018-19 AVMA president July 17, the final day of AVMA Convention 2018 in Denver. Four days earlier, the small animal practitioner from Newton, Massachusetts, laid out his presidential agenda in a speech during the regular annual session of the AVMA House of Delegates, also in Denver.

“It is my desire to work with our dedicated and talented AVMA staff to optimize our visibility using every means possible—print media, social media, radio, and television. I will harness my energy and enthusiasm and love of veterinary medicine to do so,” said Dr. de Jong, who writes a weekly column for the Boston Herald called “Ask the Vet” and has participated in local talk radio for many years.

He challenged all veterinarians to join him in his efforts. “We can all advocate for our profession more than we historically have, with enormous pride, while still being true to our core principles and our oath,” he said.

Dr. de Jong
Dr. John de Jong

A 1985 graduate of the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, Dr. de Jong is the founder and former chief surgeon of the reduced-cost spay-neuter clinic at Merwin Memorial Clinic in Allston, Massachusetts. He previously was a member of the AVMA HOD. Dr. de Jong subsequently was elected to the AVMA Board of Directors in 2010, serving as Board chair in 2015-16. The HOD elected him AVMA president-elect last year in Indianapolis.

Dr. de Jong recounted for the HOD his activities since his election in 2017. In addition to attending several state, regional, and national veterinary gatherings, Dr. de Jong met with leaders of the Mexican, Canadian, and Australian veterinary associations and also with U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. He also attended the Student AVMA conference, the annual AVMA Economic Summit, and meetings of the AVMA Board and AVMA House Advisory Committee.

As AVMA president, Dr. de Jong will focus on member-identified priorities, such as advocacy, education, and economics. Of these, advocacy is where Dr. de Jong believes he can be most effective.

“I want to advocate on behalf of veterinary medicine to the public, not just our federal and state governments,” Dr. de Jong said. “I want the public to know who we are, to have a greater understanding and appreciation of the breadth of our profession in areas such as food animal production, public health, animal welfare, epidemiology, research, companion animal practice, and so much more, so that veterinarians might achieve greater economic growth and security.”

Dr. de Jong said the current and future financial picture for animal care in the United States is “outstanding,” yet veterinarians are not reaping the benefits they rightfully deserve. “It is time to collectively speak up, to take action, and reclaim what we deserve. It is time for veterinarians to earn better incomes and not always lag behind the rest of the health care professions in this regard,” he said.

“We in veterinary medicine need to stay united to be strong,” he concluded. “We need to be advocates for one another and for our profession.”