AVMA updates include new technology entity, PVME open for comment
AVMA updates include new technology entity, PVME open for comment
Leadership celebrates another year of record-high membership during recap of 2023 and a look ahead
Story and photos by R. Scott Nolen
The AVMA rang in the new year with a record high 105,000 members, strong financials, and a slate of initiatives for the year ahead that address emerging technologies, antimicrobial stewardship, and the AVMA Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics and Model Veterinary Practice Act.
AVMA Executive Vice President and CEO Dr. Janet Donlin announced the AVMA membership numbers during the plenary session of the AVMA House of Delegates (HOD) regular winter session, held January 5-6 in conjunction with the AVMA Veterinary Leadership Conference in Chicago.
AVMA President Dr. Rena Carlson, other AVMA officers, staff members, and other guests also spoke during the session, recapping the AVMA’s work in 2023 while also highlighting its plans for 2024. Speakers also paid tribute to long-time AVMA staff member Carole Jordan, who died late last year (see sidebar).
Technology, ethics, and law
Dr. Gail Golab, AVMA’s chief veterinary officer, updated plenary session attendees about progress on updating the AVMA’s Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics (PVME) and Model Veterinary Practice Act (MVPA). The principles describe a set of behaviors that serve as a code of conduct for veterinarians. The MVPA serves as a model for those who are, or will be, preparing or revising a state veterinary practice act.
A comprehensive review of the PVME was initiated in 2022 by the AVMA Council on Veterinary Service (CoVS) at the request of the HOD. The AVMA shared an updated draft with the HOD in mid-December 2023 with the intention that delegates would begin discussing the proposed revisions during their meeting.
“Much of the language in the current PVME has been retained, but updated to reflect contemporary expectations for ethical veterinary practice and reorganized to make the document more user-friendly,” she explained.
AVMA members can provide detailed feedback on the draft PVME during a 60-day comment period from January 2 through March 4. Comments will be reconciled by the CoVS this spring with a final draft expected in time for the HOD regular summer session, happening in June during AVMA Convention 2024.
After the PVME final draft is completed, the CoVS will begin reviewing the MVPA in earnest, Dr. Golab said. A draft of the updated MVPA will likely be available for review during the 2025 HOD winter session, followed by a period for member comment.
In addition, Dr. Golab announced that the AVMA is looking for nominations for its new Task Force on Emerging Technologies and Innovation.
“The AVMA has an opportunity to better meet the needs of its members by providing practical support and resources in an area where such guidance is largely lacking,” she said.
The task force has been charged with the following:
Develop a strategy by which the AVMA can best support practitioners faced with the the opportunities and challenges of emerging technologies.
Plan an educational symposium to be held in conjunction with the AVMA Convention 2024 in Austin, Texas.
Suggest a charge and composition for a future AVMA committee that will develop related policy and create resources to support veterinary practitioners in the effective and safe implementation of these technologies in veterinary practice.
Anyone interested in joining the task force or who knows someone who should be a member are encouraged to email Dr. Golab at ggolabavma [dot] org (ggolab[at]avma[dot]org).
Focusing on current issues
Veterinary workforce challenges were a key theme across presentations.
“The AVMA recognizes how difficult the past few years have been,” Dr. Carlson said. “These challenges have placed significant pressure and stress on practices and practitioners, and we are committed to finding the right solutions to help veterinary teams now and into the future.”
However, some projections on the future veterinary workforce appear to “substantially overestimate demand and underestimate supply,” according to Dr. Carlson, as well as conflate short-term issues with long-term ones. “As we work together through our challenges, we must consider all pertinent data, and separate short-term from long-term issues, so that we can really identify the right solutions.”
She identified emergency practice, specialty practice, shelters, academia, rural practice, and public health as segments with unique, long-standing barriers to attracting and retaining veterinary professionals, and emphasized the importance of working collaboratively with allied and state VMAs and other partners to develop tailored solutions to reverse problematic trends.
“Their challenges will not be addressed simply by adding more veterinarians to the profession, or by the introduction of a midlevel position (MLP) or virtual VCPR,” she said.
Dr. Carlson also touched on AVMA research showing pet owners overwhelmingly prefer care for their pets that is led by their veterinarian.
For instance, 88% of pet owners surveyed believe that having a veterinary physically examine their pet and talk to them in-person is what leads to the best care; 72% prefer to meet a veterinarian in-person before allowing them to care for their pet using telemedicine; and 79% prefer that a veterinarian, rather than a nonveterinarian (e.g., a midlevel practitioner), oversee their pet’s care.
The AVMA advocacy team tracked more than 4,000 bills last year. At the federal level, keeping xylazine as a drug available for veterinary use has been a priority as legislators look to address illicit use of the drug.
The House of Representatives passed the Support for Patients and Communities Reauthorization Act (SUPPORT Act), which contains key components of the Combating Illicit Xylazine Act—a bill supported by the AVMA that would equip law enforcement with the tools necessary to help combat illicit xylazine while preserving veterinary access to its legitimate uses. Now the SUPPORT Act will move to the Senate. However, the AVMA does anticipate pushback to the House version by those who want to see greater control placed on the FDA-approved product. The AVMA is committed to continuing its work with lawmakers and committee staff members toward a federal solution to help address illicit xylazine while considering the unique needs of veterinary medicine and preserving access to this critical prescription animal drug, Dr. Carlson said.
Dr. Carlson said the AVMA’s Committee on Antimicrobials (CoA) continues to aggressively work to combat antimicrobial resistance by encouraging the collection of data and creating practical resources and educational materials that support good stewardship across veterinary practice types. Antimicrobial availability impacts veterinary care, and supply chain issues or a lack of options influence antimicrobial use. On January 3, the CoA published a JAVMA paper online that provides a clinician’s perspective regarding how drug shortages, specifically that of penicillin, might contribute to patterns in antimicrobial use and what the AVMA and FDA can do to minimize the impact of antimicrobial drug shortages on animal health and welfare.
Additionally, Dr. Carlson highlighted the AVMA’s response to the continuing multistate outbreak of canine infectious respiratory disease complex (CIRDC). The Association gathered information from state agencies and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to share with veterinarians, the public, and media outlets. Website material on CIRDC was updated and relevant information in peer-reviewed publications was highlighted to assist practitioners with case management, and prevention tips were offered for concerned dog owners.
Dr. Carlson finished her talk by noting how international alliances are essential to the AVMA’s work to support veterinarians and the veterinary profession. Workforce issues, antimicrobial stewardship, access to narcotics and other veterinary pharmaceuticals, animal welfare, and veterinary team building are issues that cross international boundaries.
“AVMA’s global alliances ensure that our members are included in worldwide conversations and can share valuable resources, information, and ideas with fellow veterinarians everywhere,” she said, noting the AVMA’s membership in organizations such as the World Veterinary Association, World Small Animal Veterinary Association, Pan-American Association of Veterinary Sciences, and the Federation of Asian Veterinary Associations.
A healthy AVMA
The AVMA continues to hit its annual membership targets, with the Association seeing a roughly 3% increase in membership at the close of 2023, AVMA Treasurer Jon Pennell announced. The Association remains financially secure, he added.
“Our longstanding financial policies have facilitated maintenance of our existing operational and strategic momentum allowing for investment in our strategic initiatives that continue to drive our membership growth,” Dr. Pennell said.
Looking to 2024, the AVMA Board of Directors has budgeted a net operating income of $81,885—with $51,546,209 in revenue and $51,464,324 in expenses—and $3.7 million for strategic initiatives.
“The efforts to invest in new programs will protect our market share and improve member satisfaction through expansion of member benefits,” Dr. Pennell said. “In the expansion of these programs and services, we target veterinary professionals at every stage of their careers and in every possible area of veterinary medicine.”
Dr. Pennell added that as an ongoing part of the AVMA’s long-term strategy, the Association is looking to maximize its non-dues revenue through existing products and resources, such as the AVMA Veterinary Career Center, which is slated for key updates and enhancements in 2024.
Dr. Taylor Tillery, veterinary academic and industry liaison lead for veterinary and consumer affairs at Merck Animal Health, presented on the fourth edition of the Merck Animal Health Veterinary Wellbeing Study and the second edition of the Merck Animal Health Veterinary Team Wellbeing Study. Results from both were released January 15 at the 2024 Veterinary Meeting & Expo (VMX) in Orlando, Florida.
“The mission has remained the same: Determining the mental health and wellbeing status of the veterinary team,” he said. “We continue to use validated tools to identify those who are thriving and others who are facing challenges and what tools we can recommend.”
He highlighted some of the key findings, such as 92% of veterinarians surveyed say they are invested and take pride in their work. And that veterinarians experience a similar level of burnout as the general population, but higher levels of exhaustion.
Most veterinary clinic team members experience at least a moderate level of burnout, according to the study. Veterinary assistants experience the highest level of burnout compared with other groups. Financial health is a top challenge, Dr. Tillery said. Sixty percent of veterinary team members surveyed say they feel unsatisfied with their income and financial situations, with a quarter reporting they work second jobs.
“The veterinary profession is not broken. We are equally, if not more, satisfied than the general population. There are opportunities to improve with our colleagues, our team members. I hope we work together to tailor solutions and ways to make that happen,” Dr. Tillery said.
A version of this story appears in the March 2024 print issue of JAVMA
AVMA president talks best practices for clinics
Dr. Rena Carlson, AVMA president, mentioned some short-term solutions practices could consider to help with workforce issues in her talk on January 5 before the AVMA House of Delegates during its regular winter session. (Video by Matt Zingale)
Honoring Carole Jordan, long time AVMA staff member
By Anita Suresh
Carole Jordan, director of governance administration in the Office of the Executive Vice President, passed away on November 19, 2023. Known for her dedication to the AVMA during her more than 35 years of service, she will be greatly missed by the staff members and volunteers she worked closely with over the years.
In 2021, Dr. Douglas Kratt, outgoing AVMA president, honored Jordan with a President’s Award, saying “Carole has been an invaluable source of support and commitment during my leadership roles at the AVMA. She has helped challenge my growth as a leader, and her guidance, knowledge and professionalism have been instrumental during my presidency, and to the many leaders of this profession.”
Dr. Janet Donlin, AVMA executive vice president and CEO, said, “Throughout her 35 years with the AVMA, Carole made a tremendous contribution to the profession, to the AVMA, and to the people she worked with. Over the three-plus decades we worked together, I saw her unwavering commitment, dedication, and love for this profession.
“It was clear to me and anyone who worked with her that the AVMA was a better place thanks to her significant knowledge of governance, her commitment to accuracy and professionalism, and her care toward the processes and people that advance the science and medicine of veterinary care. The impact she made was larger than anyone could ever fully realize and she is missed every day.”
Jordan is survived by her wife, Roz Zager, and their dog Ruby; her brother, Dan and his wife Becky; her brother Clay and his sons Ben and Bryan; other nieces and nephews; and all her dear friends in Illinois and Arizona.