Q&A: Bailey focusing on outside-the-box solutions to profession's challenges

Dr. Michael Bailey looks forward to engaging with those who are underrepresented in veterinary medicine

Updated May 17, 2024

Interview and photo by R. Scott Nolen

Dr. Michael Q. Bailey
Dr. Michael Q. Bailey

As AVMA’s candidate for president-elect, Dr. Michael Q. Bailey is keenly interested in finding ways of reducing the costs of higher education, particularly in health care, and ensuring the AVMA proactively embraces the future.

A board-certified radiologist and former member of the AVMA Board of Directors, Dr. Bailey ran unopposed as a candidate for 2024-25 AVMA president-elect. He will be elected as the next in line for the AVMA presidency by the AVMA House of Delegates this June when it convenes in Austin, Texas, during the House’s regular annual session.

Dr. Bailey spoke to AVMA News about his plans of leveraging his office as AVMA president to educate lawmakers and the public about the benefits and necessity of keeping higher education affordable. He spoke also about promoting the veterinary medicine “brand” and the role of artificial intelligence in animal care.

The following responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Q. Why are you running as a candidate for 2024-25 AVMA president-elect?

A. In my journey toward leadership, running for president-elect wasn't initially on my radar. However, as I progressed, I recognized the potential for greater contribution by pushing forward and advocating for action. Throughout my involvement with the AVMA, I've observed instances where I felt our professional organization has hesitated before responding to unfolding events. I firmly believe in the value of proactivity, finding a balance between planning for what the AVMA can control and adapting to what it can't. As a professional and individual, I aspire to be part of a leadership that embraces a proactive approach, anticipating and addressing challenges before they escalate. Proactive leadership entails foreseeing potential issues and taking decisive action, contrasting with reactive responses that can leave us scrambling to manage crises as they emerge. By fostering a proactive mindset, we can bolster our capacity to navigate uncertainties and instigate positive change for our profession and those we serve.

Q. What should AVMA members know about you?

A. The three pillars of the land-grant universities’ mission are teaching, research, and service. As a Black man, a graduate of a historically Black university’s veterinary school, and two land-grant institutions—three, if my residency is included—I've had the privilege of extensive travel and applying my professional skills, grounded in the pillars of the U.S. land-grant universities, across diverse settings. These experiences have exposed me to the richness of diversity in our world. It’s abundantly clear that true progress and innovation thrive on collaborative teamwork. In today’s rapidly evolving landscape, where diseases can spread globally within hours and professional consultations occur instantaneously across vast distances, embracing teamwork and diversity is paramount. By working together and drawing upon diverse perspectives, we can effectively navigate the challenges and seize the opportunities that lie ahead.

It's imperative to actively encourage the participation of all underrepresented groups in our profession, demonstrating that they are both welcome and essential contributors to every conversation. Innovation thrives on diversity, and a variety of perspectives enriches out-of-the-box thinking. In the realm of One Health, health care professionals must reflect the diversity of the populations they serve. By fostering inclusivity and ensuring representation from all backgrounds, we can effectively address the complex challenges facing our profession and the communities we serve.

Q. What will you focus on during your time as 2025-26 AVMA president?

A. We are confronted with the pressing issue of the rising cost of education, particularly in higher education. Unfortunately, this trend shows no signs of abating as costs continue to outpace inflation. Given the current economic climate, with veterinary schools facing budgetary constraints, the likelihood of a reduction in education costs appears slim.

Regardless of the underlying reasons, it’s undeniable that higher education prices pose significant barriers to access for many families, impacting their ability to obtain advanced education and essential care. Both traditionally underrepresented and majority members of the broader middle class face substantial challenges in affording a college education, let alone professional training. The AVMA must enlighten the public and policymakers so that they recognize the detrimental effects of education costs on maintaining America’s leadership in education, science, and medicine and the negative impact on access to medical care, food security, and One Health initiatives.

We must devise strategies to reduce the cost of education while simultaneously preserving, if not elevating, the quality of education provided.

Q. As the AVMA’s first Black president, what message would you have for Black, Indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC) students who aspire to be veterinarians?

A. I have valuable insights to impart to all students, particularly those from underrepresented groups, including BIPOC, Asian people, LGBTQ+ individuals, and others. Nonetheless, we must first acknowledge that even categorizations such as BIPOC can inadvertently overlook individuals, hindering our quest for genuine diversity and inclusivity.

To advance our profession, actively encouraging participation and engagement by the membership AVMA is crucial. However, underrepresented individuals are notably sparse in leadership roles within our premier professional organization. As a collective, we must prioritize diversity and inclusivity, ensuring that we effectively serve the diverse global population and fully leverage the capabilities of veterinary professionals to address international concerns. Embracing diversity, equality, and inclusivity unlocks our profession's potential for innovation, productivity, and resourcefulness because we more easily think outside the box! A heterogeneous team maximizes the impact and relevance of each individual by stimulating thought. It leads to advancing veterinary education, the science of veterinary medicine, and One Health initiatives globally.

Q. What are the key challenges and opportunities currently facing the veterinary profession, and what is AVMA’s role in each?

A. Addressing the cost of professional education is crucial. However, to tackle this concern effectively, it's essential to underscore the significance of veterinary health care professionals by doing the following:

  • Communicating a strong brand image: We must portray our brand effectively to our target audiences, from school-age children to the public. We aim to spark their interest in veterinary medicine and convey the profession’s values and significance to their wellbeing. Furthermore, we must articulate to policymakers the vital role of a thriving veterinary profession and highlight what distinguishes us in providing high-quality medical care.
  • Fostering a diverse educational environment: Embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion cultivates socially diverse learning environments that prepare students for a global society. Research shows that diverse groups are inherently more innovative than homogenous ones. Therefore, integrating adaptive artificial technology (AI), particularly appealing to the younger generations, is essential for a digitally savvy profession. Virtual technologies facilitate rapid and effective learning experiences, adjusting and enhancing the educational journey for a diverse student body at the individual level.
  • Promoting veterinarians and veterinary health care teams as One Health champions: It's imperative to highlight the veterinary profession’s unparalleled expertise in animal health, zoonotic diseases, and our profound impact on human and environmental wellbeing. Facilitating collaboration and fostering leadership roles for veterinarians in interdisciplinary forums alongside human health care providers, environmental scientists, and public health professionals is essential for advancing One Health initiatives and effectively addressing global health challenges.

Q. Where would you like to see the veterinary profession in 10 years?

A. In the next decade, the landscape of veterinary medicine must significantly transform. As the saying goes, “We must learn to work smarter, not harder.” If we aim to maintain a high-quality personal life while ensuring veterinary health care access and delivering a wide spectrum of services for our charges, embracing the latest digital technologies is paramount. AI must be harnessed to integrate the vast volumes of digital diagnostic data that we generate. Competent integration of the volumes of medical data can allow us to identify early disease trends before severe symptoms manifest and allow AI to offer the veterinary health care professional the top three likely differential diagnoses and the most effective diagnostic methodologies. By streamlining diagnosis, we can enhance access to care and make it more affordable for everyone.

Integrating medical intuition with digital computational advancements positions veterinarians at the forefront of several high-tech fields, including AI, quantum technologies, space technologies, and veterinary and human health care advancements. This synergy benefits our profession and propels innovation across various sectors, ultimately leading to improved health outcomes for animals and humans. Embracing these technological advancements is not just a necessity but an opportunity for veterinary medicine to thrive and lead in the rapidly evolving landscape of health care and technology.

Q. Is there anything else you want to share?

A. I am running for AVMA president-elect with a dedicated commitment to serving our profession. My vision includes opening doors to all members, modernizing veterinary education, and ensuring the seamless integration of technology, including artificial intelligence. By embracing these advancements, we can enhance our capacity to serve pets, ensure food security, advance One Health public service initiatives, and even contribute to space exploration endeavors. While I recognize that I cannot achieve these goals alone, I am committed to proactively fostering diversity within our teams and empowering leaders to ‘Do, Teach, and Dream.’ Innovation will naturally thrive in the veterinary ecosystem through a diverse and inclusive teamwork approach.

A version of this story appears in the June 2024 print issue of JAVMA