Q&A: Goldman wants to help veterinarians rediscover their passion for the profession

Outgoing AVMA treasurer makes his final pitch ahead of summer election for AVMA president-elect

This July in Denver, the AVMA House of Delegates (HOD) will elect the 2023-24 AVMA president-elect from among three candidates: Dr. Sandra Faeh Butler, 2020-22 AVMA vice president; Dr. Arnold L. Goldman, 2017-23 AVMA treasurer; and Dr. Robert Murtaugh, a former chair of the AVMA American Board of Veterinary Specialties.

In the following interview, Dr. Goldman explains why he’s running for AVMA president and what makes him the best person for the office. The following responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Dr. GoldmanDr. Arnold L. Goldman

Q. If elected, how do you envision your time as AVMA president?

A. The president serves as the AVMA’s ambassador, cheerleader, spokesperson, and chief communicator on behalf of our members, to audiences both inside and outside the profession. Because the AVMA’s fundamental purpose is to serve its members, its president actively interacts with them in diverse settings, including professional meetings, through written and spoken communications, and in the veterinary and lay media. When the AVMA is tasked with representing the entire profession, and in particular, when advocating to government entities, that chief communicator’s role takes on even greater importance. Given that understanding, in performing the duties inherent to the role, I would expect to serve as an accessible conduit for the membership, hearing their concerns and raising them with the Board of Directors and AVMA staff members, delivering accurate and understandable information to AVMA members about all manner of AVMA’s activities, and in every setting, seeking to elevate the substance and image of the AVMA and our profession.

Q. What makes you the best candidate for the position?

A. At this time in our Association and our profession, it’s essential that we recall and emphasize the joy and wonder that originally brought each of us to veterinary medicine. While I don’t want to minimize our challenges—whether debt, inclusion, technician utilization, wellness, workforce or workplace culture—I think it’s essential that we stay optimistic for their eventual resolution and for our profession as a whole. This profession, which we felt the calling to join, remains highly valued by society and offers deep fulfillment through serving purposes greater than just ourselves. Our profession deserves a communicator who can talk about these things, and no one is better placed to do so than the AVMA president. My campaign is based on reminding our members why we became veterinarians, the value of organized veterinary medicine, and the intrinsic values of our profession, as embodied in the Veterinarian’s Oath. My experiences in practice, business, community service, public health, and organized veterinary medicine are broad and diverse, and have given me the perspective to relate to the many niches within veterinary medicine. My ability to communicate effectively—as demonstrated during my six years as treasurer and seven as a delegate in the HOD—and my breadth and depth of knowledge of the AVMA’s activities make me an excellent choice at a time when we need to remind ourselves and others why we became veterinarians, and why veterinary medicine is so important and remains so highly valued.

Q. What are the most immediate challenges facing the veterinary profession, and how can the AVMA address them?

A. As I noted previously, our most pressing challenges include debt, inclusion, technician utilization, wellness, workforce, and workplace culture. The AVMA is already doing much of the work necessary to understand and address most of these issues and will continue doing what it does best: bringing together data and subject matter expertise to quantitatively and objectively evaluate and analyze each issue. Properly addressing them will take time, however, as we must first develop accurate data with which to draw correct conclusions. Truly addressing inclusion, for example, requires engaging and exciting elementary, middle, and high school students of all backgrounds about veterinary medicine. Yet, that will likely take a decade or more for these students to start joining us as colleagues. Further, our workforce and utilization challenges are also complex issues. The AVMA is currently accumulating the data and the broad coalitions necessary to holistically address every segment’s needs. As AVMA’s chief communicator, I will listen to our member’s concerns and communicate all our efforts, ensuring our members know the AVMA has their back.

What’s your perspective on wellbeing for the profession and how do you model wellbeing as a veterinary professional?

A. The AVMA is doing a lot to help our colleagues better understand their own needs and others in their sphere. Programming directed toward emotional, financial, and professional confidence have been implemented as well as education on crisis awareness and self care.

As a first-generation veterinarian, my personal expectations for a career in veterinary medicine were that if I worked hard, I could gain not only in tangible reward, but also in personal and professional satisfaction. Our profession is rich with opportunities for intangible rewards, yet if we regard it mainly as a transactional endeavor, we miss the greater part of what it can offer. Of course, we all want fair remuneration for our sacrifice of time and effort in our professional education, but there is something more to be had, too, in serving a purpose greater than ourselves, and as our Oath reminds us in its admonition to serve society.

Veterinary medicine offered me the opportunity to control my destiny as a professional and a practice owner, to play a part in the life of my community and my state, to have and raise a family, to own a home, to make a difference, and to know that I’ve helped countless animals have healthier and longer lives.

Veterinary medicine is the vehicle that allowed for all of that. Another way to characterize all this is wellbeing.

Q. Talk about the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the profession and examples of how you have fostered DEI in your leadership career?

A. It’s essential that our profession reflect society as well as be welcoming to colleagues from all backgrounds. Meaningful steps have been made to begin what will surely be a generation-long process of transformation. It begins with engaging young people across society by exposing them to veterinary medicine and veterinarians. The “Vet for a Day” program during the 2022 AVMA Convention at Walter B. Saul High School in Philadelphia is a great example. I participated in that and have been involved in two other initiatives in my home state of Connecticut.

The first initiative happened when the director of the local Horizons National program, an enrichment program for underprivileged students, spoke to my Rotary Club about the benefit to her students of exposure to varied professions She requested our club’s members speak to their classes. The opportunity seemed perfect for me to do something on a personal level, so I met with her and explained all that is being done in our profession now to engage and include people from diverse backgrounds. It became apparent that the potential for veterinarians to participate was far greater than me alone, so I reached out to our Connecticut delegate, Dr. Andrea Dennis-Lavigne, who also chairs the Connecticut VMA's Leadership, Diversity, & Opportunity Committee and is a trustee of the University of Connecticut. Together, we met with the local Horizons director. Dr. Dennis’ leveraged her relationship with the university to create an on-campus Veterinary Day for several dozen diverse middle school students. The result was a truly inspirational experience, in which several other Connecticut VMA members participated. There are also plans to repeat the program in the future.

Second, "Brave Enough to Fail" is another Connecticut-based school enrichment program founded by a community leader I know from my civic activities. He sought professionals to speak to urban middle schoolers in their program and answer their questions about their profession and life. The students were very bright and interested in all I had to say, and at least one was already aware of and interested in veterinary medicine. Perhaps if each of us were to say, "All it takes is one" and engage with just one motivated student, we could accelerate the change we seek.

A version of this article appears in the June 2023 print issue of JAVMA.