Education and Entertainment Abounds at 2001 North American Veterinary Conference

By Julie Lux, editor, goodnewsforpets.com

Nearly 14,000 veterinarians, technicians, practice managers,students, exhibitors and guests representing more than 50 countries attended the 18th annual North American Veterinary Conference (NAVC), January 13-17, 2001 in Orlando, Fla.

The conference staff, led by program coordinator, Dr. Colin Burrows, chair of the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences and Chief of Staff of the Medical Teaching Hospital at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, and 2001 NAVC President, Betsy T. Sigmon, DVM, announced some new changes for the future NAVC events. In January 2003, the exhibit hall will move to the then-newly-completed Opryland Florida hotel. The new space will have room for 1,000 10 X 10 booths allowing the conference to accommodate the nearly 200 exhibitors currently on its waiting list. All labs will move the Caribe hotel and scientific sessions and social events will be split between the Opryland and Marriott Orlando World Center facilities.

Monday’s announcement of the acquisition of Ralston Purina by the world’s largest human-food company, Nestle, spread throughout the conference site and exhibit floor. With the purchase, Nestle,which currently owns the Friskies brand, is estimated to move ahead of the Mars company as the world’s largest producer of dog food products. According to Forbes.com, analysts think dog and cat foods are two of the highest growth areas in the edibles industry. “While (humans) tend to be time-starved, cook less than ever and are heading for the ubiquitous drive-through window. . . animals still eat at home,” the article stated.

The primary focus of the conference is on education and NAVC 2001 offered more 300 speakers at sessions, laboratories, workshops ,and behind the scenes tours which this year included Ringling Bros.and Barnum & Bailey Center for Elephant Conservation, Epcot Center’s Living Seas at Walt Disney World and the Manatee Encounter and Homossassa Springs State Wildlife Park. The 2001 conference also included the addition of 40 interactive wet labs with advanced technology, including head-mounted cameras so participants could see the most detailed procedures clearly. The conference also introduced two new program tracks: “Standards of Care” focusing on benchmarks for specific diseases and “What I Wish They’d Taught Me In Vet School,” focusing on business-related areas of the profession including financial management, practice promotion and communication skills.

Technology continues to be a hot topic among veterinarians as computers and telemedicine become more standard in practices. Discussion on what these advances will mean to the way veterinarians will practice in the future was heard in a number of sessions. The impact of new vaccination protocols continued to be a topic of discussion along with the importance and role of the support staff in successful practices.

Along with the learning, plenty of opportunity was scheduled for leisure activities. Attendees were lined up outside the Marriott Grand Ballroom more than forty-five minutes before the start of the opening ceremonies on Saturday evening. Co-sponsored by Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Inc. and the NAVC, the program stated off with music from the University of Florida Chamber Band followed by the presentation of the Mark L. Morris, Sr. Lifetime Achievement Award to Jacob E. Mosier, DVM, M.S., professor emeritus at Kansas State University (KSU) for his significant contribution to the welfare of companion animals. Recovering from recent medical treatment, Dr. Mosier was unable to travel to Florida for the ceremony. Ralph C.Richardson, DVM, Ph.D., dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine at KSU picked up the award and read a statement from Dr. Mosier.

“Mark Morris was one of the most outstanding leaders in veterinary medicine,” Dr. Mosier wrote. “He and Mrs. Morris dedicated their professional lives to the cause of animal health …Would you convey my great appreciation and thanks to the sponsors of the award, to my colleagues responsible for the nomination and to those that so eloquently supported my nomination? It is a very special honor … My heartfelt thanks to you all.”

Hill’s also made a $20,000 donation to the Morris Animal Foundation in Dr. Mosier’s name. Mark L. Morris, Jr., DVM, Ph.D.,accepted the check for the foundation. Following the award ceremony, the capacity crowd was entertained by comedian Sinbad who regaled the audience with his experiences with his own animals and by responding to questions from the audience. Originally scheduled to perform for 45 minutes, the comedian’s routine lasted nearly 90 minutes. The show was followed by an opening reception sponsored by Novartis where attendees were “treated like stars” at an Academy Award-themed reception

Sunday’s main events included a salute to veterinary technicians, “The Most Undervalued, Under Appreciated, Underutilized Asset in Veterinary Medicine … YOU!” sponsored by Hill’s Pet Nutrition. Waltham sponsored an address by Dr. John Paling, an internationally known wildlife photographer whose credits include Emmy award winning programs for PBS, Nova and the National Geographic Society. “Pet detective” Kat Albrecht shared her experiences “From Armed Robbers to Airedales, My Journey from Cop to Pet Detective.” Magic took over center stage Sunday night with Bayer’s presentation of acrobatic magician, Michael McPherson.

Veterinarians are invited to return to Orlando, June 4-9, 2001 when the NAVC will present the first North American Veterinary Institute for Post Graduate Education (NAVPGI). The five day continuing education program is limited to 30 registrants and will present courses on Gastroenterology, Dermatology, Opthalmology and Orthopedics. Acceptance into the program includes an open book screening pretest and a final examination. For more on NAVPGI, call the NAVC office (352) 375-5672. The dates for next year’s Orlando conference are January 12-16, 2002.

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