AVMA Board Looks to Future of Communications

The AVMA’s electronic communications, the quality of veterinary internships, and a new specialty in amphibian and reptile practice were among the subjects of the June 4-6 Executive Board meeting.

The meeting encompassed strategy and governance discussions as well as numerous actions to advance the Association and the profession.

The agenda included few big-ticket items. At the time of the meeting, the AVMA projected a deficit exceeding $2.3 million for 2009, said Treasurer Dr. Bret D. Marsh. Journal advertising continues to be down, Dr. Marsh said, although membership renewals and convention registration have been strong. The AVMA saw a respectable 7 percent return on investments from January to the end of May.

Because of budgetary constraints, the board did not hold its June meeting in Las Vegas as it had planned. The board had intended to visit the new testing center there for the Educational Commission for Foreign Veterinary Graduates certification program.

AVMA’s Web site up for a redesign

If all goes according to plan, the AVMA will show a new face to the public and members—online, that is.

The board directed AVMA staff to develop a business plan for redevelopment of the AVMA Web site, www.avma.org. The current site, while replete with content, can be difficult to navigate, according to member feedback. Making the site more interactive is also part of the redevelopment initiative.

J.B. Hancock, director of the AVMA Communications Division, said the last major updates to the site—restructuring the home page, changes to the site’s organization, and a new search software program—took place in 2005. She noted that subsequent, smaller updates have been implemented consistently since then.

Dr. Douglas G. Aspros, District I board member, said he didn’t want to wait another five years for an update to the Association’s site.

Dr. Theodore J. Cohn, District IX board member, said revamping the site would also be a good way to connect with new members who are “keyed in more with electronic communications.”

Initially, the board approved the AVMA Council on Communications’ recommendation to revamp the Web site and spend up to $180,000 to do so. Later, members reconsidered that action and approved an amended recommendation that nixed the specified amount and, instead, called for the development of a business plan before spending any money.

Following the meeting, board Chair David L. McCrystle said the idea behind the board’s reconsideration was that it wanted a request for proposals.

“Basically, we were concerned that the number was picked out of the air,” Dr. McCrystle said.

He continued, “I think there are a couple of important things to note. First, the board unanimously agreed the Web site needs an update. Second, that’s a major project, and we’re in a tight fiscal world right now. We wanted more accurate information before proceeding.”

In another action relevant to electronic communications, the board reaffirmed its commitment to AVMA online discussion groups, on recommendation of the Member Services Committee.

The current discussion groups, the Network of Animal Health, date back to 1998. The Communications Division has been working to rebrand and reinvigorate NOAH.

Dr. Cohn said NOAH could be a driver for the AVMA Web site and a method for increasing communication between AVMA leaders and members. He said, “It’s a way of reaching our members at the grassroots level—and for them to reach us.”

Barbara Baldwin, an assistant director of the Membership and Field Services Division, said NOAH might morph into newer forms of online communication.

Member Services Committee

The Member Services Committee also received board approval for recommendations relevant to diversity, veterinary students, wellness, and member dues.

The board approved $5,000 in funding for a pilot program to increase diversity among recent graduates attending the AVMA Veterinary Leadership Conference in January 2010. The funds will help cover the cost of attendance for five emerging leaders from backgrounds underrepresented in veterinary medicine.

The pilot program builds on an existing AVMA program to provide veterinarians who have graduated within the past seven years with an opportunity to attend the annual leadership conference. Dr. Larry M. Kornegay, District VIII board member, said the new pilot program is a cost-effective step to promote diversity.

The committee also received approval for revisions to its description and charge, mostly to emphasize its advocacy for veterinary students. The other objectives of the MSC are promoting AVMA membership, considering and making recommendations on membership matters, reviewing membership policies, increasing diversity and mentorship in the profession, and promoting wellness.

The board reaffirmed the AVMA Model Program for Wellness and the AVMA Guiding Principles for State Veterinary Wellness Programs. These documents describe programs to address impairment of veterinary professionals due to chemical addictions or other health issues.

The board also approved creating parity in the dues of associate members, a category for veterinarians who are legal residents of a country other than the United States, to match the dues paid by voting members. Voting and associate members have the same access to AVMA benefits and activities other than the right to vote, hold office, or serve on the board or House of Delegates—and the Association incurs additional costs to provide services to members living outside the U.S.

Task Force on Veterinary Internships

The AVMA will take the lead on a new Task Force on Veterinary Internships. The board approved spending $8,800 on the task force, on recommendation of the joint committee of the AVMA and Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges.

The objective of the task force is to review the status and overall quality of veterinary internships, which are currently not subject to oversight. The American Academy of Veterinary Clinicians operates the Veterinary Internship and Residency Matching Program to assist new graduates in finding positions, but the matching program does not regulate participants or cover all internships.

Dr. Gregory S. Hammer, AVMA immediate past president, noted that about 40 percent of new graduates are going into internships. He believes that some internships have less substance than they should—and that the situation won’t improve on its own.

In the background to the recommendation to form a task force, the AVMA/AAVMC Joint Committee stated: “It is clear that many excellent internships are available; however, the number of complaints suggest that too many new graduates, already saddled with high student debt, participate in substandard internships that provide low wages and little educational value.”

Representatives of the AAVMC and AAVC held a half-day meeting in February, in conjunction with the regular meeting of the American Board of Veterinary Specialties, to discuss the future of internship and residency programs as well as the shortage of veterinary specialists in academia. The AVMA/AAVMC Joint Committee believes that the AVMA can bring stakeholders together to assess the internship situation fully and develop appropriate quality-assurance measures.

The Task Force on Veterinary Internships will include four representatives from the AVMA and two each from the AAVMC and AAVC. Each organization will pay travel expenses for its representatives, and the AVMA will host the meetings.

New specialty created

Reptile and Amphibian Practice has become the newest veterinary specialty. On recommendation of the Council on Education, and after review by the American Board of Veterinary Specialties, the board granted provisional recognition to the specialty, which has formed under the auspices of the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners.

In 2006, the Association of Reptile and Amphibian Veterinarians first petitioned the ABVP, an AVMA-recognized veterinary specialty organization since 1978, to begin the process toward recognition of a reptile and amphibian specialty. Then in 2007 it submitted a formal petition for recognition of the specialty to the ABVS Committee on the Development of New Specialties.

After allowing for a year of public comment during which three comments were received, and an in-depth review by a two-member ABVS subcommittee, the committee again reviewed the petition and forwarded it and the reviewers’ report to the full ABVS. The specialty’s petition complied with the ABVS policies and procedures governing recognition of new specialties, and the proposed new specialty’s organizing committee made its case for the establishment of the new specialty. In late February, the ABVS recommended that the Reptile and Amphibian Practice be granted provisional recognition under the ABVP; the Executive Board’s action finalized the move.

Like all specialties within the ABVP, the new specialty will require postgraduate training, education, and experience for candidates to become credentialed to sit for the certifying examination.

The specialty in reptile and amphibian practice was developed in a manner similar to the existing eight veterinary specialties under the ABVP umbrella, and will be represented on the board of regents of the ABVP. Provisional recognition can continue on the basis of ABVS review and approval of annual reports for no less than four and no more than 10 years. To move to full recognition, the specialty must submit a second petition for review by the ABVS during that time.

According to the Reptile and Amphibian Practice petition, more than 175 current members of the ARAV would pursue board certification once the new specialty is recognized. The association has nearly 1,000 members, according to its Web site, www.avma.org.

Board members also approved changes to the ABVS policies and procedures manual recommended at the organization’s February 2008 meeting. Most revisions clarified existing language; however, two revisions affect the application process for proposed specialties.

The first change is recommended so that the ABVS is assured that a proposed new veterinary specialty or subspecialty will have the support of the parent recognized veterinary specialty organization or recognized veterinary specialty. The second change is to provide clarification on the procedures that will occur after a proposed new veterinary specialty organization, veterinary specialty, or veterinary subspecialty submits a petition for provisional recognition to the ABVS Committee on the Development of New Specialties. The complete ABVS policies and procedures manual is available at www.avma.org/education/abvs/default.asp.


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