January 19, 2011
AVMA seeks members’ opinions on ‘critical initiatives’
Critic says it is a start, but more conversation needed
By: Stephen W. Spero
For The VIN News Service
At the same time veterinarians criticized the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) for rarely consulting its members and operating with little transparency, the group sent nearly 60,000 e-mails to its general membership, seeking input on key issues destined to impact the profession.
The AVMA wants its members to weigh in on three topics: planned changes to the AVMA Model Veterinary Practice Act; a draft set of strategic goals for the association; and proposals issued by the North American Veterinary Medical Education Consortium — a group convened to steer the future course of U.S. veterinary education.
Responses will be reviewed by various AVMA task forces.
The AVMA's move to poll its members runs contrary to widespread notions that the nation's largest trade group for veterinarians operates in a vacuum, out of touch with the needs and concerns of its 81,500-plus members.
Such criticisms were raised by AVMA members earlier this month when the association's House of Delegates rejected a bid to add transparency to its governing processes. Complaints also surfaced when the Veterinarian's Oath recently was amended without broader discussion.
AVMA members have aired their grievances repeatedly on the Veterinary Information Network (VIN), an online community and forum for the profession. A survey conducted last year by VIN showed that most of the 2,934 veterinarians who responded believed the AVMA was not in tune with the needs of its members. Many rated the AVMA poorly in terms of communication.
With the AVMA's latest attempt to reach out to 59,823 members via e-mail, just 54,656 were transmitted successfully. Sharon Granskog, AVMA assistant director of media relations, said that the entire membership body was not sent the e-mail because some have not notified the AVMA that they'd like to receive such communications.
Granskog suggested that the mass e-mailing was not a direct response to criticisms that the organization doesn't consult its members frequently enough, noting that the AVMA often surveys its members in a variety of ways. “The AVMA solicits input from our members on a regular basis though not always in a blast e-mail fashion,” she wrote in an e-mail to the VIN News Service. “This is truly something that is done on a daily basis.
“... The AVMA does conduct Member Needs Assessment Surveys on a regular basis," she added. "Those surveys are scientific surveys soliciting input from a cross section of members, and they include the use of focus groups.”
Despite the AVMA's outreach efforts, veterinarians like Dr. Frederick Baum, president of the Vermont Veterinary Medical Association and director of Arlington Animal Hospital, isn't full of praise for the national association — yet. It's a good start, he said, but topics in the AVMA's recent e-mail blast were too specific.
“The larger majority of AVMA members would be better served by broader polls, surveys and avenues of communication addressing the organization as a whole,” Baum wrote in an e-mail to the VIN News Service. If the AVMA is to advocate for its members, he stated, it must first learn what the members want and need.
“Customer satisfaction surveys, focal market or niche surveys, spontaneous issue polls and town hall-style forums would allow the membership to communicate their concerns, opinions, interests and expectations about and for the AVMA that don't exist now,” he wrote.
Baum attended the AVMA's annual Veterinary Leadership Conference earlier this month in Chicago, where the association's House of Delegates defeated a resolution that sought to air the voting record of individual delegates within the Members Only section of the AVMA website. During debate at the meeting, delegates who favored the resolution made repeated references to a communications gap between the association's leadership and its general membership body.
“Closing this gap will require active communication between the membership and the organization on a broader level,” Baum wrote.
Contrary to that assessment, Granskog believes that the AVMA actively tries to determine what’s on its members’ minds. The AVMA does this, she said, via focus groups and surveys that are provided to the councils, committees and task forces that are at the ground level of developing new policies and driving the national association.
“The AVMA is truly a member-driven organization," she wrote, referencing the ability to weigh in on topics featured on the association's blog AVMA@Work. "We reach out continually to receive input from veterinarians in every aspect of veterinary medicine."
AVMA members who are not on the association's e-mail list can update their user information to receive correspondence at www.avma.org. Members are advised to check their e-mail settings to ensure that messages from the AVMA are not caught by spam filters; material is sent from the domain name "avmanet.org" and the IP address 126.96.36.199.
VIN News Service commentaries are opinion pieces presenting insights, personal experiences and/or perspectives on topical issues by members of the veterinary community. To submit a commentary for consideration, email email@example.com.
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