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AVMA town hall meeting skims tough issues facing profession

Low turnout addressed

July 12, 2009
By Jennifer Fiala

Most of the chairs sat empty during the American Veterinary Medical Association’s (AVMA) first annual town hall meeting, and much of the initial talk seemed rehearsed, coming from a select group of elected representatives.


Early and possibly planned exchanges between the audience and AVMA leaders focused on the need to increase ethnic and racial diversity within the profession and an update on the National Veterinary Medical Services Act. The group’s stance on horse slaughter legislation and a new position paper on the disposal of hazardous waste in practices also drove conversation.


But in the end, the few veterinarians who attended yesterday’s gathering during the AVMA’s annual convention in Seattle, touched on some looming issues facing the profession: student indebtedness, the lacking regulation of “slave labor” internships and the group’s “scratchy” relationship with various humane and animal rights organizations.


One audience member stood up and lamented about the disconnect between general practitioners and specialists, as well as the propensity for veterinary teaching hospitals, acting as tertiary care facilities, to drop the ball on teaching students procedures that are most applicable to daily general practice.


“We need in our profession to have a training program to produce a general practitioner to do the procedures that are going to allow them to make a living,” he said. “A lot of specialists I’ve worked with don’t have general practice skills either, and they don’t understand the environment we work in. ... They have limited exposure to the routine day-to-day practice.”


Drs. Ron DeHaven, AVMA’s chief executive office, and Marguerite Pappaioanou, head of the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, talked about the North American Veterinary Medical Education Consortium (NAVMEC), launched this year to chart a new course for veterinary medical education.


The discussions will be aimed at taking a hard look at current educational models to explore complex issues such as limited licensure, lowering educational costs and the tracking of veterinary medical education.


“There are a number of veterinary college deans who want to make changes, but they don’t want to move if it might jeopardize their accreditation or the licensure of their graduates,” DeHaven said.


“We should’ve been making these changes 10 to 20 years ago,” he added


DeHaven said he hopes next year’s forum in Atlanta will draw a larger audience and blamed this year’s slim turnout on inadequate advertising for the program and impromptu schedule changes.


Of the meeting, he said: “The message we want to get across is that AVMA is far more than just two journals and a convention. In fact, we are working on behalf of the profession.”

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

Information and opinions expressed in letters to the editor are those of the author and are independent of the VIN News Service. Letters may be edited for style. We do not verify their content for accuracy.


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