Veterinary leaders to take up license portability at meeting

Emergency care also an issue as the AVMA House of Delegates convenes next week

July 20, 2022 (published)
Photos courtesy of the AVMA
Drs. Rena Carlson (left) and Grace Bransford are vying for the American Veterinary Medical Association presidency.

Concerns about the ability of veterinarians to easily practice from state to state, as well as the profession's responsibility to provide emergency care during personnel shortages, top the agenda of the American Veterinary Medical Association House of Delegates meeting next week in Philadelphia.

The policymaking group of the AVMA will also select a president-elect for 2022-23, choosing between two candidates.

Much of the talk in the House is likely to concern proposed changes to two foundational documents: the Model Veterinary Practice Act and Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics.

In May, delegates polled a portion of the association's 100,000-plus members by email on how the documents might be amended to better reflect workforce concerns that have plagued the profession since the start of the pandemic in 2020. The AVMA received hundreds of responses. 

The issue of license portability is one that delegates asked the AVMA Board of Directors to consider in January, when the group expressed discontent over the hodgepodge of state licensing requirements. (Delegates, who represent states, territories and allied veterinary groups, meet twice a year.)

State regulatory boards that govern the profession each have their own system and timeline for processing applications for licenses. Some require additional testing and an in-person appearance before regulators, making it hard for veterinarians to quickly respond to emergencies and disasters or help fill workforce shortages in other parts of the country.

Prospective changes to the Model Veterinary Practice Act could help change that. While AVMA policies have no regulatory teeth, government agencies often use them as a guide. Delegates will discuss whether to add language to the model act that supports license portability. In a separate but related licensing issue, delegates also will consider wording changes that provide greater detail about the roles of technicians and assistants, so that such members of the veterinary team are consistently credentialed across state lines and their skills are better used. 

Efforts to revise the AVMA's ethics principles also acknowledges workforce stressors.

The Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics state that in emergencies, veterinarians have an "ethical responsibility to provide essential services" to animals in need of life-saving care or relief from suffering. The principles also assert that when veterinarians can't help, they "should provide readily accessible information" to owners about where to find emergency services. 

That responsibility might be impractical for veterinarians in areas where high demand for care results in a workforce shortage, and emergency clinics are too busy, or few exist. Delegates plan to consider changing the language, in part to protect veterinarians inclined to respond to emergency calls without the help of support staff, thereby putting themselves at risk of injury. 

Other business

Delegates also will consider:

  • a new policy on the use of prescription drugs in veterinary medicine proposed by the Council on Biologic and Therapeutic Agents (COBTA) that combines and updates AVMA guidance on prescription drugs, writing veterinary prescriptions and client requests for prescriptions
  • a new policy on adverse events reporting, also by COBTA, that addresses both pharmaceuticals and vaccines by combining separate existing policies for each product category. The new version includes language that encourages veterinarians to make reporting adverse events to federal regulators a high priority.
  • a revised policy on genetic modification of animals in agriculture authored by the Animal Agriculture Liaison Committee that asserts that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is the "lead agency for the health of all farm-raised animals under the Animal Health Protection Act of 2022." In addition, the AVMA believes that USDA should have "primary responsibility in matters of genetic modification of farm-raised animals to facilitate innovation, foster commercialization, and manage health and welfare from a One Health standpoint." 
  • a revised policy on the approval and availability of antimicrobials for use in food-producing animals proposed by the Committee on Antimicrobials. Revisions include changes to encompass medically important injectable antimicrobials; language to protect the ability of individual veterinarians to prescribe antimicrobials as pressure mounts to restrict veterinary use; language to emphasize the importance of stakeholder engagement, which the AVMA says appears to be absent in some recent FDA draft guidance documents; and language to stress the importance of focusing on risk-based, rather than precautionary, policymaking. 
  • a revised policy on raw milk authored by the Food Safety Advisory Committee that amends a previous version for clarity and accuracy by emphasizing that there are multiple sources of contaminants in raw milk, not only from the animals providing the milk, and emphasizes that pathogens can be difficult to detect. The AVMA opposes the direct sale or distribution of unpasteurized milk or other unpasteurized dairy products.

Appointments and elections

Dr. Lori Teller will take the helm as AVMA president. Her one-year term, which begins during the meeting, follows that of Dr. José Arce of San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Teller is a graduate of Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, where she is a clinical associate professor of telehealth. She was a founding board member of the Women's Veterinary Leadership Development Initiative, dedicated to helping develop female leaders in veterinary medicine, and most recently served as chair of the AVMA Board of Directors.

Two candidates are running for 2022-23 AVMA president-elect: Drs. Grace Bransford, former AVMA vice president, and Rena Carlson, former chair of the AVMA Board of Directors. The election will take place on July 29, as the meeting ends. 

Veterinary medicine is a second career for Bransford, who sold her small animal hospital in San Anselmo, California, and now does relief work in the area. She entered the University of California, Davis School of Veterinary Medicine at age 34, having worked for a decade in marketing and advertising. After graduating in 1998, she spent three years as an associate before buying her own practice.

Carlson, who's had a presence in organized veterinary medicine for two decades, is a 1989 graduate of Washington State University and co-owns a mixed-animal practice in Pocatello, Idaho. Her family owns a cattle ranch. 

Dr. Jennifer Quammen, a private practitioner in Kentucky, is running uncontested for AVMA vice president.

In addition, AVMA officials are expected to introduce Latonia Craig, who will become the association's first-ever chief officer of diversity, equity and inclusion in September. Craig comes from the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine, where she worked as assistant dean for inclusive excellence.

Her role at the AVMA will be to help advance the association's commitment to creating diverse, equitable and inclusive work and educational environments in veterinary medicine.

There's no word yet on whether a new director has been hired to run the AVMA Economics Division, a post that's been vacant since March. After four years working as a chief economist with the AVMA, Matthew Salois resigned to become president of Veterinary Management Groups, an association for hospital owners.

Update: Delegates passed all resolutions. Dr. Rena Carlson won the race for 2022-23 AVMA president-elect. Drs. Sandra Faeh Butler, Arnold Goldman and Robert Murtaugh have launched campaigns for 2023-24 AVMA president-elect.

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