AVMA Leadership Conference Review

AVMA Leadership Conference Review

Submitted by Dr. Matthew Weeman, Centreville, MD

In January, I was honored to be invited to attend the annual AVMA Leadership Conference as the emerging leader of our Maryland Veterinary Medical Association. Fortunately, the hundreds of attendees were greeted by unseasonably warm Chicago temperatures but the windy city did stay true to her name for most of our visit.

This year’s conference included numerous discussions and the keynote introduction focused on re-assessing corporate structures to better meet the needs of employees. The challenge of the session was to encourage key institutional decision makers to not only empower, but actually challenge employees to be more efficient, self-sufficient and self-motivated. The overarching theory was to ensure the team remains passionate, engaged and innovative to improve patient care, client satisfaction and organizational success. Following the insightful discussion the session entered full swing.

I was able to attend numerous discussions focused on encouraging veterinarians in all career stages to be good stewards of not only our personal businesses but also the profession as a whole. I particularly enjoyed the topics focused on veterinary well-being/dealing with unruly humans and political engagement. Anyone who is able to attend a seminar with Dr. Sarah Wooten is sure to be impressed, having years of experience with exactly the same issues we all encounter every day she manages to take what can be a mundane topic and compress it into a fun, interactive discussion to demonstrate the skillsets she hopes for the attendees to acquire.

A veterinary leadership conference today would be lagging without a discussion surrounding veterinary economics. I was surprised at the very simplistic recommendations made in regards to addressing student debt. After 20 years of discussion I expect more from the leadership of our profession on one of the most important problems impacting our profession today. It is clear that we need more young veterinarians and students to step into the fold and be willing to share the real-world impact of student debt. The MDVMA in particular wants to do all we can to help these students and the first step for them to take is to get engaged with the MDVMA. Students and veterinarians who don’t feel secure sharing their stories about debt, or perhaps are afraid to do so should know they have a home here in Maryland at their veterinary medical association.

On the notes of political engagement I would encourage all veterinarians to reflect on some of the key take home points. It is critical in states like Maryland that our veterinary professionals stay informed of the state legislature and take action to support the profession. Maintaining contact with elected officials within each local district is critical to the success of our veterinary lobbying efforts like those that made compounded prescriptions more accessible to hospitals in Maryland. Also to the efforts of those combating the so-called “Fairness to Pet Owners Act” in Washington. All politics is local. One common misconception is that veterinary practitioners feel they can’t contribute to discussions regarding legislative matters that don’t pertain to the species they treat. This simply isn’t true. It is critical for small animal practitioners to recognize the seamless interconnect that exists between legislation that targets large animal and production medicine and legislation that will later affect the function of the everyday practice in our state.

This year the House of Delegates had robust conversation as they worked to revamp the AVMA guidelines pertaining to declaw which is a topic of particular importance within our state currently as we grapple with legislation that may make the practice illegal in our state. While this is not the time for me to share perspective on the various positions it is an opportunity to highlight how the large animal representatives stepped up to help provide guidance on the issue. The cow vets among us aren’t performing many declaws but the American Association of Bovine Practitioners (AABP) was instrumental in providing perspective to the discussion. The AVMA House of Delegates represents a very diverse group of individuals who had a number of concerns regarding the wording of the declaw recommendations. For perspective, The AABP, which finds itself continually responding to consumer and activist driven inquiries provided some insight. Ultimately, the point to make is while bovine practitioners aren’t performing declaws they are becoming adept at navigating policies that meet the demands of the public. Small animal veterinarians will do well to lean on the learned perspective of large animal veterinarians as the landscape of animal welfare unfolds. Likewise, small animal veterinarians need to be willing to step up to the plate and support large animal veterinarians as they ward off legislative attacks. We are one profession and should rely on the inter-species expertise of one another as THE collective body of animal welfare expertise.

I encourage other aspiring veterinarians to get involved with the MDVMA and to consider applying to attend the AVMA Leadership Conference in 2021. Until next time, may you stay warm and find utmost contentment in your art of practice and leadership, whatever, or wherever that may be.



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