Says collaboration and technological innovation are key to profession’s growth
Interview by R. Scott Nolen
Published: 12 August 2022
When the members of the AVMA House of Delegates convened in Philadelphia this summer during its regular annual session, they elected Dr. Jennifer Quammen as the 2022-24 AVMA vice president.
Dr. Quammen, co-founder of a veterinarian coaching business, was the sole candidate for the office, which is responsible for building stronger ties between the AVMA and veterinary college deans and faculty as well as veterinary student leadership.
The 2011 veterinary graduate of The Ohio State University spoke with AVMA News about her reasons for running for the AVMA vice presidency and what she hopes to achieve during her two-year tenure. The responses have been edited for length and clarity.
Q: Why did you run for AVMA vice president?
A: First, I want to be a thought leader for the veterinary profession and the AVMA. My work affords me the opportunity to talk with veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and veterinary students from many backgrounds, practices, and sectors of the animal health industries. I want to bring their stories, feedback, and opportunities back to the AVMA Board of Directors. Our Association needs to be open to feedback—positive and negative. Listening to dissenting opinions is not only necessary but also crucial to the vitality and health of our Association.
Second is influence. No doubt ego drives us all in some capacity, and I want to influence the next generation of veterinarians. We are a highly educated profession, and I want us to put that training to use to make sure we are educating tomorrow’s workforce in an effective and efficient way. Hearing the voice of the faculty and students of today will help us to continue to grow and evolve as a profession and as an association.
Third, opportunity. To qualify to run as a candidate for vice president, among other credentials, one has to be an AVMA member for 10 years or more. 2021 was the first time I was a qualified candidate, so I put my name into the hat—or perhaps into the Goblet of Fire. (In the Harry Potter novels, the Goblet of Fire chose from names dropped into it who would compete in the Triwizard Tournament.)
Q: What skills and qualifications do you bring to the office?
A: I have years of experience working with a variety of teams in a range of diverse settings. I am enthusiastic, have a clear vision of team engagement, and have a desire to see our profession continue to grow. I have an influencing style of leadership and get projects moving while building partnership and collaboration within the team. My top strengths, according to an assessment, are activator, learner, belief, achiever, and consistency.
My soft skills are what set me apart, and I have honed those best through action. I pride myself in my ability to understand, relate to, and interact with people from many walks of life. I can effortlessly discuss complex medical conditions with laypersons or field specialists. I have trained, coached, and facilitated emotional intelligence for many years, both in formal and informal ways. I have experience in co-developing leadership programs in other organizations, including the Power of Ten leadership program for the Kentucky VMA. I have also participated in several personal development programs for my own growth and encourage others to do the same.
Q: What do you see as the greatest opportunities and challenges facing veterinary education?
A: This is the big question, isn’t it? There are many issues looming over our veterinary education, but I’d like to focus on two areas as AVMA vice president: technology and connected care as well as healthy utilization of veterinary technicians and student skills. Both are inextricably linked. Input from our academicians, administrators, and students is key to finding solutions for these challenges.
Technology, cloud-based solutions, and virtual connections of veterinary health care teams aren’t a far-off thought; they’re happening now. Many practices are already utilizing part-time and full-time remote employees and offering work-from-home options. Universities are teaching students about virtual and connected care, artificial intelligence, and remote monitoring. This is a timely opportunity to have educators and clinicians help one another in the most efficient uses of technology, which are necessary for our veterinary graduates to meet the needs of animal health care.
Let’s move to the theme of veterinary technician and student skill utilization and highlight a couple of pieces of information from the AVMA Veterinary Economics Division. The turnover rate for veterinarians is twice that of human medical doctors. For veterinary technicians and nurses, it’s three times that of physician assistants. I think we can help change these numbers and retain our colleagues. Fair expectations, reasonable boundaries, and a view of the complete veterinary health care team to manage patient care are all important to consider. We don’t expect veterinarians to be available 24/7/365, nor should we expect that of our students, faculty, or technicians. Dialogue and expectations management could go a long way to foster the team-based health care mentality and, therefore, foster collegiality and a more healthy learning environment.
This is an area where novel ideas about workforce capacity are so important. We know practices across all sectors and regions are struggling with inefficient workflows and other processes in our day-to-day work. As AVMA vice president, I will solicit information and advice from veterinary health care teams, as well as those training the future workforce, to learn what is working to improve retention of our workforce talent. This is a multilayered challenge and will likely require a multipronged set of interventions.
Q: How can the AVMA help?
A: AVMA has to bridge the gap among the generations, to be open to honoring the traditions of an amazing profession while preparing for the future. Not only has the profile of professionals in the industry changed, but also the mix of the patients we are charged with caring for. How do we look forward to where we are going while understanding where we came from? Our industry has changed a lot in the last 50 to 75 years and will continue to evolve. How do we set ourselves up for success for the next 50 years? I think part of that answer is by admitting that change is coming, it’s inevitable, and that change is overall a good thing. We must keep up with the speed of commerce, communication, and the needs of the veterinary health care workers, the students, and the patients we serve.
Q: When you look back on your time as vice president, what do you hope you’ll have accomplished?
A: I hope to see accomplishments in the arena of technology, both within veterinary education and more broadly in the veterinary profession. Finding methods for students and faculty to use safe and secure technology. And to see that we have a plan to train and retain the veterinary health care team of the future. I have lots of opinions around these topics, so find me at a meeting or send me a message, and let’s talk.
Q: Is there anything else you want to discuss?
A: I’d like to encourage readers to think about how you can have a voice in the profession and our Association. Check out the volunteer opportunities with AVMA or other organizations. Not only can you influence that organization, but also the colleagues you connect with can become an ever-present network for you.