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AVMA commissions workforce study, funds animal health research initiative

The AVMA Executive Board has appropriated more than half a million dollars to conduct an economic analysis of the U.S. veterinary workforce and to fund a national network supporting health and wellness studies benefiting companion animals and horses.

Board members approved the programs in accordance with the goals of the Association's strategic vision that call for strengthening the economics of the veterinary profession and advancing veterinary scientific research and discovery.

AVMA strategic funds were tapped to pay for the initiatives—up to $330,000 for the workforce study and $250,000 to implement the research program. Both proposals were part of a larger agenda considered by the Executive Board during a meeting at AVMA headquarters, April 19–21.

Additionally, the Executive Board approved a $31.5 million budget for 2013 that projects income will exceed expenses by just over $828,000 during the AVMA fiscal year (calendar year).

The AVMA board also adopted a policy providing guidance on veterinary internship and residency quality and added the concept of inclusion to the AVMA policy on diversity. Board members voted to postpone the AVMA Animal Welfare Symposium to 2013 and change the meeting topic to current and future approaches to animal euthanasia, depopulation, and humane slaughter.

The workforce study was proposed by the AVMA Veterinary Economics Strategy Committee. The committee recommended the board allocate up to $330,000 from the AVMA National Economics Strategy Fund for the project. The study will identify, quantify, and evaluate various economic, demographic, technologic, and sociologic factors influencing the supply and demand for veterinarians and veterinary services across the nation.

To assist the workforce researchers, the AVMA board formed an advisory committee comprising the AVMA economics committee, an Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges representative, and AVMA staff. Work on the study begins this year and is expected to be completed in 2013.

The millions of dollars directed to companion animal and equine health studies in the United States each year pale in comparison with the billions spent on human and livestock health investigations. One explanation for this is the absence of a national organization whose sole purpose is supporting research for both pet and horse health.

The AVMA Executive Board has sought to remedy this funding imbalance since 2007, when it first approved a Council on Research plan establishing an Institute for Companion Animal and Equine Research. Since then, the board has continued supporting the concept while plans for the organization have evolved.

The latest proposal originated within an AVMA Strategic Goal Team and was brought to the Executive Board by the AVMA Office of the Executive Vice President. The recommendation was for the American Veterinary Medical Foundation to manage a national effort to raise awareness about health-related research for dogs, cats, and horses and increase investment in such studies.

The plan approved by the board allocates a total of $250,000 from the AVMA Strategic Goal Fund in 2012–2013 for the AVMF to develop, promote, and launch what is now tentatively referred to as the Animal Health Network.

“The Animal Health Network has long been a dream for the members of the (Council on Research), who have spent several years discussing and working with AVMA to address the desperate need for increasing support for research into diseases and disorders that afflict animals, particularly companion animals,” council Chair Kent Lloyd said.

“The COR envisions AHN to begin to address this deficiency by generating financial support; coordinating like-minded groups, foundations, and other entities with the AVMF; and expanding the kinds and level of scientific investigation into enhanced diagnostics, novel therapeutics, and new preventative strategies to improve animal health,” Dr. Lloyd explained.

The idea behind the AHN is that investment in pet and equine health studies will increase if like-minded foundations work together within a single organization. Last year, several feline organizations and the AVMF came together as the Cat Health Network, a species-specific pilot component of the AHN providing $100,000 annually for feline health studies in U.S. and foreign laboratories.

Although the details have yet to be worked out, the AHN might model its marketing and business strategy after the Children's Miracle Network. Donors could make contributions to a local AHN chapter or the AHN's national office, with the option that their donations go to a specific project or institute conducting studies related to companion animal or horse health.

“The AVMF has had as one of its strategic goals for most all of its 50 years the support of animal health research,” said AVMF Executive Director Michael Cathey. “We are particularly excited about the new syncing up of the AVMF and the AVMA strategic goals to both reflect the support of research and look forward to the building out of a new umbrella program to focus on the awareness of, and funding for, the health of animals.”

AVMA provides guides on internship, residency quality

The AVMA is providing a pair of guides intended to assist with development of veterinary internship programs and ensure that interns and their supervisors know what to expect.

The AVMA Executive Board approved in April policies on internships and internship disclosure. The board also approved edits to the AVMA policy “Internships and Residency Programs,” which now indicates that internships should provide mentorship, direct supervision, and didactic experiences, including rounds, seminars, and formal presentations. The latter policy also was edited to more strongly state that internships are primarily educational programs for interns rather than service benefits for hospitals.

The AVMA policy “Veterinary Internships Guidelines” states that internships should help veterinarians prepare for practice or specialty training. The document is intended to establish reasonable expectations for internship providers and participants. It lists employment information that should be provided to interns and the types of orientation information, employment goals, teaching rounds, care responsibilities, emergency scheduling duties, technician and specialist support, faculty access, facilities, equipment, and outcomes that should be connected with an internship.

The policy “Veterinary Internships Disclosure Outline” lists the practice information that potential interns should receive. Such information should describe aspects of the position such as the levels of training and certifications among veterinarians and nonveterinarians on staff, the staffing and caseload for intensive care and hospital areas, the numbers of interns who started and completed the same program, responsibilities of interns, and support available for interns.

The AVMA's 2011 survey of graduating veterinary students found that, of about 1,540 graduates who had accepted employment offers, 700 had accepted internships, according to JAVMA. The 2009 survey indicated that, of 1,525 graduates who had accepted a position, 600 had accepted internships.

AVMA expands diversity policy

The AVMA Executive Board has expanded the policy describing the Association's commitment to diversity.

The board adopted the first AVMA policy on diversity in November 2004. The Member Services Committee recommended revising the original diversity policy to add the concept of inclusion, to acknowledge that veterinarians live and work within communities that are constantly changing, and to recognize and embrace the value of the many aspects of diversity.

The board approved the revisions, and the new policy reads as follows.

AVMA POLICY

Diversity

The AVMA is committed to diversity and inclusion in all aspects of the profession of veterinary medicine so that we can best serve the animals, the public and our members. Our goal is to mirror the growing diversity of the communities we serve and to promote an understanding of their varied needs. To this end, we are committed to actively promoting and maintaining diversity in our membership and organization, and educating our members regarding the value of diversity. This commitment embraces the value of the many areas of the veterinary medical profession, and the value of our members' varied cultural backgrounds, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, ages, religions, physical and mental abilities, and racial representations.

Changes for Animal Welfare Symposium

The timing and topic of the AVMA Animal Welfare Symposium initially planned for 2012 have changed.

The AVMA Executive Board approved a recommendation from the Panel on Euthanasia to postpone the symposium to 2013 and dedicate the meeting to a discussion on current and future approaches to animal euthanasia, depopulation, and humane slaughter.

The planned topic of the AVMA Animal Welfare Symposium had been the international harmonization of euthanasia approaches. But since the board approved the plan for the symposium in 2011, the Panel on Euthanasia has completed the latest version of the AVMA Guidelines on Euthanasia and has started developing separate guidance documents on depopulation and humane slaughter.

In its recommendation to the board, the panel explained how, during the development of the three documents, “it has become abundantly clear how much more information is available than a decade ago, but also that there are significant knowledge and performance gaps.”

The panel saw an opportunity to refocus the event so that it would encompass the euthanasia guidelines as well as the depopulation and humane slaughter documents. With this new focus, the symposium would fulfill the needs of multiple audiences for in-depth information and still provide an opportunity to address the need for international harmonization of approved euthanasia practices.

AVMA board members approved the panel's plan for the Association's three-day symposium, which may be held in September 2013 in Chicago.

House of Delegates to consider bylaws amendments and resolutions

The AVMA House of Delegates will consider a number of bylaws amendments and resolutions during its regular annual session, Aug. 2–3 in San Diego.

The proposed bylaws amendments at press time comprised measures that would revise the charge of the AVMA Council on Research; eliminate the position of AVMA vice president, who is the AVMA liaison to veterinary students, in favor of regional liaisons to veterinary students; and modify the procedure for notifying members of proposed bylaws amendments.

The resolutions at press time comprised measures that would revise the Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics, create a policy to address public health risks of feeding raw diets to companion animals, revise the definition of the veterinarian-client-patient relationship in the AVMA Model Veterinary Practice Act, endorse diagnostic terms from the American Animal Hospital Association, call on the AVMA to engage in dialogue with nonveterinary pharmacies, and revise several AVMA policies on animal welfare.

JAVMA News is posting the full text of the bylaws amendments and resolutions at www.avma.org/onlnews with the online edition of the July 15 issue. AVMA members who want to weigh in with their delegates may find contact information by visiting www.avma.org/about_avma and clicking on “Your AVMA Leaders.”

Fobian, AVMA president-elect candidate, looks ahead

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Dr. Clark K. Fobian

Citation: American Journal of Veterinary Research 73, 7; 10.2460/ajvr.73.7.933

Dr. Clark K. Fobian is the sole candidate for AVMA president-elect and is expected to be elected by the AVMA House of Delegates this August. Dr. Fobian recently spoke to JAVMA News about his goals as the 2013–2014 AVMA president, the forthcoming U.S. veterinary workforce study, and the debate over the AVMA's endorsement of controversial legislation addressing egg-laying hen welfare. Following are excerpts from Dr. Fobian's interview, which can be read in its entirety in the June 15, 2012, issue of JAVMA and online here: www.avma.org/onlnews/default.asp

Q: What would you want to accomplish as AVMA president?

A: My goals are lofty yet simple. More than anything, I want to help current and future veterinarians have a fulfilling and rewarding career. This is not an easy feat, because the veterinary profession today is facing a number of significant workforce and societal challenges simultaneously. Specifically, I hope to drive the AVMA toward implementing plans based on the findings of the veterinary workforce study that the Executive Board just recently approved. We have to define economic realities influencing our profession if we are to help drive its development.

There is a profusion of diverse and conflicting studies, reports, and predictions concerning the supply of veterinarians versus the demand for veterinary services. We need to make sense of these perspectives and then devise an appropriate response. I want to work with academia, government, and business to identify ways of bringing student debt in line with current veterinary earning power. As AVMA president, I would educate the public and legislators about ensuring competent medical care and accountability through licensing boards and practice acts that define the scope of veterinary practice and ultimately protect the public from deceptive, inappropriate, and unregulated veterinary activities. I would also hope to assist animal shelters, rescue facilities, and humane societies to continue in their good work but without having a direct competitive advantage over private veterinary practices also serving the pet-owning population. And finally, I would make certain that the AVMA maintains its strong voice in the U.S. Congress with regard to regulatory activities affecting small businesses and veterinary medicine.

Q: Many of the AVMA's agricultural allies were upset with the Executive Board's recent support for H.R. 3798, which would establish national standards for treatment of egg-laying hens. In your opinion, did the board do the right thing?

A: Anyone in medicine knows that the hard choices are not between good options and bad options; oftentimes, you have to choose from among a number of bad options. We are often tasked in life, medicine, and this Association to determine the least offensive of the choices we face. From my perspective, that is the case for H.R. 3798. Every board member knew the gravity and complexity of this issue. There was, in my opinion, no totally good or right answer. I do believe the Executive Board chose the right course of action, one intended to have the least negative repercussions. The Executive Board was not trying to dodge a bullet by voting to support the bill, but rather, to express support for what we, the AVMA, believe will result in optimal care for the animals at issue. Now, whether optimal care should be regulated by the federal government is a question our colleagues in production agriculture are asking us, and they have every right to do so. Some of them feel like we have hung them out to dry, but all I can say is we have not. I am most interested in seeing where this bill goes and am determined to see that this does not make us vulnerable to further inroads of federally regulated production animal care regulations.

Meeting of AVMA voting members Aug. 3

The annual meeting of AVMA voting members will occur the evening of Aug. 3 in San Diego.

The 90-minute meeting starts at 6 p.m. at the San Diego Convention Center, 111 W. Harbor Drive, as part of the AVMA Annual Convention. In April, the AVMA Executive Board approved scheduling the meeting in conjunction with the convention's opening session, which will include a presentation by wildlife conservation and preservation advocate Joan Embery.

Education council schedules visits

The AVMA Council on Education has scheduled site visits to seven schools and colleges of veterinary medicine for the remainder of 2012.

Site visits are planned for the University of Queensland School of Veterinary Science, Aug. 19–23; Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine, Sept. 16–20; Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine, Sept. 30-Oct. 4; University of London Royal Veterinary College, Oct. 14–18; University of Montreal Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Nov. 4–8; and Western University of Health Sciences College of Veterinary Medicine, Dec. 2–8.

A consultative site visit is planned for the University of the West Indies School of Veterinary Medicine, Oct. 28–Nov. 1.

The council welcomes written comments on these plans or the programs to be evaluated. Comments should be addressed to Dr. David E. Granstrom, Director, Education and Research Division, AVMA, 1931 N. Meacham Road, Suite 100, Schaumburg, IL 60173. Comments must be signed by the person submitting them to be considered.

Key AVMA staff positions filled

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Dr. Cheryl L. Eia

Citation: American Journal of Veterinary Research 73, 7; 10.2460/ajvr.73.7.933

In April, Dr. Cheryl L. Eia joined the AVMA Scientific Activities Division as emergency preparedness and response coordinator and Dr. Carrie Ann Javorka began in a new position managing AVMA programs and services for recent veterinary graduates in the Membership and Field Services Division.

Dr. Eia supervises the AVMA Veterinary Medical Assistance Teams program, provides staff support to the AVMA Committee on Disaster and Emergency Issues, and engages in policy coordination, outreach, and educational activities.

Previously, Dr. Eia worked at the Center for Food Security and Public Health at Iowa State University. There, she developed an animal emergency management course for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to train personnel about their roles during a disaster. She also devised guidelines and other materials for the USDA to use during animal disease emergencies and worked with the National Alliance of State Animal and Agricultural Emergency Programs and its best practice working groups.

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Dr. Carrie Ann Javorka

Citation: American Journal of Veterinary Research 73, 7; 10.2460/ajvr.73.7.933

Dr. Eia is a former attorney and a 2008 graduate of the ISU College of Veterinary Medicine. She also has a master's in public health from the University of Minnesota.

The assistant director position for recent graduate initiatives was a key recommendation of the Task Force on AVMA Programs for Students and Recent Graduates, which delivered its final report to the Executive Board in April 2011.

Dr. Javorka is responsible for developing and implementing initiatives promoting the benefits of AVMA membership among new veterinarians. She will also work to increase recent veterinary graduate participation on AVMA committees, councils, and task forces along with creating AVMA volunteer leadership training programs for recent graduates and emerging leaders.

A 2006 Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine graduate, Dr. Javorka held associate veterinarian positions at small animal hospitals in Indiana and Illinois until her employment at the AVMA.

Federal law could affect mobile practice

Northern California veterinarians with mobile and ambulatory practices have been told they were violating federal law if they routinely carried controlled substances in their vehicles.

Dr. Lisa S. Couper said controlled substances are essential for her mobile mixed animal practice, and she wasn't aware federal regulations prohibited carrying such drugs. She said enforcement of those regulations by the Drug Enforcement Administration would force her to quit her practice.

Barbara L. Carreno, a spokeswoman for the DEA, said the federal Controlled Substances Act, which Congress passed in 1970, requires that practitioners—including veterinarians, physicians, and dentists—have separate registrations for every location where they store, distribute, or dispense controlled substances. The agency has let practitioners in human and veterinary medicine register in one location and prescribe controlled substances in others, and some practitioners have been confused by that allowance.

Dr. Grant R. Miller, director of regulatory affairs for the California VMA and a veterinarian whose patients include horses, cattle, sheep, and goats, said a DEA official indicated to him that veterinarians would be allowed to bring a preset amount of a drug they intend to use during the day, although that allowance is not written in regulations.

Dr. Miller said that would, for example, allow a veterinarian to carry the drugs needed for a previously scheduled appointment, such as to spay or neuter an animal. But he interprets the allowance to mean that a veterinarian would not be able to carry controlled substances for use in an emergency or a bulk amount of ketamine needed to conduct a one-day spay and neuter clinic at a rural pet store, where the numbers and sizes of animals arriving would be unknown.

On the basis of reports from California VMA members, Dr. Miller said it appeared that officials in a DEA office in Sacramento were contacting veterinarians who registered their home address as their place of business. The VMA posted on its website a copy of a letter that states a DEA official was reviewing registrations and asking veterinarians to provide their business addresses.

Dr. Couper said her mobile practice has been registered at her home address for the past 25 years. In responding to one of the DEA inquiries, she found out that she was allowed to treat patients or dispense controlled substances there, but she was told that her mobile clinic had been transporting controlled substances illegally.

On Dec. 1, 2006, the DEA published a Federal Register notice intended to alleviate confusion over the agency's rules regarding the handling of controlled substances by practitioners, including veterinarians. In addition to stating that practitioners can store, administer, or dispense controlled substances only at registered locations, the notice states that practitioners need a separate registration for each state where they prescribe a controlled substance. Carreno said the notice only clarified the federal regulations, and Congress would have to approve changes to the Controlled Substances Act for the DEA to change the regulations.

Banfield report reveals increase in overweight pets, arthritis

The prevalence of overweight dogs and cats increased between 2007 and 2011, as did the prevalence of arthritic dogs and cats, according to the State of Pet Health 2012 Report that Banfield Pet Hospital released in May.

The report drew on medical data from 2 million dogs and nearly 430,000 cats that were patients at Banfield's 800 hospitals in 2011. This is the second year Banfield has issued such a report. The 2012 report focuses on chronic diseases, including obesity, arthritis, kidney disease, thyroid disease, and heart disease.

About one in five dogs and cats is overweight, the report states. The prevalence of overweight dogs increased almost 37 percent between 2007 and 2011, while the prevalence of overweight cats increased more than 90 percent. The prevalence of arthritis increased 38 percent in dogs and 67 percent in cats.

The report documented an association between excess weight and other chronic conditions in dogs and cats. The report revealed that 40 percent of arthritic dogs and 37 percent of arthritic cats are overweight, 42 percent of diabetic dogs and 40 percent of diabetic cats are overweight, and 40 percent of dogs with high blood pressure and 60 percent of dogs with hypothyroidism are overweight.

The prevalence of chronic kidney disease in cats increased by 15 percent between 2007 and 2011, according to the report. In 2011, one in 12 geriatric cats had a diagnosis of kidney disease.

The State of Pet Health 2012 Report is available at www.stateofpethealth.com.

Dental specialists offer free examinations for service dogs

The American Veterinary Dental College has organized an event to provide free oral examinations for service dogs in August.

“Many AVDC veterinary dental specialists have treated service dogs in the past and are well aware that oral pain can prevent these dogs from working effectively,” according to the AVDC. “This program will help ensure that America's service dogs are able to do their important work at peak efficiency.”

Diplomates of the AVDC will examine service dogs for signs of periodontal disease, fractured teeth, discolored teeth, oral masses, and other oral and dental problems. Upon finding oral or dental abnormalities, the specialist will lay out a treatment plan that the owner or handler of the service dog can elect to pursue at a later date. In addition, owners and handlers will learn about the benefits of preventive oral health care.

To qualify for a free oral examination, a service dog must have certification from a formal training program or be an enrollee in a training program. Owners and handlers of service dogs can register for the event at www.avdc.org between July 1 and Aug. 15.

Following registration, owners and handlers will receive a registration number and a list of participating veterinary dental specialists in their area whom they can contact to schedule an August appointment.

Maccabe is new AAVMC executive director

The Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges named Dr. Andrew Maccabe as its new executive director, effective May 15. He succeeds Dr. Bennie I. Osburn, who had served as interim executive director since 2011.

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Dr. Andrew Maccabe

Citation: American Journal of Veterinary Research 73, 7; 10.2460/ajvr.73.7.933

Previously, Dr. Maccabe was the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's liaison for food safety to the Food and Drug Administration.

Prior to joining the CDC, Dr. Maccabe was the AAVMC associate executive director responsible for national programs in veterinary medical education.

To prepare the veterinary profession for the future, the AAVMC is working with the AVMA and others as part of a national campaign stressing the importance of preventive pet health care. The association also has spearheaded the North American Veterinary Medical Education Consortium, which released the “Roadmap for Veterinary Medical Education in the 21st Century: Responsive, Collaborative, Flexible.”

After receiving his DVM degree from The Ohio State University in 1985, Dr. Maccabe began his professional career in Jefferson, Ohio, at a mixed animal practice with primary emphasis on dairy herd health. In 1988, he was commissioned as a public health officer in the U.S. Air Force, where he managed the preventive medicine activities of several installations and directed programs in occupational health, communicable disease control, food safety, and health promotion.

Dr. Maccabe also earned a master's in public health from Harvard University in 1995 and a law degree from the University of Arizona in 2002.

Feline health research grants awarded

The Winn Feline Foundation in March announced grants totaling $174,018 had been awarded to 10 feline health studies. Forty-four proposals were submitted by researchers seeking funding in the 2012 review cycle. To date, Winn's cumulative total in feline health research funding exceeds $4 million.

One project received a grant through the Ricky Fund Project to study the efficacy of a mixed endothelin A-endothelin B receptor antagonist in cats with arterial thromboembolism.

Another study was awarded a grant through the Bria Fund Project to research anti-immune evasive therapy in the treatment of feline infectious peritonitis. Two breed-specific studies are being funded in the current 2012 cycle. The first project intends to map the hypertrophic cardiomyopathy gene in the Sphynx cat, while the other study is a molecular characterization of progressive retinal atrophy in Bengal cats.

Other projects the Winn Foundation awarded funding to include studies relating to feline tumors, wool sucking behavior in Siamese and Birman cats, chronic kidney disease, and decontamination of household textiles exposed to Microsporum canis spores.

A listing of the projects available for sponsorship appears at the end of the descriptions. Donations can be made online at www.winnfelinehealth.org.

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