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AVMA; Issues; Practice; Community

One for the history books

When the AVMA (then known as the United States Veterinary Medical Association) was founded in 1863, its founders likely could not have predicted the changes that would take place in their organization.

For example, in 1915, four women veterinarians were practicing in the U.S., according to JAVMA archives. By 1968, that number had increased to only a little more than 300; approximately 60 percent were involved in private small animal practice.

Women began outnumbering men in veterinary schools during the 1985–1986 academic year, and they accounted for more than half of AVMA members starting in 2011.

Overall AVMA membership has increased substantially in 150 years. The USVMA had about 40 members at its founding and had a net gain of only one member during its first 10 years.

In 1900, two years after becoming the AVMA, the Association had 385 members. By 1913, that number had grown to 1,650.

AVMA members represented a clear majority of the profession for the first time in 1941, when membership reached nearly 6,650.

Today, the Association counts 84,216 veterinarians as members.

Over time, the AVMA has gone through changes not only in the number of members but also in the kinds of veterinary medicine they practice. For example, horses accounted for 80 percent of work among 8,000 veterinarians in 1900 compared with 10 percent of work among 14,000 in 1920, after the invention of the automobile, which reduced people's reliance on animals for transport.

Another sea change occurred with the shift toward veterinarians treating more pets than farm animals.

In 1954, about 10 percent of veterinarians in the AVMA Directory & Resource Manual were listed as small animal practitioners. By 2011, about 44,000 of the AVMA's 83,000 members worked exclusively in companion animal medicine.

How much veterinarians have earned over the years is hard to come by. Mention was made in 1987 by Dr. W.W. Armistead, 1957–1958 AVMA president, who wrote: “Pessimism again afflicted the profession during the economic depression of the 1930s. Practitioner incomes dropped precipitously. Many farm animals were not worth the price of professional treatment. Struggling small animal practitioners resorted to boarding, grooming, and dog food sales to make ends meet. Salaried positions paying less than $2,000/yr were sought eagerly by new graduates” (J Am Vet Med Assoc 1987;190:1394–1396).

The first data on veterinary salaries collected by the AVMA appear to be from a pair of surveys from 1952 and 1956, which indicated veterinarians' mean net yearly income rose 45 percent from a mean of $7,374 in 1950 to $10,694 in 1955. While 68 percent of veterinarians surveyed in 1952 had income from outside veterinary practice, only 26 percent did in 1956. The 1956 survey also indicates 78 percent of veterinarians had solo practices. About 70 percent worked 60 hours weekly, and about 40 percent worked at least 70 hours weekly (J Am Vet Med Assoc 1957;131:156–157,199–201).

Some of the most recent data show that the mean starting salary for recent veterinary graduates was $65,404 for those not pursuing advanced education such as internships.

The number of practitioners who do seek advanced educational opportunities to become board certified has increased dramatically over the years. In 1967, there were only 389 veterinary specialists. That number had jumped to 11,163 by 2012.

AVMA Congressional Science Fellows named

This April, the AVMA announced that Drs. Eric Deeble, Nathaniel Tablante, and Kate Varela were selected for the 2013–2014 AVMA Congressional Science Fellowship program in Washington, D.C.

Starting in August, they will spend a year as scientific advisers to members of Congress, using their background to help shape key legislation that affects the veterinary profession and the health and safety of the nation.

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Source: AVMA membership database

Citation: American Journal of Veterinary Research 74, 8; 10.2460/ajvr.74.8.1053

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Dr. Eric Deeble

Citation: American Journal of Veterinary Research 74, 8; 10.2460/ajvr.74.8.1053

As part of the fellowship program, each fellow will serve from August 2013 until August 2014 in a congressional office, advising policymakers on the development of legislation that will impact the veterinary profession on issues such as food safety, public health, and animal welfare.

The fellows interview with congressional offices to receive their year-long placements, and, once placed, they support the activities of that office as full-time staff. The fellows are not AVMA employees or lobbyists.

Drs. Deeble, Tablante, and Varela were selected from 30 applicants for the fellowship program after completing a three-phase, competitive selection process that started in February.

Dr. Deeble of Philadelphia graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in 2013 and is a former AVMA Governmental Relations Division extern. He has worked in China, Africa, and the Near East on food animal production in low-resource communities, on animal transport, and on international market development.

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Dr. Nathaniel Tablante

Citation: American Journal of Veterinary Research 74, 8; 10.2460/ajvr.74.8.1053

Dr. Tablante of Elkridge, Md., received his DVM degree from the University of the Philippines in 1976 and is currently an associate professor and extension poultry veterinarian at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine. He has 24 years of experience in poultry health management, epidemiology, and biosecurity, and has authored and co-authored numerous articles and educational materials on poultry health, biosecurity, and disease prevention.

Dr. Varela of Medford, N.Y., graduated from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine in 2012 and works at a small animal practice in the Chicago area. She is completing a master's of public health in health policy and administration with a global health concentration and is interested in agricultural policy development.

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Dr. Kate Varela

Citation: American Journal of Veterinary Research 74, 8; 10.2460/ajvr.74.8.1053

The AVMA fellowship program is sponsored through the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which works to place qualified scientific experts in congressional offices where there is a need. To date, more than 50 veterinarians have participated in the AVMA program.

On the rise

More and more veterinarians have been opting to pursue internships after graduation, but with this proliferation has come greater scrutiny.

Concerns have been raised about consistency and quality control for internships, as currently no processes are in place to accredit these programs. Authors of a letter to the JAVMA editor this past year suggested creating a veterinary counterpart to the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, which oversees postgraduate medical training programs (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2012;240:939–942).

The AVMA Executive Board created the Task Force on Veterinary Internships in May 2009 to assess the status of veterinary internships, identify areas that need improvement, and develop a plan to address identified needs.

The task force's work culminated in a final report in spring 2011. The report included a revised internship definition indicating that internships should provide mentorship, direct supervision, and didactic experiences, including rounds, seminars, and formal presentations; internship disclosure guidelines, which comprise questions applicants should ask to obtain more detailed information from potential employers and mentors; and accompanying model AVMA Internship Guidelines. All have been adopted as official AVMA policy (see JAVMA, June 15, 2012, page 1400).

The task force went one step further and had a survey conducted in 2012 to examine internship quality and intern satisfaction.

The survey was designed to help determine the need for a more formal quality assurance program for veterinary internships. Release of the survey results is anticipated sometime this year, and given those results, the approach the task force has recommended is to improve quality where needed and not yet pursue a full-blown accreditation program for internships.

And now with the task force sunset, the AVMA Early Career Development Committee has taken on the responsibility for executing the task force's plan, which has also been endorsed by the AVMA Executive Board.

The plan includes the following action items:

  • Use the AVMA Internship Guidelines and survey results to develop a model assessment tool to promote the development of quality internships by providers and enhance the selection process for new graduates.

  • Repeat the survey every two to three years to track progress, assess the need for a more formal internship quality assurance program over time, and assess whether veterinarians are aware of and using the guidelines.

  • Launch an awareness campaign that would promote the AVMA Internship Guidelines, including presentations at national meetings, and ask the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges to update the Dr. Bradford P. Smith article on effective internship selection (J Vet Med Educ 2006;33:121–124), as needed, for republication and availability to a wider audience—targeting veterinary schools, to promote a more informed internship selection process by graduating students.

The ECDC has developed an internship landing page that includes an array of resources for providers and applicants at www.avma.org/ProfessionalDevelopment/Education/Pages/Veterinary-Internships.aspx. Also available is the Task Force on Veterinary Internships report.

Pandemic H1N1 influenza virus discovered in elephant seals

The 2009 H1N1 influenza virus that killed thousands of people worldwide was isolated in free-ranging northern elephant seals off the California coast a year after the pandemic began, according to a University of California-Davis study published May 15 in the online journal PLOS ONE.

It is the first report of the H1N1 viral strain in any marine mammal.

“We thought we might find influenza viruses, which have been found before in marine mammals, but we did not expect to find pandemic H1N1,” said Dr. Tracey Goldstein, lead study author and an associate professor with the UC-Davis One Health Institute and Wildlife Health Center. “This shows influenza viruses can move among species.”

UC-Davis researchers have been studying influenza viruses in wild birds and mammals since 2007 as part of the Centers of Excellence in Influenza Research and Surveillance program funded by the National Institutes of Health. The goal of this research is to understand how viruses emerge and move among animals and people.

Between 2009 and 2011, the team of scientists tested nasal swabs from more than 900 marine mammals from 10 species off the Pacific Coast from Alaska to California. They detected infection with the H1N1 influenza virus in two northern elephant seals and antibodies against the virus in an additional 28 elephant seals, indicating more widespread exposure.

Neither infected seal appeared to be ill, indicating marine mammals may be infected without showing clinical signs of illness. “Importantly, this work highlights that marine mammals may be infected with zoonotic pathogens and not show clinical signs of illness, thus being asymptomatic carriers,” the study states.

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New research suggests northern elephant seals can be asymptomatic carriers of the H1N1 influenza virus. (Photo by Trina Wood)

Citation: American Journal of Veterinary Research 74, 8; 10.2460/ajvr.74.8.1053

The findings are particularly pertinent to people who handle marine mammals, such as veterinarians and animal rescue and rehabilitation workers, Dr. Goldstein said. They are also a reminder of the importance of wearing personal protective gear when working around marine mammals, both to prevent workers' exposure to diseases as well as to prevent the transmission of human diseases to animals.

The H1N1 influenza virus originated in pigs. It emerged in humans in 2009, spreading worldwide as a pandemic. The World Health Organization now considers the H1N1 strain from 2009 to be under control, taking on the behavior of a seasonal virus.

“H1N1 was circulating in humans in 2009,” Dr. Goldstein said. “The seals on land in early 2010 tested negative before they went to sea, but when they returned from sea in spring 2010, they tested positive. So the question is where did it come from?”

When elephant seals are at sea, they spend most of their time foraging in the northeast Pacific Ocean off the continental shelf, which makes direct contact with humans unlikely, according to the study.

The seals had been satellite tagged and tracked, so researchers knew exactly where they had been and when they arrived on the coast. Infections in both seals were detected within days of their return to land. Researchers believe exposure likely occurred in the seals before they reached land, either while at sea or on entering the near-shore environment.

Rise in snake fungal disease draws researchers' attention

Wildlife officials are monitoring a fungal disease infecting certain wild snake populations in the Eastern and Midwestern United States.

Fungal infections were occasionally reported in free-ranging snakes prior to 2006. But the U.S. Geological Survey's National Wildlife Health Center has recently seen a spike in the number of snakes with fungal dermatitis submitted to the center and other diagnostic laboratories.

Laboratory analyses show that the fungus Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola is consistently associated with snake fungal disease, but additional fungi are often isolated from affected snakes. To date, there is no definitive evidence that O ophiodiicola causes SFD.

The most consistent clinical signs of SFD include scabs or crusty scales, subcutaneous nodules, premature separation of the outermost layer of the skin from the underlying skin, white opaque cloudiness of the eyes not associated with molting, or localized thickening or crusting of the skin. Skin ulcers, swelling of the face, and nodules in the deeper tissues of the head have also been documented.

Clinical signs of SFD and disease severity may vary by snake species. Aside from the presence of fungi with disease-associated lesions, specific pathological criteria for the disease have not yet been established.

While death has been associated with some cases of SFD, population-level impacts of the disease are not yet widely known and are difficult to assess because of the cryptic and solitary nature of snakes and a general lack of long-term monitoring data.

In New Hampshire, clinical signs consistent with SFD were associated with a 50 percent decline in an imperiled population of timber rattlesnakes from 2006–2007. In areas where susceptible snake species live in small, isolated populations, the added threat of SFD may threaten viability of these populations. SFD has been observed in other regions without suspected or documented population declines.

The wildlife health center has confirmed fungal dermatitis in wild snakes in Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Tennessee, and Wisconsin. However, SFD is suspected to be more widespread in the United States than is currently documented.

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A black racer snake shows clinical signs of snake fungal disease. (Courtesy of Dr. D.E. Green/USGS National Wildlife Health Center)

Citation: American Journal of Veterinary Research 74, 8; 10.2460/ajvr.74.8.1053

Multiple snake species have developed SFD, including the northern water snake, rat snake, and timber rattlesnake.

Jeff Lorch, PhD, is a research associate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison studying SFD at the wildlife health center. “The top research priority right now, aside from determining what the causative agent is, is to answer that question of whether this is something that's going to be a problem for all snake populations,” Dr. Lorch said.

“We also want to determine what happens when snakes are infected with Ophidiomyces,” he said. “Do they all die, do some recover? Maybe the fungus isn't a widespread threat, but it could endanger small isolated populations of snakes by making their recovery more difficult.”

Several agencies, organizations, researchers, and other key stakeholders, including the National Wildlife Health Center, are working together to investigate this potentially emerging disease and to learn what impacts SFD is having on wild snake populations.

Read about SFD and other wildlife health issues at the NWHC website: www.nwhc.usgs.gov.

Modified cell line helps identify FMD

Department of Agriculture researchers have developed a line of cells that can be continuously grown in culture and modified to be more easily infected with foot-and-mouth disease virus, aiding in virus identification.

The cattle kidney cell line produced by the USDA Agricultural Research Service can be used to identify all seven FMD serotypes. The cell line is described in an article published in June in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology (J Clin Microbiol 2013;51:1714–1720), which is available at http://jcm.asm.org/.

Dr. Luis L. Rodriguez, the ARS research leader at Plum Island Animal Disease Center, New York, said the agency's research shows the cell line is as sensitive to FMD virus or more so than cells derived directly from animals, and that sensitivity has remained in more than 100 generations of the cells grown in culture. The cells were designed to express receptors used by FMD to infect cells.

Currently, identifying FMD virus serotypes requires killing an animal prior to the test and extracting primary cells sensitive to the virus, he said. Examples include calf thyroid cells and lamb kidney cells. Although these cells can be grown in culture, they often lose sensitivity to the FMD virus after a few generations.

The new cell line also can be infected with viruses that cause clinical signs similar to those of FMD, such as vesicular stomatitis, Dr. Rodriguez said. But the ARS does not have information indicating whether the cells have increased sensitivity to any viruses other than FMD viruses.

The ARS has been letting other organizations use the cells for diagnostic or disease research purposes, provided those organizations agree not to use the cell line itself for commercial purposes, Dr. Rodriguez said. The cell line has been added to the American Type Culture Collection, and the agency is seeking a patent on the line.

Equine parasite guidelines available

The American Association of Equine Practitioners has developed the first official set of guidelines for parasite control in horses.

The guidelines were written by a subcommittee of the AAEP Infectious Disease Committee that spent the last several years formulating the document.

The document is intended for use by veterinarians who encounter cases or outbreaks of a parasitic disease in horses. In these events, veterinarians are expected to recommend measures to promptly contain the disease, such as isolation and treatment of affected individuals, while preventing spread of the disease to unaffected animals. The purpose of these guidelines is to emphasize the importance of an effective first response by providing a clear, concise action plan encompassing identification of clinical signs through diagnosis of the disease.

The guideline authors write that the goal should never be to eradicate any parasite, as not only is this impossible, but also, it may cause parasite drug resistance. Instead, the goals should be to minimize the risk of parasitic disease, control parasite egg shedding, maintain effective drug control, and avoid further development of anthelmintic resistance as much as possible.

Guidelines are specified separately for adult horses and horses younger than 3 years. All treatment and other recommendations are made within the context of a preventive program in which fecal egg count surveillance is being performed.

The document also says the guidelines are only suggestions, and that each farm—with veterinary guidance—should develop its own program tailored to the specific needs of the farm and each animal.

The document is available at www.aaep.org/parasite_control.htm.

Banfield: Spaying, neutering correlate with longer lives

Banfield Pet Hospital's State of Pet Health 2013 Report has revealed a correlation between spaying and neutering of pet dogs and cats and the pets' life span.

The report, which came out in May, draws on records of nearly 2.2 million dogs and 460,000 cats that were patients in 2012 at Banfield's more than 800 hospitals in 43 states.

Pets are living longer, according to the report. The mean life span of a cat in 2012 was 12 years, an increase of 10 percent since 2002. The mean life span of a dog in 2012 was 11 years, a 4 percent increase since 2002.

Neutered male cats live a mean of 62 percent longer than unneutered male cats, and spayed female cats live a mean of 39 percent longer than unspayed female cats, the report said. Neutered male dogs live a mean of 18 percent longer than unneutered male dogs, and spayed female dogs live a mean of 23 percent longer than unspayed female dogs.

Two of the five states with the shortest life span for dogs have the highest percentages of unneutered and unspayed dogs, Mississippi at 44 percent and Louisiana at 38 percent.

The State of Pet Health 2013 Report is available at www.stateofpethealth.com. The website features an interactive map providing information about pet health nationally and by state.

UGA research finds sterilized dogs live longer

Spaying and neutering of dogs is associated with an increase in life span and alters the risk of specific causes of death, according to a study published April 17 in the online journal PLOS ONE.

Researchers with the University of Georgia looked at a sample of more than 40,000 dogs that died in veterinary teaching hospitals from 1984–2004. The mean age at death for sexually intact dogs was 7.9 years, versus 9.4 years for sterilized dogs.

Dogs with functional reproduction systems were more likely to die of infectious disease or from trauma. Those that had undergone a gonadectomy were more likely to die from cancer or autoimmune disease.

“The overall average life span is likely shorter than what we would observe in private practice, because these were dogs seen at teaching hospitals, but the difference in life span between sterilized and intact is real,” said Dr. Kate Creevy, an assistant professor of internal medicine at the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine and co-author of the study.

The study, “Reproductive Capability Is Associated with Lifespan and Cause of Death in Companion Dogs,” is available at www.plosone.org by searching for “Reproductive capability.”

Midwestern closer to accreditation

Midwestern University College of Veterinary Medicine in Glendale, Ariz., is on the path to becoming accredited by the AVMA Council on Education.

Council members voted during a May 31 conference call to award the institution a letter of reasonable assurance of accreditation after conducting a site visit Jan. 21–23.

Reasonable assurance is not a pre-accreditation action by the AVMA COE. Rather, for a new institution seeking initial accreditation, such a letter indicates there is reasonable assurance of future accreditation if the program is established according to plans presented to the COE and if the institution is able to demonstrate a realistic plan to comply with the standards of accreditation.

Essentially, then, this first step in the AVMA accreditation process puts MWU on target for provisional accreditation with the acceptance of its first class of students in fall 2014 and for full accreditation in 2018 at the time those first students are graduating.

The more than $144 million veterinary campus will have three buildings in which to practice and teach veterinary medicine. Construction of a 76,000-square-foot classroom building, a 109,000-square-foot veterinary teaching hospital, and a 36,000-square-foot large animal teaching facility is under way. The university is in the process of designing a center for integrative research. It also plans to build more student housing and a parking deck. In all, there will be eight construction projects.

Class size is projected at 100 for Midwestern, and tuition has been reported in the range of $50,000 per year.

Midwestern announced this past November that the Arizona State Board for Private Postsecondary Education had issued formal approval for the university to open Arizona's first college of veterinary medicine. It was officially established April 24, 2012.

Dr. Brian K. Sidaway was announced as the founding dean in January; MWU is now in the process of recruiting and hiring faculty, who will total 50. In addition to the faculty on-site, the veterinary college will employ a distributive clinical model to supplement on-campus clinical instruction. This includes a large contingent of adjunct faculty who will provide clinical instruction under the supervision of MWU faculty.

Bayer awards communication scholarships

Bayer HealthCare announced the winners of the inaugural Bayer Excellence in Communication Awards in May. The company created the scholarship program to highlight the importance of effective communication between veterinarians and clients and to reward veterinary students who are mastering this skill.

The company selected seven veterinary colleges to pilot the program. The colleges filmed and judged communication between students and clients in a clinical setting.

The winner from each school received a $2,500 scholarship and competed for an additional $2,500. The national winner is Jessica Bridge, who is beginning her fourth year at Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.

AVMA Future Leaders named AAAS fellows

Drs. Erin Casey and Shannon Mesenhowski, both members of the AVMA's inaugural Future Leaders class, have accepted fellowships with the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellowships are highly competitive and use a peer-review selection process. Starting in September, fellows spend a year working in one of five areas, where they contribute to the federal policymaking process while learning firsthand about the intersection of science and policy.

Dr. Casey (GA '10) will be working at the State Department in the Office of Cooperative Threat Reduction within the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation. She has worked at a private practice in northern Virginia since 2011. Dr. Casey has been both a participant and facilitator of the AVMA Veterinary Leadership Experience for veterinary students and currently chairs the AVMA Veterinary Leadership Conference Planning Committee.

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Dr. Erin Casey

Citation: American Journal of Veterinary Research 74, 8; 10.2460/ajvr.74.8.1053

Dr. Mesenhowski (MIN '10) will spend her AAAS fellowship year at the U.S. Agency for International Development as a food security policy research and outreach specialist. Dr. Mesenhowski, who also earned a master's in public health from the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, currently works at a private small animal practice in Minnesota.

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Dr. Shannon Mesenhowski

Citation: American Journal of Veterinary Research 74, 8; 10.2460/ajvr.74.8.1053