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A veterinarian examines a farmer's livestock in Mali, a west African country. The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) is working to improve the performance of veterinary services—defined as the governmental and nongovernmental organizations that implement animal health and welfare measures and other standards and guidelines found in the OIE's Terrestrial Code and Aquatic Animal Health Code—in countries around the world. (Courtesy of the OIE)

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 239, 3; 10.2460/javma.239.3.272

Starting from Day One

OIE seeking to define minimum veterinary competencies

By Malinda Larkin

The question “Who is a veterinarian?” may seem like it has a simple answer—someone who has been awarded a veterinary degree. But what does having a degree mean? Someone who graduates from the University of Ibadan in Nigeria may have a different skill set from someone who graduates from the University of Calgary in Canada.

A few countries and regions have made efforts to define and harmonize the combination of knowledge, skills, and experiences that new veterinary graduates need to have when entering the veterinary profession. The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons accomplished this in the early 2000s when it developed lists of the essential day-one and year-one competencies required of veterinary surgeons. At about the same time, the AVMA Council on Education began defining the critical competencies expected of new graduates from accredited veterinary colleges. And just this year, the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, through the North American Veterinary Medical Education Consortium, spelled out core competencies for graduates of U.S. and Canadian schools.

Now, defining the essential competencies required of veterinary graduates has reached a global level. The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) is working to provide guidelines and tools to enable all countries to apply a standardized approach to improving the quality of veterinary education. The effort is largely directed toward developing countries and countries with economies that are in transition. The organization anticipates its work will result in these nations improving the competencies of their veterinarians and, thereby, the performance of their veterinary services in all areas.

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The OIE is working to provide standards and tools to enable all countries—but particularly those lacking resources—to apply a standardized approach to the quality of veterinary education. (Courtesy of the OIE)

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 239, 3; 10.2460/javma.239.3.272

Building up capacity

Historically, the OIE has focused on sharing animal disease information and improving animal health worldwide. At the request of member countries and as identified in recent strategic plans, the OIE expanded its mission to include work on animal welfare, animal production, food safety, and food security. But this proved not to be enough, said Dr. Alex Thiermann, president of the OIE Terrest rial Animal Health Code Commission.

The global H5N1 avian influenza outbreak in the mid-2000s demonstrated the vulnerability of all countries resulting from an inability in some countries to detect disease outbreaks early and respond rapidly. Thus, the international community recognized the need to strengthen veterinary infrastructures as a global public good.

Responding to increased interest in international trade, companies in many developing countries with weak veterinary infrastructures attempted to develop their own export certification process for animals and animal products, Dr. Thiermann said. He added that this demonstrated once again the importance of a credible veterinary service, as international veterinary certification of exports can be done only by official veterinary authorities.

These circumstances made apparent the need to evaluate veterinarians' performance and improve veterinary infrastructures. The OIE convinced the international community of the importance of doing so to help reduce the risk of another disease outbreak in developing countries as well as to guarantee the credibility of international veterinary certificates and ensure safe trade.

Current estimates suggest that 80 percent of the OIE's 178 member countries are lacking an appropriate infrastructure for veterinary education, said Dr. Bernard Vallat, director general of the OIE, in December 2010. He added that many countries are obliged to use foreign-trained veterinarians and have little to no capacity to evaluate the quality of the education these veterinarians received.

So in 2007, the OIE created a tool to evaluate the performance of veterinary services in a country, the “OIE PVS tool.” The evaluation is performed by OIE experts at the request of the national authorities. It determines the current level of performance of a country's veterinary services on the basis of 46 competencies—from human, financial, and physical resources to laboratory infrastructure to market access. In a second phase, another team of experts identifies and prioritizes gaps in the country's ability to comply with OIE international standards, to form a shared vision with stakeholders, and to carry out strategic initiatives to reduce those gaps.

Day-one competencies

Early PVS evaluations revealed that the level of competency of a country's veterinarians was a critical element in the effective performance of the country's veterinary services, and the experts observed substantial differences when comparing the competencies of veterinarians among countries. The OIE felt the need to evaluate this area more and to provide guidance on the minimum competencies that veterinary educational institutions should aim to provide as they develop and refine their veterinary curriculum.

The effort began at an OIE conference in October 2009 that examined veterinary education and model standards. Meeting in Paris, the international group drafted 28 recommendations on the harmonization of basic competencies delivered by veterinary educational institutions worldwide (see JAVMA, April 1, 2010, page 712).

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Nongovernmental organizations such as USAID have supported training programs in livestock health needs to assist goat farmers in Eritrea to keep their goat population in good health. (Courtesy of USAID)

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 239, 3; 10.2460/javma.239.3.272

Following the conference, the OIE established the ad hoc Group on Veterinary Education to define those “day-one” competencies. AVMA CEO Ron DeHaven chairs this group comprising nine other international veterinary authorities. The group is not trying to define accreditation standards, prescribe a specific curriculum, or accredit veterinary educational programs or institutions, he said during a presentation at the second World Conference on Veterinary Education, May 13 in Lyon, France.

Instead, the goal is to address the particular needs of developing countries on subjects to be covered when educating veterinarians for work in the public and private sectors. Veterinary educational institutions would continue to be responsible for deciding how to deliver their curriculum.

Dr. Thiermann said these competencies can allow veterinary educational institutions in Third World countries to raise the competence levels of their graduates.

“So these day-one competencies are the first step and a significant step in beginning to define what are the basic requirements accepted worldwide for calling someone a veterinarian and, therefore, being able to harmonize the veterinary workforce among all OIE member countries,” he said.

Meeting of the minds

The draft minimum competencies the ad hoc group developed are defined as skills, knowledge, attitudes, or aptitudes, and have been divided into three levels.

The general competencies cover basic and clinical veterinary sciences fundamental to the entirety of the curriculum—not just to delivery of national veterinary services—such as animal welfare and food hygiene and safety.

Specific competencies directly relate to the skills needed to perform various tasks in accordance with international standards found in the OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code.

Discussing the ad hoc group's recommendations was the primary objective of the second World Conference on Veterinary Education in May. The event brought together deans and veterinary professionals from throughout the globe. In Lyon, attendees approved 16 resolutions relating to the minimum competencies and other educational issues. These were presented to the 178 delegates at the 79th OIE General Session May 22–27 in Paris.

After review and amendments made on the floor, the World Assembly of Delegates approved six of the 16 resolutions, including one that stated: “The OIE should in the future present a framework and recommendations to the World Assembly of Delegates on the day one minimum competencies required by veterinarians for countries to meet the OIE quality standards for veterinary services (both public and private components), taking into account existing input prepared by the ad hoc Group on Veterinary Education. …”

Dr. DeHaven said, “In general, I think the resolution validates the work done thus far and authorizes us to proceed with developing global minimum competencies for veterinary education as it relates to those functions relevant to a national veterinary service (regulatory authority).”

Getting it in writing

At the same meeting, Dr. Thiermann brought an amendment to the floor that incorporates new language referring to the day-one competencies under the requirements on quality of veterinary services in the Terrestrial Animal Health Code.

Even though the competencies have yet to be finalized, he said that including the concept in the OIE code is a way to bring to the international community's attention the critical nature of day-one competencies for veterinary graduates.

The amendment sparked debate on the floor. Some members raised the issue of how these day-one competencies, not yet fully defined, could affect them. They expressed concern that noncompliance with these day-one competencies could result in trade impediments.

Dr. Thiermann explained that, while these competencies are not directly related to trade requirements, having the country's veterinary professionals posses these competencies would improve the credibility of their veterinary services and, thereby, facilitate trade.

“The problem developing countries are facing today is that, often, importing countries are not accepting the veterinary certification issued by certain veterinary services as being in compliance with the OIE international standards,” Dr. Thiermann said. “The importing countries say, ‘We don't have certainty that what is contained on the international veterinary certificate is credible.’”

He continued, “The OIE is putting more detail in the code in respect to necessary aspects of an effective and credible veterinary service, and these are then included as critical competencies in the PVS evaluation tool. This will all result in a more transparent and impartial assessment of the credibility of a veterinary service.”

The amendment to the OIE international standards was adopted at the meeting.

Diagnosis and treatment

Looking ahead, the ad hoc Group on Veterinary Education will further refine the day-one competencies and postgraduate training recommendations at its next meeting, Aug. 2–4 in Paris. These will likely be published as reference documents on the OIE website, as has been done for other topics mentioned in the international standards, sometime by next year's OIE General Session in May 2012.

Dr. Thiermann anticipates that once they are further described and officially adopted, the day-one competencies will be incorporated into the PVS evaluation tool. Thus far, the OIE has performed evaluations in more than 110 countries, mostly developing nations, including almost all the African countries in the OIE. Although the PVS tool helps countries to identify their strengths and weaknesses, that's not the end of the story. Once countries have examined the results of the evaluation, they call on the OIE to help identify and prioritize actions needed to improve their veterinary services, the so-called GAP Analysis. Some 35 countries have gone through that process already, Dr. Thiermann said, receiving a road map to progress.

“Like the phrase goes, ‘Diagnosing a disease doesn't make the patient feel any better,' but now the OIE is also providing the treatment,’” Dr. Thiermann said.

New AVMA strategic plan emphasizes economics

Goals also cover education, welfare, research, and membership

By Katie Burns

Concerns about the economics of the veterinary profession are an underlying theme of the new AVMA Strategic Plan, which received approval during the June 5–7 meeting of the AVMA Executive Board.

The first strategic goal in the plan is to strengthen the economics of the profession. The other goals address veterinary education, animal welfare, scientific research, and membership participation.

“Economics was certainly the No. 1 concern of every one of our constituents who had something to say,” said Dr. Ted Cohn, chair of the Strategic Planning Task Force and District IX representative on the board. “If you really distilled all the economics within this plan, it probably underlies about two-thirds of the plan.”

The planning process began with input from the AVMA House of Delegates, volunteers on other AVMA entities, and the general membership about critical issues facing the veterinary profession. The planning task force also incorporated ideas from the recent reports of the AVMA 20/20 Vision Commission and the Task Force on AVMA Programs for Students and Recent Graduates.

In addition to economics, membership engagement is a focus of the new strategic plan. The plan includes the following vision statement: “The American Veterinary Medical Association engages and empowers its members to be the premier authorities and leaders in veterinary medicine.”

1. Economics of the profession

Strategic goals addressing economics and workforce were part of the previous strategic plan, in effect from early 2008 to early 2011. The new plan, effective through 2015, combines the economics and workforce goals into one goal to “strengthen the economics of the veterinary medical profession.”

Part of the new economics goal is for the AVMA to “strengthen veterinary practice profitability and financial well-being.” Subsidiary objectives include promoting efficiency in service delivery and encouraging business models that emphasize the client experience. Another objective is to promote the value of veterinary technicians.

“Economics was certainly the No. 1 concern of every one of our constituents who had something to say.”

Dr. Ted Cohn, chair, Strategic Planning Task Force

The other part of the new economics goal is for the AVMA to “enhance (the) veterinary medical workforce” by balancing the supply of veterinarians with the needs of society.

Among the subsidiary objectives are assessing supply and demand to identify employment opportunities and developing solutions for overserved and underserved market segments.

Another objective is to advocate for recruitment strategies that match enrollment at veterinary colleges with societal and professional needs.

2. Veterinary education

Like the previous strategic plan, the new strategic plan has a goal addressing veterinary education.

The new goal statement is for the AVMA, in collaboration with the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges and other organizations, to promote “the development of a sustainable and affordable educational model that graduates competent veterinarians who meet the practice, scientific, global societal, and workforce needs of the 21st century.”

Dr. Cohn said much of the education goal has underlying economic elements. Subsidiary objectives include improving efficiency and decreasing costs of veterinary education through methods such as sharing of resources and informing pre-veterinary and veterinary students about the financial obligations of a veterinary education.

Another objective is to support innovations in curricula to prepare veterinary students to be competent and confident in clinical practice upon graduation.

3. Animal welfare

The new goal for animal welfare has three parts. Part of the goal is for the AVMA to continue advocating for animal welfare.

One new part of the welfare goal is to increase utilization of veterinary services. Dr. Cohn said this part of the goal is economic in basis to some degree, but it importantly reflects a need for preventive care to maintain animal wellness.

Among the subsidiary objectives are implementing a strategy that orients practitioners toward preventive care and encourages animal owners to utilize veterinary services and researching the decline in utilization of veterinary services in relation to the value of animals to society.

The other new part of the welfare goal is to advocate oversight of veterinary procedures. Dr. Cohn said this part of the goal is a direct response to nonveterinarians providing animal health services such as equine dentistry.

Objectives include informing the public of the importance of veterinary oversight for veterinary procedures and supporting legislation and regulations that require veterinary oversight of paraprofessionals.

4. Scientific research

The new strategic plan introduces a new goal to advance scientific research and discovery.

The goal statement is for the AVMA to support “the promotion and appropriate funding of veterinary scientific research and discovery to ensure the advancement of veterinary medical knowledge.”

Dr. Cohn said the Strategic Planning Task Force added the new research goal largely in light of “the serious lack of funding for veterinary research” and “to emphasize the need for veterinarians to enter into this critical aspect of the profession.”

Objectives include promoting greater awareness of the need for sustained and adequate research funding, advocating for increased federal funding for animal health and welfare research, and coordinating public-private partnerships to advance research and increase funding.

5. Membership participation

The new strategic plan also introduces another new goal: to enhance participation and engagement by the AVMA membership.

“Over the years, AVMA has done an excellent job of talking and speaking to our members, letting them know what we do,” Dr. Cohn said. “But we haven't done as good a job as we would like, or we think we should do, as far as listening to our members. This is a member organization; we should be member-driven.”

Dr. Cohn said the goal to be more member-driven resulted from the report of the 20/20 Vision Commission as well as “the desires and concerns of many AVMA members.” The 20/20 commission developed a vision for the AVMA for the year 2020 (see JAVMA, June 1, 2011, page 1372).

In the new strategic plan, the goal statement for membership is for the AVMA to enhance participation and engagement of members “through the creation of a culture of inclusion, transparency, and community.”

The subsidiary objectives fall into the categories of AVMA structure and processes, AVMA organizational culture, and AVMA programs and services.

Core competencies

The list of AVMA core competencies differs little from the previous strategic plan to the new strategic plan.

While the previous plan includes a goal for the AVMA to advocate for the profession in the governmental arena, the new plan incorporates governmental advocacy into the core competency of the AVMA serving as a voice for the profession.

The new strategic plan is available at www.avma.org/about_avma/governance/strategicplanning.

AVMA Strategic Plan

Vision: The American Veterinary Medical Association engages and empowers its members to be the premier authorities and leaders in veterinary medicine.

AVMA strategic goals:

  1. 1.Strengthen the economics of the veterinary medical profession
    1. A.Strengthen veterinary practice profitability and financial well-being
    2. B.Enhance veterinary medical workforce
  2. 2.Catalyze a transformation of veterinary medical education
  3. 3.Promote animal welfare
    1. A.Increase utilization of veterinary services
    2. B.Promote veterinarians as authorities and advocates for animal welfare
    3. C.Advocate oversight of veterinary medical procedures
  4. 4.Advance scientific research and discovery
  5. 5.Enhance membership participation and engagement

AVMA core competencies:

  1. Serving the needs of member veterinarians
  2. Serving as the voice of, and advocate for, the veterinary medical profession and the welfare of animals
  3. Serving as a science-based information resource for the veterinary medical profession and the public
  4. Setting and preserving professional standards
  5. Maintaining the highest standards in association management

AVMA to purchase assets of economics commission

By Katie Burns

The National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues will become part of the AVMA by Sept. 30, pending final approvals, and will dissolve as an independent organization.

While meeting June 5–7, the AVMA Executive Board approved purchasing NCVEI assets in response to the commission's funding difficulties, on a recommendation from the AVMA Office of the Executive Vice President.

According to background materials, “This recommendation to purchase the assets of NCVEI is premised on a strategy being developed by AVMA to assume a greater leadership role in addressing the economic critical issues of the profession.”

The AVMA is acquiring the NCVEI website, database, and brand. The commission offers a free program at www.ncvei.org that allows veterinary practices to compare their financial data with aggregate figures. The website also provides a variety of other business management tools. The AVMA will maintain the website and database following dissolution of the NCVEI as an organization.

“Over time, we've had over 15,000 practices use the website. That doesn't mean that they use it every single year, but at one time or other, they have come in and used the website,” said Dr. Karen E. Felsted, NCVEI chief executive officer. “Usage has been increasing over the last three years.”

At the same time, however, the commission has faced challenges in raising funds from the corporate sponsors that had been a primary source of support.

“I think the biggest issue for us has been the recession, and it's just made it incredibly difficult to continue to get funding. Companies have less money to give,” Dr. Felsted said. “Instead of just giving to an organization for overall support, they tend to more want to support individual projects.”

The AVMA, American Animal Hospital Association, and Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges formed the NCVEI in 2000 with a mission to improve the economic base of the profession. The founding organizations provided some of the funding for the commission.

Last year, the AAHA disapproved further funding for the NCVEI and withdrew from the commission, citing concerns about the NCVEI business model.

In the AAVMC's 2012 fiscal year, which began July 1, 2011, the association did not allocate funding for the NCVEI, but it will not withdraw from the commission until the dissolution. Dr. Marguerite Pappaioanou, AAVMC executive director, said the AAVMC chose to direct resources toward the North American Veterinary Medical Education Consortium—which, in part, addresses economic issues in veterinary education.

Dr. Felsted said the plan for the NCVEI to become part of the AVMA is a natural fit as the AVMA starts to focus more on economic issues.

According to the background to the recommendation for the AVMA to purchase NCVEI assets, “It is anticipated that AVMA will have developed a more long-term strategic plan for economics issues, including the role of NCVEI, by the end of the year.”

Until then, the AVMA will maintain the NCVEI assets in their current form.

The AVMA will purchase the commission's assets out of the $50,000 that the AVMA board previously approved in funding for the NCVEI in 2011. Dr. Felsted said the commission, as a 501 (c)3 nonprofit organization, cannot legally give its assets to the AVMA, a 501 (c)6 organization. The NCVEI will use the $50,000 for current obligations; any remaining money after the dissolution of the commission would go to a 501 (c)3 organization, probably the American Veterinary Medical Foundation.

The AVMA purchase of NCVEI assets depends on an appraisal of the assets for less than $50,000, which the commission had completed by press time; an AVMA review that concludes that the liability risk of acquiring the assets is acceptable and that the AVMA has the ability to assume operation of the website within current budgetary and staff capabilities; creation of a short-term operational plan for transition and management of the assets by the AVMA; and final approval of the purchase by the AVMA executive vice president.

The NCVEI board also must formally approve the purchase.

Group to improve AVMA for young members

By Greg Cima

A group comprising mostly veterinarians within 15 years of graduation will try to improve AVMA services for colleagues early in their careers.

The nine-member Early Career Development Committee is also intended to reignite interest among those who were involved with the AVMA as students, develop new resources, create networking opportunities, and increase discussion and feedback. The group will include five veterinarians within five years of graduation, two within 5 to 15 years of graduation, a school or college faculty adviser, and a representative from the American Society of Veterinary Medical Association Executives.

In early June, the AVMA Executive Board approved creating the committee and supplying about $24,000 for its first two meetings, which will occur in 2012. The Executive Board chair will appoint the committee members.

The AVMA also plans to hire a new assistant director in its Membership and Field Services Division to work with the new committee.

Dr. Joseph H. Kinnarney, District III Executive Board member and chair of the Task Force on AVMA Programs for Students and Recent Graduates, said 40 to 50 percent of AVMA members are within 15 years of graduation, but such veterinarians fall into the Association's greatest void for outreach. The new committee will try to eliminate that void with services such as a virtual community to aid communication among young members across the country.

“The committee will be actively looking at programs and mechanisms to reach out to this group,” Dr. Kinnarney said.

The committee was developed on the basis of comments from the Task Force on AVMA Programs for Students and Recent Graduates, a group formed in April 2010 to review the Association's activities regarding students and recent graduates and identify needs. It was sunset after its report was presented at the Executive Board's meeting a year later.

While the board previously voted to form the committee, that approval was dependent on a concurrent opinion from the AVMA Governance Performance Review Committee, which recommended against creating the new group. A GPRC report to the board states that the new committee appeared to duplicate efforts of the Member Services Committee, and the GPRC expressed concern about a proposal to spend $10,000 on incentives for committee members. Those incentives were dropped from the proposal passed in June.

A report from the Member Services Committee indicates its members disagreed about forming an Early Career Development Committee.

While the AVMA Member Services Committee has developed ideas on ways to serve members, the Early Career Development Committee would consider needs, develop services, and implement those services, Dr. Kinnarney said. He also noted that while the Task Force on AVMA Programs for Students and Recent Graduates recommended that the board consider adding incentives for members of the Early Career Development Committee, the Executive Board decided against that proposal for philosophical reasons.

“We really want people to get involved because they want to be involved, not because they're given incentives to do it,” he said.

The Early Career Development Committee shall:

  1. 1.Work with AVMA staff to develop resources that will impact AVMA members early in their career
  2. 2.Create networking opportunities for individuals early in their veterinary career within the ECDC Online Veterinary Community
  3. 3.Actively engage recent graduates to elicit discussions and gather feedback for the AVMA on a real-time basis

Dr. René A. Carlson, incoming AVMA president, said students have indicated that they want to better understand the AVMA's value and how they can become more involved. She thinks that increased involvement would increase enthusiasm and participation and replace some apathy and lack of understanding of the AVMA by students not directly involved in the Student AVMA or AVMA student chapter leadership positions. Often, it is people with experience and connections with other leaders who are elected or appointed to AVMA volunteer positions, which young generations may find frustrating.

In comments to the Executive Board, Dr. Carlson noted that the AVMA's 2003 hiring of an assistant director for student affairs was followed by a jump in the number of graduates who elected to become AVMA members, from 92 percent to 96 percent. She supports hiring an assistant director who would work with the Early Career Development Committee and focus on young veterinarians' needs, to help maintain membership.

Dr. Carlson also noted that the AVMA needs to change a perception that its leaders don't represent the changing demographics of the veterinary profession.

Subscription benefits considered

The board disapproved a recommendation to give complimentary subscriptions to the online versions of JAVMA and AJVR directly to Student AVMA members. The proposal from the Member Services Committee was intended to encourage students to read the AVMA journals early in their careers to benefit their training, increase their connection with the AVMA, encourage use of the AVMA website, and add a new benefit for SAVMA members.

Students currently have access to the online versions of the journals through their university libraries. The proposal would have given access directly through the AVMA website but was expected to cost about $30,000 in lost revenue.

Membership proposal delayed

The board delayed acting on two proposals that together could expand the number of veterinary students who would more easily gain AVMA membership following graduation. Action on the items was delayed so the board could receive recommendations from the AVMA Bylaws Committee.

The proposed changes to the AVMA's policy and bylaws were intended to reduce the membership cost for graduates of schools that do not have AVMA student chapters but are represented by SAVMA. This would immediately affect graduates from St. George's University in Grenada and St. Matthew's University in the Cayman Islands.

Passage of the proposal would extend automatic membership to any member in good standing of an organization represented in the SAVMA House of Delegates, rather than only to members of AVMA student chapters.

Current AVMA policy gives free membership for the remainder of the year to graduating veterinarians who are members in good standing of their AVMA student chapter. Those graduates' dues are also reduced by half for the following two years, but other graduates pay reduced dues for the remainder of their graduating year and receive a 50 percent discount on dues for one year. The proposed change was expected to cost the AVMA about $19,000, but it was anticipated the money could be regained through added long-term memberships.

Study to consider internship experiences, expectations

A survey of veterinarians could help determine the need for an internship quality assurance program.

In early June, the AVMA Executive Board approved spending up to $13,360 on a survey intended to gauge internship quality and satisfaction. The survey is expected to begin in 2011, but no start date had been set by press time.

The AVMA Task Force on Veterinary Internships indicated in a recommendation to the board that the number of internship positions available through the American Association of Veterinary Clinicians' Veterinary Internship and Residency Matching Program increased from 175 in 1988 to 850 in 2009, while the number of applicants increased from 473 to 1,104.

An unknown number of institutions offer internships outside the program.

Dr. Larry M. Kornegay, AVMA president, said that veterinarians interested in pursuing post-graduate training and education have sought internship positions offered through private practice settings rather than teaching institutions at an increasing rate over the past few decades. In considering the apparent increased interest in interships and examining results of the program that matches interns with available positions, the task force received anecdotal information indicating that internship experiences vary considerably among programs and sometimes differ from intern expectations.

Dr. Larry G. Dee, District IV Executive Board representative and a member of the task force, said more data are needed to make rational, evidence-based decisions on how to resolve any such problems for the veterinarians who take on an internship, often at reduced pay, to obtain additional tutelage, mentoring, and training. Dr. Kornegay hopes the survey will indicate how experiences vary among internships, and the board expects the survey will help improve matching efforts and help ensure that experiences more closely match expectations.

The Executive Board had considered the proposal in April but delayed action to find out whether other organizations would be willing to help pay the estimated $20,000 total cost for the survey, Dr. Dee said. In a memorandum given to board members for their June meeting, Dr. David E. Granstrom, director of the AVMA Education and Research Division, said the American Association of Veterinary Clinicians, Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, and American Animal Hospital Association have agreed to contribute money for the survey. The American Association of Equine Practitioners was considering contributing to the survey but had not decided by press time.

During its April meeting, the Executive Board also approved a recommendation from the task force to spend $5,000 to analyze existing data from the most recent AVMA Biennial Economic Survey. That survey was conducted in 2010 and included information on income and participation in internship and residency programs.

New specialists will have to maintain certification

New diplomates of all veterinary specialty organizations will have to take steps to maintain their certification, starting in 2016.

While meeting June 5–7, the AVMA Executive Board approved the new requirement and other revisions to the policies of the AVMA American Board of Veterinary Specialties.

The criteria for AVMA recognition of veterinary specialty organizations now include having a mandatory program for maintenance of certification, beginning no later than 2016. Specialty organizations will have to date new diplomates' certificates, determine actions for new diplomates to maintain certification, and implement an evaluation process to ensure compliance.

Per the new ABVS policies, each specialty organization will develop its own standards and protocol for maintenance of certification. An organization may use an examination for maintenance of certification, for example, or use a system by which diplomates earn points in a variety of ways—such as attending continuing education seminars or presentations, publishing articles, or serving on examination committees.

Specialty organizations will have to evaluate diplomates for maintenance of certification at least every 10 years. An honor system for diplomate compliance is acceptable if the specialty organization performs random audits of compliance.

A specialty organization that creates a new program for maintenance of certification cannot require existing diplomates to complete the program, but the ABVS policies encourage specialty organizations to initiate systems for voluntary replacement of undated certificates with dated certificates that require maintenance.

Another revision to the ABVS policies is an addition to the guidelines for establishment of new veterinary specialty organizations and veterinary specialties. The ABVS policies now state that the organizing committee for a new veterinary specialty organization should have no fewer than 16 members, and the organizing committee for a new veterinary specialty should have no fewer than eight members.

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The AVMA Executive Board held its June meeting in Post Falls, Idaho, to allow members to stay afterward for the AVMA Veterinary Leadership Experience for veterinary students and other participants. At left, Dr. Ted Cohn, District IX representative on the board, acts as the central support structure of a tower during a team-building exercise.

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 239, 3; 10.2460/javma.239.3.272

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Below, three teams compete to build the tallest tower.

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 239, 3; 10.2460/javma.239.3.272

Workforce shortages, drug availability among AVMA legislative priorities

The AVMA's legislative agenda for the 112th Congress has expanded to include initiatives ranging from the availability of antimicrobials for use in food animals and veterinary workforce shortages to small-business issues and pay equity for federal veterinarians.

The AVMA Executive Board approved actions on several federal bills recommended by the Legislative Advisory Committee during the June 5–7 board meeting. The AVMA Governmental Relations Division in Washington, D.C., will work with Congress to achieve the Association's goals.

Board members designated the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (H.R. 965) for active pursuit of defeat. H.R. 965 would phase out the use of certain antibiotics for “non-therapeutic” purposes in food-producing animals.

The LAC noted in its recommendation to the board that H.R. 965 defines “nontherapeutic use” as any use of a drug as a feed or water additive in the absence of any clinical signs of disease in treated animals, whether for growth promotion, feed efficiency, weight gain, routine disease prevention, or other routine purposes.

AVMA policy states that the availability and effectiveness of antimicrobials, including disease control and prevention uses, are important for maintaining the health and welfare of food-producing animals and ensuring human food safety, the committee stated.

The Veterinary Services Investment Act (S. 1053) was designated for active pursuit of passage. The bill, which was introduced in the previous Congress, would establish a matching grant program with qualified entities to develop, implement, and sustain veterinary services in underserved situations.

These grants could fund projects such as establishing or expanding veterinary practices; recruiting veterinarians, veterinary technicians, or students; and establishing or expanding accredited veterinary education programs for necessary services.

Another workforce bill is the Veterinary Public Health Amendments Act (H.R. 525), which has been designated for active pursuit of passage. The legislation is designed to increase the number of veterinarians in the public health workforce. In addition to establishing a grants program for eligible institutions preparing veterinarians for careers in public health, the bill would allow veterinarians in the public health workforce to apply for student loan repayment.

Passed in March by the House of Representatives, H.R. 525 was referred to the Senate, where it is under consideration by the Committee on Health Education, Labor, and Pensions.

Executive Board members approved a proposal to actively pursue correcting pay inequities for veterinarians employed by the federal government and part of the uniformed services, including the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.

In its recommendation to the board, the LAC explained that the federal government's need for highly trained veterinarians has increased substantially over the past several years. At the same time, government agencies lack sufficient incentives to recruit and retain the best and brightest veterinarians for government service.

The AVMA GRD will work closely with the National Association of Federal Veterinarians to take a holistic look at this issue, the LAC stated. They will compare compensation of veterinarians to that of other health professionals in the federal government and will seek to find a legislative solution to rectify inequities.

The Executive Board approved recommendations that the AVMA support initiatives designed to help small businesses and the middle class. The Small Business Startup Savings Accounts Act (H.R. 1180) would allow businesses with 500 or fewer employees to establish start-up savings accounts to pay certain business expenses. In addition, deposits to the savings account that meet certain requirements would be tax-deductible.

Multiple bills have been introduced in the 112th Congress attempting to fix or repeal the alternative minimum tax, according to the LAC. By passing the Tax Relief Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act of 2010, Congress approved a “patch” that revised the exemption amounts used in computing the AMT for 2010 and 2011. Without these exemptions, an estimated 28 million taxpayers would have been hit by the AMT—raising their tax bills a mean of more than $6,000 each, the committee stated.

For tax year 2010, the legislation sets the income threshold exempt from the AMT to $47,450 for individuals and to $72,450 for couples filing jointly. In 2011, those exemption amounts will increase to $48,450 and $74,450, respectively.

President Obama proposed in his FY 2012 budget a 3-year patch to the AMT that would be paid for by limiting the amount by which high-income taxpayers could reduce their taxable income for eligible itemized deductions—to the same rate that was in place at the end of the Reagan administration. The proposal was expected to raise $321 billion over the next 10 years.

The LAC noted in its recommendation that the AVMA has in the past supported legislation to reform the AMT to stop the dramatic increase in taxes paid by the middle class, including veterinarians.

Learn more about these bills and the rest of the AVMA's legislative agenda at www.avma.org by clicking on “National issues” in the Advocacy section.

AVMA: Many vet practices would benefit from Internet sales tax

A federal moratorium on taxing Internet transactions is giving online pharmacies a competitive advantage over many veterinary practices, according to the AVMA, which has adopted a policy that supports allowing states to collect sales taxes on online purchases by out-of-state customers.

The new policy was approved at the June 5–7 AVMA Executive Board meeting and reads as follows:

AVMA Policy on Internet Sales Tax The AVMA believes that individual states should be able to collect sales taxes for goods sold over the Internet to out-of-state customers.

Congress has prohibited state and local governments from levying sales taxes on Internet access and certain forms of electronic commerce since the late 1990s. Lawmakers have since extended the law three times, most recently with the Internet Tax Freedom Act Amendments Act of 2007, which continued the sales tax moratorium through Nov. 1, 2014.

The AVMA State Advocacy Committee proposed the Association's new policy because the federal law puts “bricks and mortar” merchants at a competitive disadvantage compared with online retailers, who can charge less for the same products.

The committee explained in its recommendation to the Executive Board that veterinary clinics in many states selling drugs on-site must charge sales tax, while Internet pharmacies can sell the same drugs across state lines at a cheaper price because they aren't subject to the same tax requirements.

This price advantage for online retailers ranges from 4 to 9.75 percent, depending on state and local sales tax laws, according to the committee. “Veterinarians are thus becoming less able to compete with Internet pharmacies and are losing out on potential revenue,” the committee wrote.

For Dr. Richard Sullivan, owner of a five-doctor small animal practice in Torrance, Calif., ending the moratorium is a matter of fairness. “It's about leveling the playing field,” said Dr. Sullivan, who is also a member of the State Advocacy Committee. “I have no problems competing with any other form of veterinary medicine as long as we're on the same playing field.”

The AVMA committee also noted in its recommendation that states expect to see a continual decline in sales tax revenue as more residents purchase products online from out-of-state vendors. The lost revenue is greatly needed by state governments during the current economic recession, the committee added.

Additionally, the AVMA committee recommended the Executive Board support legislation aimed at repealing the federal exemption on taxing Internet sales across state lines.

Vet tech programs' growth means changes for CVTEA

The field of veterinary technician education has experienced a rapid expansion in the past few years.

In January 2004, 105 AVMA-accredited veterinary technology programs were in existence. As of April 2011, that number had surged to 185.

As a direct result, the annual number of CVTEA site visits has grown from 19 in 2003 to 35 in 2010. Currently, 53 site visits are scheduled for 2011, with 45 tentatively scheduled for 2012.

In response, the AVMA Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities decided it needed to make changes to its fee structure, policies, and composition to meet the demands of accrediting U.S. and Canadian veterinary technology programs and monitoring the nearly 200 approved programs. The CVTEA made four recommendations along these lines for the AVMA Executive Board to consider during its meeting June 9–11 in Post Falls, Idaho.

Two recommendations dealt with increasing fees related to CVTEA duties, starting next year. The board approved a $100 hike in the annual accreditation fee—from $500 to $600—and a $500 raise in the accreditation application fee—from $2,500 to $3,000.

According to background materials, in 2001 the CVTEA created an annual fee for veterinary technology programs to maintain accreditation. This was meant to defray costs associated with accreditation, and it had not been changed since then. The CVTEA explained that an increase was necessary at this time to cover standard increases in operational costs.

Another committee recommendation approved by the board will add a due process policy to the CVTEA Accreditation Policies and Procedures Manual.

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The number of programs accredited by the CVTEA has increased by 76 percent in seven years, from 105 programs in 2004 to 185 in 2011.

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 239, 3; 10.2460/javma.239.3.272

The modification comes in recognition of the changes made to the AVMA Council on Education's accreditation policies and procedures this past year (see JAVMA, July 1, 2010, page 12), as the recommendation background explained.

Although the CVTEA does not fall under the same U.S. Department of Education requirements that the COE is subject to, the CVTEA chose to develop its own policy to allow for due process in the event of an adverse accreditation decision and because the AVMA's general counsel has advised the CVTEA that due process for adverse decisions is common law, which must be followed.

The last CVTEA recommendation that received board approval was to add another position that represents credentialed veterinary technicians to the 19-member committee.

Since the CVTEA's inception in 1972, the workload for the volunteers on the committee has grown tremendously, according to background materials, and it is expected that the additional position will help alleviate this concern.

The CVTEA has from its beginning included a representative from the COE as a voting member and accreditation site visit team member. However, the position for a COE representative on the CVTEA has been vacant since July 2010, largely because of the extensive time and effort required to serve on both entities.

As a solution, the CVTEA proposed retaining the COE member as a voting member but with no expectation for participation in site visits and adding a position for another credentialed veterinary technician who had graduated from a program accredited by the AVMA or Canadian VMA.

The CVTEA hopes to fill the new position by its November meeting, and this member would serve until 2017.

Stem cell policy receives updates

The Executive Board approved revisions to the AVMA policy on stem cells that reflect the changing face of stem cell research and stem cell-based therapies.

The policy on “Pluripotent stem cells” now replaces the policy on “Stem cells.” The most substantial changes to the policy were the additions of these passages:

  1. The AVMA fully supports and encourages the ethical study and use of animal stem cells, including embryonic, induced pluripotent, and adult, as well as regenerative therapies achieved through directed transdifferentiation of somatic cells to defined precursors. Such studies, performed under the rigorous guidelines of the Animal Welfare Act, have enormous promise for the development of safe and effective cell-based therapies for the benefit of animal and human health.
  2. The AVMA endorses the use of pluripotent stem cells in pre-clinical models of animal and human diseases. Such studies may minimize religious or political constraints associated with the use of human embryonic stem cells and facilitate critical advances in the use of pluripotent stem cells in the treatment of disease or injury common to humans and animals such as spinal injury or diabetes.

The Council on Research first developed the stem cell policy in 2005. Since that time, continued research has expanded the repertoire of stem cell types available, which, in turn, has led to an increase in the clinical use of autologous pluripotent adult stem cells to treat a number of degenerative diseases, primarily in dogs and horses, according to background materials.

The council reviewed the policy at its March meeting as part of the five-year review directive. The COR forwarded the revised policy to the Council on Biologic and Therapeutic Agents for its input. That's because, although the use of autologous pluripotent adult stem cells is not regulated by the Department of Agriculture or the Food and Drug Administration, these types of stem cell can still be considered drugs or therapeutic agents.

In addition, the COR sought input from the Council on Veterinary Service, because stem cells are becoming more widely used to deliver veterinary services in terms of treating degenerative diseases in some animals.

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Large animal technician Fred Librach places equine blood samples in a centrifuge as part of the stem cell isolation process in the Regenerative Medicine Laboratory at the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 239, 3; 10.2460/javma.239.3.272

To view the complete statement on stem cells, log on to www.avma.org/issues/policy/stem_cells.asp.

House bill cuts agriculture spending for FY 2012

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Members of the AVMA Executive Board join students and other participants in the AVMA Veterinary Leadership Experience in Idaho in June for an activity that involves creating animal caricatures.

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 239, 3; 10.2460/javma.239.3.272

House Republicans narrowly passed a funding bill June 16 allocating $125.5 billion for agriculture programs in FY 2012.

The House bill (H.R. 2112) includes $7 billion less than President Obama's requested agriculture appropriations for 2012. The measure reduces discretionary spending by $2.7 billion from last year's level—a cut of more than $5 billion from the president's proposal—and eliminates earmarks.

“AVMA urges Congress to protect the nation's food safety and security and oppose these funding cuts.”

Dr. Mark Lutschaunig, director, AVMA Governmental Relations Division

Jack Kingston, chairman of the House subcommittee on agriculture appropriations, praised the bill. “As the Congress continues the battle to lower spending, cut waste, and create jobs, this bill represents a reduction of 13.4 percent in discretionary funding and makes the tough choices necessary to reduce spending while keeping our bill's basic missions of food production, food and drug safety, rural development, and nutrition programs intact,” the Georgia congressman said.

In addition to specific spending cuts laid out in the appropriations bill, H.R. 2112 included an amendment to further reduce by 0.78 percent funding for a wide range of programs, such as agricultural and conservation initiatives, as well as funding for the Food and Drug Administration.

Nineteen Republicans joined all the Democrats in opposing H.R. 2112, but it passed by a vote of 217 to 203. The committee's top Democrat, Collin Peterson of Minnesota, called the appropriations bill a congressional “assault” on agriculture.

“I fear that if Congress continues to chip away at farm programs, we will be left without an adequate safety net, and the end result could potentially cost the government more money, not less,” Peterson said.

Two Department of Agriculture agencies are slated for deep cuts: the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service budget is reduced by $73 million and the Agricultural Research Service by $88 million.

H.R. 2112 allocates less money for a number of key AVMA-supported programs. By eliminating earmarks, House Republicans left no funding for the Minor Use Animal Drug Program. Spending on the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative is reduced by $35.5 million from 2011 levels for a total of $229.5 million. The AVMA supports President Obama's request for more than $325 million from Congress to support the work of the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, which funds a broad spectrum of agriculture-related research and education initiatives in such areas as aquaculture, food safety, and animal genomics and diseases.

While the AVMA also supports the president's request of $14.2 million for a national animal disease traceability system, H.R. 2112 instead directs APHIS to continue funding the development of a trace-ability system in its baseline budget. In FY 2011 that amounted to approximately $5 million.

The Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program is allocated $4.2 million in 2012, marking a 12.5 percent reduction from 2011. The VMLRP helps pays down student loan debt for veterinarians working in veterinary shortage situations. In 2010, the USDA selected the first 62 veterinarians to participate in the program. The second awards cycle is currently under way, with veterinarians to be selected before the end of the current fiscal year Sept. 30.

H.R. 2112 also proposed eliminating baseline funding of $4.4 million for the National Animal Health Laboratory Network. The NAHLN protects the nation's food supply by providing animal disease surveillance and diagnostic testing services.

The AVMA Governmental Relations Division director, Dr. Mark Lutschaunig, wrote the House Appropriations Committee chairman and ranking member, warning that decreased funding to the VMLRP and NAHLN would hinder each program's ability to protect the country's food safety, animal health and welfare, and public health.

“No one can deny that our nation is facing serious fiscal challenges; however, stripping funding from the VMLRP and NAHLN programs is unwise,” he stated. “AVMA urges Congress to protect the nation's food safety and security and oppose these funding cuts.”

The House later approved an amendment to H.R. 2112 offered by Rep. Corey Gardner of Colorado restoring funding to the NAHLN.

Not every agriculture-related program saw spending reductions, however. Funding for the Food Animal Residue Avoidance Databank was increased by $2,000 to $1 million. In addition, appropriations for Animal Health and Disease Research/1433 Formula Funds climbed from $2.94 million in 2011 to $4 million in 2012.

At press time in June, H.R. 2112 was being reviewed by the Senate Agriculture Committee and the AVMA GRD was meeting with key appropriators, advising them of the Association's funding priorities.

Marine mammals succumbing to dual-parasite infections

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Harbor seals are one of several marine mammal species at risk for co-infection with Sarcocystis neurona and Toxoplasma gondii. (Courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife Service)

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 239, 3; 10.2460/javma.239.3.272

Scientists with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases have found a link between severe illness and co-infection with Sarcocystis neurona and Toxoplasma gondii in more than 150 marine mammals that died between 2004 and 2009 in the Pacific Northwest.

Such widespread polyparasitism among marine mammals indicates pervasive contamination of waterways by zoonotic agents, the scientists concluded. Moreover, the significant associations between co-infection and mortality rate and between co-infection and severity of protozoal encephalitis suggested that polyparasitism was an important factor contributing to disease severity in marine mammals.

The NIAID, part of the National Institutes of Health, collaborated with investigators in Washington state and Canada in the research, which was published online May 24 in the open-access journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases.

Necropsies were performed on 151 marine mammals that were suspected to have parasitic encephalitis. The animals included several kinds of seals and sea lions, Northern sea otters, a Pacific white-sided dolphin, porpoises, and three species of whale. An additional 10 animals, all healthy adult California sea lions that were euthanized in the Columbia River to protect fish stocks, were included in the study as controls.

Hundreds of brain, heart, lymph node, and other tissue samples were examined. “Our techniques are unbiased in that we do not directly search for any particular species of parasite,” said lead researcher Michael Grigg, PhD, of the NIAID Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases. “Rather, the screens simply reveal evidence of any parasite in the tissue being studied.”

Parasites were found in 147 of the 161 animals studied—32 were infected with T gondii, 37 with S neurona, and 62 with both parasites. The remaining 16 animals were infected with various other parasites, including several that had not been detected before in any kind of animal. Notably, all 10 healthy animals were infected with either or both T gondii and S neurona.

“The presence of T gondii did not surprise us, but the abundance of S neurona infections was quite unexpected,” Dr. Grigg said.

Researchers theorize that S neurona has been introduced into the Pacific Northwest by opossums, which have been expanding their range northward from California and shed an infectious form of the parasite in their feces. Ample rainfall in the region provides an easy route for infected feces to enter inland and coastal waterways and then contaminate shellfish and other foods eaten by marine mammals.

“The most remarkable finding of our study was the exacerbating role that S neurona appears to play in causing more severe disease symptoms in those animals that are also infected with Tgondii,” Dr. Grigg said.

Among animals for which parasitic infection was the probable cause of death, there was evidence of more severe brain tissue inflammation in the co-infected animals than in those infected by either S neurona or T gondii alone. The two parasites are closely related, and other studies had suggested that acquired immunity after infection of an animal with one of these parasites might protect it from severe illness following infection with the other. Dr. Grigg noted that was not the case in this study, however.

“The most remarkable finding of our study was the exacerbating role that S neurona appears to play in causing more severe disease symptoms in those animals that are also infected with T gondii.”

Michael Grigg, PhD, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases

The study results also hinted that animals with lowered immunity, such as pregnant or nursing females or very young animals, were more likely to have worse signs when co-infected with T gondii and S neurona.

“Identifying the threads that connect these parasites from wild and domestic land animals to marine mammals helps us to see ways that those threads might be cut,” Dr. Grigg said. Managing feral cat and opossum populations, he added, is one way of preventing parasites from entering the marine food chain.

The study, “Polyparasitism Is Associated with Increased Disease Severity in Toxoplasma gondii-Infected Marine Sentinel Species,” is available online at www.plosntds.org.

Wealth of wildlife data free online

Wildpro, an electronic encyclopedia and library for wildlife professionals, is now available free online.

The e-resource is a one-stop source of information on the health and management of captive and free-living wild animals and emerging infectious diseases.

All data in the Wildpro encyclopedia are referenced and peer-reviewed. Volumes are arranged according to species, disease, or technique, such as disease investigation and management of birds.

Hundreds of books, documents, and scientific papers are stored in Wildpro's electronic library, including G.H. Evans' “Elephants and their diseases: a treatise on elephants” published in 1910.

Fines, cleanup, and warnings follow waste violations

An egg production company agreed to pay about $5.4 million in fines, cleanup costs, and construction costs to settle complaints about illegal waste dumping at seven facilities in Oklahoma and Texas, federal authorities announced in May.

Mahard Egg Farm Inc. will pay about $1.9 million in fines and spend about $3.5 million to bring company facilities up to standards following a settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Justice, an EPA announcement states.

The company was accused of failing to properly design and operate its wastewater and manure lagoons, overapplying poultry manure to fields, allowing untreated wastewater to flow into waterways, failing to maintain grass buffer strips along waterways, failing to comply with a construction storm water permit, failing to ensure adequate drinking water for employees at one of its facilities, and violating related state laws.

Owners of a beef feedlot in Iowa also agreed to pay a $20,000 civil penalty for illegally dumping animal waste into a creek and its tributaries, according to the EPA. The company, Moran Beef, had applied for a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit and had built controls to prevent discharges since January 2010, when the EPA directed the company to comply with Clean Water Act regulations.

The EPA also issued in May compliance orders regarding alleged Clean Water Act violations at four feedlots in Iowa, two in Kansas, and one in Nebraska.

The agency accused feedlot operators of failing to keep adequate storage capacity in waste lagoons, keeping cattle in areas with inadequate waste controls, illegally dumping waste into streams and wetlands, operating without National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits, failing to keep adequate records of waste spread on land, and failing to perform required sampling of manure, wastewater, and land.

Preventing animal waste from contaminating surface water and groundwater is one of the EPA's six national enforcement initiatives for 2011–2013. Others relate to minimizing environmental harm from mineral processing, fuel extraction, and industrial and power plant-related air pollution, and keeping raw sewage and contaminated storm water out of U.S. waters.

Information from the EPA states that manure from concentrated animal feeding operations, when improperly managed, can carry disease-causing pathogens, nutrients, and other contaminants to surface water and groundwater. The Clean Water Act prohibits discharge of pollutants from point sources to surface waters without National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits, which include requirements for waste management at CAFOs.

The AVMA has information on waste management and disposal at www.avma.org/wastedisposal.

Morris funds wildlife health and conservation studies

In June the Morris Animal Foundation announced the organization had awarded a total of $1.6 million in support of approximately 50 new and continuing wildlife health studies in 2011–2012.

The research is being conducted at veterinary colleges, zoologic institutions, and scientific research centers around the world and deals with a broad range of species.

For example, scientists at the University of Minnesota are assessing the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on the reproduction of migratory birds. At the Smithsonian Institution, researchers are testing treatments that could increase fertility in captive African elephants; the U.S. African elephant population is not self-sustaining, partly as a result of abnormal ovarian cycles. A Boston University study is addressing white-nose syndrome, which has killed more than a million bats in eastern North America. The little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus) may be the most likely bat species spreading WNS. Researchers will try predicting the bats' migration routes and identify other bat populations at risk.

The foundation is also funding other research involving amphibians, birds, rhinoceroses, sea lions and otters, primates, and turtles.

Learn more about Morris-supported research at www.morrisanimalfoundation.org.

Drug's sale halted over arsenic concerns

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(Courtesy of USDA)

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 239, 3; 10.2460/javma.239.3.272

By Greg Cima

A pharmaceutical company planned to halt sales of a drug used to treat a parasitic disease and increase growth in chickens after it was found that use of the drug could cause detectable concentrations of inorganic arsenic in the livers of treated birds.

The drug, known as Roxarsone or 3-Nitro, had been used in broiler chickens since the 1940s and used less often in turkeys and swine, according to the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA announced that a study of 100 chickens showed that inorganic arsenic was detected at higher concentrations in the livers of birds treated with the drug than in the livers of control birds. Pfizer subsidiary Alpharma planned to halt sales of the drug by July 8, which gave producers 30 days to seek alternative treatment options.

Agency officials said the liver arsenic concentrations and the public health risks were low, however, and the company was working with the FDA to examine data on use of the drug in animals.

“FDA does not believe there is a need to recall chicken already in commerce,” Dr. Bernadette M. Dunham, director of the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine, said in a conference call with news media. “FDA's findings demonstrate a very low but avoidable public exposure to inorganic arsenic, a carcinogen.”

The FDA also planned to notify partners in other countries about the findings.

Roxarsone had been used to promote growth in broiler chickens, improve pigmentation, and, in combination with other drugs, combat coccidiosis. Signs of coccidiosis in chickens include enteritis, emaciation, decreased appetite, and diarrhea.

The FDA initiated its study after published reports over the past eight years indicated organic arsenic, which is present in Roxarsone, could transform into the more dangerous inorganic arsenic in the environment, Dr. Dunham said. The agency developed an assay able to detect low concentrations of inorganic arsenic in edible tissues, and the amount of inorganic arsenic in the livers of tested chickens was found to be high, relative to amounts in control chickens, she said.

An FDA report of the study indicates that the livers of chickens euthanized five days after treatment was stopped had a mean inorganic arsenic concentration of 1.4 ppb. Those euthanized three days after treatment was stopped had a mean concentration of 1.7 ppb, and those euthanized the same day treatment was stopped had a mean concentration of 7.8 ppb. Concentrations in control birds were below the limit of quantification.

David Goldman, MD, assistant administrator of the Office of Public Health Science in the Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service, indicated his agency also was not substantially concerned about continued consumption of chicken while Roxarsone was being withdrawn.

“FSIS has concluded that the risk to consumers posed by eating chicken is very low and does not believe that there is a significant increased risk associated with continuing to eat chicken while Roxarsone is being phased out,” Dr. Goldman said.

Dr. Hector Cervantes, chair of the Drugs and Therapeutics Committee of the American Association of Avian Pathologists, said the FDA and Pfizer may have been able to avoid suspending the sale of Roxarsone by expanding the FDA's testing to include withdrawal periods such as 7,10, or 14 days, which he said would be more representative of withdrawal periods commonly used in the broiler industry. Although some of the treated birds in the FDA study were euthanized following the required minimum five-day withdrawal period, he said that broiler chickens slaughtered at 56 days of age would typically not have received the drug in their feed after 32 days of age.

However, Laura Alvey, an FDA spokeswoman, indicated that it was incorrect that extending the withdrawal period for the chickens tested by the agency would have prevented suspension of sales of the drug. She said the FDA needs to focus on conditions of use established in conjunction with approval of the product and assume that the minimum withdrawal period will be used.

“FDA does not believe there is a need to recall chicken already in commerce. FDA's findings demonstrate a very low but avoidable public exposure to inorganic arsenic, a carcinogen.”

Dr. Bernadette M. Dunham, director, FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine

The loss of Roxarsone will sharply increase demand for other anticoccidial drugs, particularly those used to control Eimeria tenella, Dr. Cervantes said. Loss of the drug is also likely to increase production costs for broiler producers, he said.

“Personally, I'm not aware of any alternatives to this feed additive that could do the same thing,” Dr. Cervantes said.

Dr. William T. Flynn, deputy director for science policy in the FDA CVM, said about 90 percent of Roxarsone use involved chickens, but data on the prevalence of use in chickens was not immediately available. He was aware of one other arsenic-based pharmaceutical, nitarsone, that is marketed in the U.S., and the FDA and Pfizer had been in talks regarding that product. FDA information indicates that nitarsone is approved for use to prevent blackhead in chickens and turkeys and to increase growth in turkeys.

Merial launches outbreak alert program

An animal health company has developed an alert system to notify registered users about reports of equine disease throughout the country. The hope is to build a greater awareness of those diseases and the importance of prevention.

Merial launched its Outbreak Alert program June 1 to give information about any potential outbreaks of diseases such as eastern equine encephalitis, equine monocytic ehrilichiosis (Potomac horse fever), equine influenza, rabies, tetanus, western equine encephalitis, and West Nile virus.

Horse owners and veterinarians can sign up for free alerts via the program's website, www.outbreak-alert.com. When a disease report occurs, those who have signed up for the notification and live within a 250-mile radius of the reported outbreak will receive a text or email message to alert them of the potential disease threat.

Owners who travel with their horses and want to stay abreast of disease threats in other parts of the country can enter multiple ZIP codes in the site's search field. They will then be able to receive alerts for all areas they have selected.

The website also provides access to consumer-focused information about equine diseases, their transmission, signs to look for, and disease prevention, including the importance of vaccination.

AUSTRALIAN TEACHER AND INNOVATOR

Dr. Douglas C. Blood wrote pivotal text, re-established veterinary school

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(Sketch by Wes Walters courtesy of the National Library of Australia)

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 239, 3; 10.2460/javma.239.3.272

Dr. Doug Blood's career teaching veterinary medicine spanned Australia, the United States, and Canada. While a professor in Canada, he wrote a pivotal text on livestock diseases. In Australia, he re-established the University of Melbourne's veterinary school as founding dean.

Dr. Blood recently shared his life story with Drs. Tom Hart, Ivan W. Caple, and Michael A. Harrison. The following profile is condensed from their notes about that discussion with their permission.

Career in academia

Born in England in 1920, Douglas C. Blood immigrated to Australia with his family at the age of 5. The family settled in an agricultural district close to Sydney.

After earning a veterinary degree from Sydney University in 1942, Dr. Blood was appointed as a captain in the Australian Army. He was assigned to a company responsible for surveillance for Japanese forces in Australia's Northern Territory.

At the end of World War II, Dr. Blood joined the staff at Sydney University as a lecturer in large animal medicine. He found that the teaching of veterinary medicine at the time was mainly based on the experiences of the lecturers. He thought instruction should be evidence-based, however, and wrote 1,000 pages of lecture notes based on research publications.

Dr. Blood was conscious that his own experience was limited. He visited the only private livestock practice in Australia. All other veterinary service to the dairy industry at that time was provided by government veterinarians. He also visited New Zealand to gain practical experience. Nevertheless, it was not until he spent two years at Cornell University in New York that he learned how to run an effective ambulatory veterinary clinic to serve the dairy industry.

On his return to Sydney University, Dr. Blood encountered logistic problems to providing an ambulatory teaching clinic. He thought that the clinic should be located near the dairy farms. The university decided instead to use land that was free but not ideally sited.

Dr. Blood left for a position as a professor of large animal medicine at the University of Guelph Ontario Veterinary College. There, he used the lecture notes he had developed at Sydney and ran an ambulatory teaching clinic. He was an early adopter of the use of the stethoscope and internal examination per rectum for the diagnosis of disease in cattle.

While at Guelph, Dr. Blood wrote his text on livestock diseases, with Dr. James A. Henderson as editor. “Veterinary Medicine” organized the explanation of diseases into a logical scientific sequence, was evidence-based, and had comprehensive referencing. Each disease was dealt with under the headings of etiology, pathogenesis, clinical findings, clinical pathology, necropsy findings, diagnosis, and treatment.

“Veterinary Medicine” is now in its 10th edition and has been translated into many languages.

Innovations at Melbourne

In 1962, Dr. Blood was appointed founding dean to re-establish the University of Melbourne's veterinary school. He was given the task of planning the curriculum, which he based largely on his experiences at Cornell and Guelph. He was also responsible for leading the design, building, and staffing of the school and for establishing a teaching hospital as well as an ambulatory farm clinic.

Dr. Blood believed that the school should be located in dairy country, but government land was made available elsewhere. He had learned not to argue with universities about the siting of veterinary facilities.

One of the innovations introduced by Dr. Blood while dean was the establishment of a satellite teaching facility in a dairying area.

After six years, Dr. Blood stepped down as dean but remained as a professor until his retirement in 1985.

Dr. Blood realized that economic considerations limited the use of modern medical methodology to diagnose and treat livestock diseases. Therefore, he introduced the teaching of epidemiology and established herd health programs. He wrote a book on herd health with Dr. Otto M. Radostits.

Dr. Blood also recognized the potential for using computers to facilitate the diagnosis of disease and wrote several computer programs with other clinicians—Bovid to diagnose diseases of dairy cattle, Canid to diagnose diseases of dogs, and Phytox as an index of poisonous plants.

Outside academia

Dr. Blood was an innovator in the politics and regulation of the veterinary profession in Australia. He published a book on veterinary law in 1985.

He was a founding fellow of the Australasian College of Veterinary Scientists, which allowed veterinarians to gain specialist qualifications without returning to a university. He was the chief examiner for the first 10 years.

An elected member of the veterinary board of the state of Victoria from 1963–1990, Dr. Blood initiated cooperation between all Australian state and territorial boards. This led to an annual conference of board chairpersons. The initiative expanded from being a forum for harmonizing standards set by the boards to include oversight of the Australian Veterinary Schools Accreditation Committee.

The Australian government worked with the veterinary boards to establish the National Veterinary Examination to evaluate qualifications of graduates of overseas veterinary schools. Dr. Blood visited 15 overseas veterinary schools to assess their instruction and facilities. He and Dr. Pauline Brightling developed the first set of multiple-choice questions for the National Veterinary Examination.

Among his other endeavors, Dr. Blood served as president of the Victorian Division of the Australian Veterinary Association. He is a past president and current fellow of the Australian Association of Cattle Veterinarians. At the 1983 World Veterinary Congress in Perth, Australia, he was appointed chairman of the Congress.

After his retirement, Dr. Blood also co-authored a veterinary dictionary with Dr. Virginia P. Studdert in 1988.

Condensed by Katie Burns

TAMU Equine Initiative receives $2.5 million grant

Equine research and teaching at Texas A&M University got a boost this summer thanks to a $2.5 million challenge grant. The university will be responsible for raising the additional $2.5 million.

The Burnett Foundation awarded the funding to the Texas A&M University Foundation for the university's Equine Initiative. This is a collaboration between the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences' Department of Animal Science at TAMU. The gift will help establish it as a premier equine program, according to a June 11 press release.

The Equine Initiative has plans to graduate industry leaders and generate research on veterinary medical care that will improve the equine industry and horse welfare. It is built on four major imperatives: curriculum enhancement, outreach and engagement expansion, facility construction, and partnership development.

The grant was given in honor of Dr. Glenn P. Blodgett, a leader in equine veterinary medicine and a 2011 Distinguished Alumnus of the veterinary college, establishing the Glenn Blodgett Equine Chair.

A 1974 graduate of the college, Dr. Blodgett has worked as a large animal veterinarian for more than 35 years. Since 1982, Dr. Blodgett has been the resident veterinarian and horse division manager for Burnett Ranches in Guthrie, Texas. Under his leadership, the ranch has produced and developed some of the most recognized racing and western performance Quarter Horses worldwide.

Colorado State searches for new dean

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Dr. Lance E. Perryman

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 239, 3; 10.2460/javma.239.3.272

Dr. Lance E. Perryman, dean of the Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, will step down from his position next year.

He made the announcement in January, and the college launched a national search for his replacement in May. Dr. Perryman agreed to extend his appointment by a year through June 2012, with backing from CSU President Tony Frank, to provide leadership to the college as the university ends its capital campaign and as university budget issues stabilize.

The campaign's goal is to raise $500 million university-wide. Already the veterinary college has raised more than its $100 million share, with a year left to go. The capital campaign is meant to provide additional scholarship opportunities for students, more endowed chair positions, and resources for physical expansions and improvements across campus.

During Dr. Perryman's tenure, the college has completed eight major capital construction projects that together exceed $100 million. The college is pursuing a master site plan to add 15 facilities in the next 10 years.

Dr. Perryman graduated from the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine in 1970 and received a doctorate from Washington State in comparative pathology.

His first position was as a professor at WSU, and he later served as director of its Animal Health Research Center until 1994. That year he took a post as head of the Department of Microbiology, Pathology, and Parasitology at the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine. He joined CSU as dean in September 2001 and will finish his second five-year term this summer.

Dr. Perryman is a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Pathologists and a former president of the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges.

The search for a new dean is being chaired by Dr. Janice Nerger, dean of the College of Natural Sciences. The university has started to receive nominations for the post already, and applications are due by Sept. 1.

Community Accolades

Organizations

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Gene P. King

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 239, 3; 10.2460/javma.239.3.272

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Barbara Madison

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 239, 3; 10.2460/javma.239.3.272

Gene P. King and Barbara Madison received the Service Above Self Award, given by Lake Erie Seminars to individuals who have served the veterinary profession, during the 17th annual Lake Erie Walleye Fishing & Golf Seminar Weekend, May 12–15 in Port Clinton, Ohio. The event provides recreation along with veterinary continuing education.

King was an executive secretary and director of the Ohio VMA, with 34 years of service. He founded the breakfast and luncheon program of the association's Veterinary Political Action Committee.

Madison was an assistant executive director of the Ohio VMA, with 42 years of service. She has been a volunteer for the Rotary and the Virginia Gay Fund for retired female teachers in Ohio.

King and Madison also received recognition from the Ohio Senate for their service.

Academia

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Dr. James R. Coffman

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 239, 3; 10.2460/javma.239.3.272

Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine recently honored Dr. James R. Coffman (KSU ′62) with the 2011 Distinguished Alumnus Award.

He served on the K-State faculty of the Department of Surgery and Medicine from 1965–1969, then as professor of equine medicine at the University of Missouri-Columbia from 1971–1981 and as director of its Equine Center from 1973–1977.

Dr. Coffman returned to K-State in 1981 as the head of the Department of Surgery and Medicine. This marked the beginning of his 28-year tenure at K-State, where he served as the veterinary college's dean from 1984–1987 and as provost from 1987–2004. For the past two years, he has worked as a volunteer with K-State's Department of Animal Sciences and Industry, helping in the development of an equine-assisted therapy program.

Obituaries: Member Honor roll member Nonmember

John F. Fessler

Dr. Fessler (OSU ′60), 76, West Lafayette, Ind., died April 23, 2011. A diplomate and past president of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons, he was professor emeritus of large animal surgery at Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine since 2002. During his tenure, Dr. Fessler helped establish the ACVS surgical residency program at the university and served as a mentor to students specializing in veterinary surgery. He received the ACVS Distinguished Service Award in 1997. In 2002, the American Association of Equine Practitioners honored Dr. Fessler with a Distinguished Educator Award. He is survived by his wife, Patricia, and two sons. Memorials may be made to the Fessler Large Animal Surgery Residency Research Fund, Room 1177, Lynn Hall, 625 Harrison St., West Lafayette, IN 47907.

Bradley R. Gramm

Dr. Gramm (IL ′83), 53, Bloomington, Ill., died April 28, 2011. He was senior technical support veterinarian at Phibro Animal Health in Ridgefield Park, N.J., since 2001. Following graduation, Dr. Gramm owned a mixed animal practice in Lexington, Ill., for two years. During that time, he was also the staff veterinarian for Illini Sire Services. Dr. Gramm then served as technical services veterinarian and branch manager at Parker Livestock Supply in Manchester, Iowa. From 1988–2000, he worked for Pfizer Animal Health in Pennsylvania and Missouri. While employed at Pfizer, Dr. Gramm served as senior technical services veterinarian and cattle marketing manager. He was a member of the American Association of Swine Veterinarians. Dr. Gramm's wife, LuAnn; two sons; and a daughter survive him. His nephew, Dr. Jayme Richardson (IL ′10), is a veterinarian in Chicago. Memorials toward the Gramm Children College/Educational Fund may be made c/o LuAnn Gramm, 3 Aster Court, Bloomington, IL 61704.

Peter W. Laffan

Dr. Laffan (UP ′61), 74, Tampa, Fla., died April 8, 2011. He served as a captain in the Army Veterinary Corps.

Duard D. Linam

Dr. Linam (TEX ′45), 91, Cedar Park, Texas, died April 9, 2011. Prior to retirement in 1981, he practiced at the Austin Cat and Dog Hospital in Austin, Texas, for more than 35 years. Dr. Linam helped establish the Austin Humane Society in the 1950s and served on its board of directors. He was recognized as a life emeritus director of the society and was named Humanitarian of the Year in 1981. Dr. Linam was a member of the Texas and Capital Area VMAs and the American Animal Hospital Association. He helped found a services exchange program between the Texas A&M University School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, the Capital Area VMA, and the Austin Humane Society. The American Humane Association honored Dr. Linam in 1976 and 1982 for his service and contributions to the humane movement in the country. His wife, Dorothy, and two daughters survive him. Memorials in his name may be made to the Capital City A&M Club Scholarship Fund, P.O. Box 332, Austin, TX 78767; Austin Humane Society, 124 W. Anderson Lane, Austin, TX 78752; Austin Animal Center, 1156 W. Cesar Chavez St., Austin, TX 78703; or the Shriners Hospitals for Children, Office of Development, 2900 Rocky Point Drive, Tampa, FL 33607.

John W. Petscher

Dr. Petscher (PUR ′77), 65, Madison, Ind., died Feb. 27, 2011. A mixed animal practitioner, he owned Madison Animal Clinic since 1980. Earlier in his career, Dr. Petscher practiced at Dublin Animal Hospital in Dublin, Va., and Hilltop Animal Hospital in Madison. He was a member of the District 9 VMA (Indiana) and served as Indiana's representative to the Christian Veterinary Mission. Active in civic life, Dr. Petscher was a past president of the Madison Area Chamber of Commerce and The Salvation Army board and served on the Boy Scouts Council. He was a veteran of the Army, attaining the rank of 1 st lieutenant. Dr. Petscher's wife, Janis; three daughters; and a son survive him. One daughter, Dr. Joy Barron (PUR ′08), is a small animal veterinarian in Madison. Memorials may be made to the Christian Veterinary Mission, 19303 Fremont Ave. N., Seattle, WA 981 33; or The Salvation Army, 331 E. Main St., Madison, IN 47250.

Thomas E. Van Cise

Dr. Van Cise (PUR ′74), 60, Corona, Calif., died Dec. 30, 2010. He owned All Animals Exotic or Small Hospital in Norco, Calif., focusing on alternative and homeopathic medicine. Dr. Van Cise is survived by his fiancee, Michelle Skok.

David M. Ward

Dr. Ward (CAL ′61), 74, El Dorado Hills, Calif., died April 17, 2011. He owned a mixed animal practice in northern California prior to retirement. Dr. Ward is survived by his wife, Earlene, and two sons. Memorials may be made to Yosemite High School Sober Grad Night, 50200 Road 427, Oakhurst, CA 93626.

Your assistance is needed to ensure timely publication of obituaries. Please report the death of a veterinarian promptly to AVMA News Staff: (800) 248–2862, Ext. 6754 email: news@avma.org fax: (847) 925–9329.

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