Top-notch care for elite fleets
The greatest concentration of marine mammal veterinarians isn't found in the theme parks of Orlando or on the colorful beaches of Hawaii. That designation goes to the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program at Point Loma in San Diego.
For decades, the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program in San Diego has provided cutting-edge veterinary care to bottle-nosed dolphins and California sea lions.
The Navy uses these animals to find and mark the location of underwater objects. Both of these marine mammal species can be trained to perform a variety of tasks for the Navy. They are fast and agile swimmers, can dive up to 1,000 feet underwater, and can do repetitive dives without suffering from the bends.
The program's animal care team comprises members of the U.S. Army Veterinary Corps, civilians, National Marine Mammal Foundation veterinarians, and other animal health care experts. Together, the marine mammal veterinarians who care for the program's 80 dolphins and 40 sea lions constitute the largest group of marine mammal veterinarians in the country.
Dr. Cynthia R. Smith, executive director of the NMMF, explained that marine mammal veterinarians from the program originally created the nonprofit foundation under Dr. Sam Ridgway's guidance (see sidebar, page 872). The NMMF currently provides medical care for the Navy animals and clinical research support that helps the Navy continuously advance the health and welfare of its marine mammal population.
Three Army veterinarians and five Army veterinary technicians represent the Army Veterinary Corps in the program. Because this is a unique assignment, the Army staff members undergo a lot of on-the-job training as part of the veterinary care team.
Capt. Lara S. Cotte, officer in charge of clinical veterinary services, concedes there is a steep learning curve for new Army personnel who rotate in.
“We're in a new era where there are more vets and techs than the program had 10 years ago. We're constantly working on consistency of personnel,” Dr. Cotte said. “Training on all levels is paramount to ensuring quality animal care.”
An ounce of prevention
Veterinarians with the program place a heavy emphasis on preventive medicine and routine diagnostic testing, but also stress maintaining social and environmental conditions that keep their animals healthy.
The Navy's marine mammals go through an annual wellness examination, which includes a history and physical examination, auscultation, and collection of fecal and blood samples. Animals are dewormed every six months, and sea lions receive monthly heartworm preventive.
Sonographic and endoscopic examinations are a routine part of the preventive medicine program, and on occasion, the veterinary staff perform CT or MRI scans at the nearby Naval Medical Center in San Diego to better characterize the animals’ health.
Trainers are taught the signs to look for when performing medical checks every day and whom to notify when something isn't right, whether it's a low appetite or change in behavior, Dr. Cotte said.
“One of the biggest problems working with marine mammals is they are incredibly sophisticated at masking disease,” which requires looking for subtle cues, she said.
While the Navy marine mammal population has consistently had low mortality and high survival rates over the past 20 years, illnesses are inevitable in any animal population. The most common health issue for the sea lions is mild gastrointestinal disease, which is likely also the case for their counterparts in the wild. In the dolphins, Dr. Cotte said, respiratory conditions such as bronchopneumonia are the most common illnesses.
As the number of geriatric animals in the Navy's marine mammal population has increased, so has the prevalence of age-associated diseases, including arthritis and cataracts, according to Dr. Eric D. Jensen, managing veterinarian for the program.
Dr. Jensen said that along with the increase in the number of older animals have come conditions they've never seen before in marine mammals, such as neoplastic disease.
“They were really rarely reported when I first started working with them. Now we're seeing organ system failures like heart failure, kidney issues, liver issues. A lot of those changes are just associated with old age and degeneration,” he said.
“Our understanding of how long dolphins live in the wild is evolving, too. And our population is doing very well. We have lots of animals in their 30s and 40s and occasionally 50s.”
Male sea lions in the program live about triple the years they would in the wild, reaching somewhere in their mid-20s or older.
Each animal at the program is trained in husbandry behaviors to facilitate their health care. Dolphins are trained to accept a tube inserted into their stomach to enable veterinarians to monitor gastric health with fluid sampling and gastroscopy as needed. The dolphins are also trained to allow veterinarians to perform physical examinations in the water, including temperature monitoring, fecal sampling, blowhole swab sampling, and ultrasound examinations. Recently, they've been taught to allow urinary catheterization while they are still in the water, so researchers can collect urine for a renal study.
This training has been an important part of the program since its inception, as a result of the work of one of the program's founders, Dr. Ridgway, who is now senior scientist for animal care and research with the foundation. In fact, it was the conflict between Dr. Ridgway's need to gain access to an animal to obtain health information and a trainer's need to continue with training activities that led to the development of one of the earliest voluntary husbandry behaviors in marine mammals.
Dr. Ridgway explained, “Dr. C. Scott Johnson, who was a physicist working on dolphin hearing at the time, was annoyed by my upsetting his training once a month, taking a blood sample. So he trained his animal to present its tail fluke so I could take a blood sample and to roll over and open his mouth. We could do a whole physical exam with the cooperation of the animal and do it in the water.”
At the time—the late ′50s and early ′60s—a lot of seminal research on animal behavior was being published. B.F. Skinner, PhD, published his landmark paper “How to Teach Animals” in 1951 in Scientific American, introducing the term “shaping” and the use of a clicker as a conditioned reinforcer.
To learn how to better train the animals, Dr. Ridgway and others were taught the details of operant conditioning by a graduate student of Dr. Skinner's, Keller Breland.
Mark Xitco, PhD, head of the scientific and veterinary support branch of the Navy program, said the notion that animals could be trained to participate in and facilitate their own health care became ubiquitous in the marine mammal community and then spread as marine mammal trainers infiltrated the larger zoological community.
“Now everywhere you go—to zoos and aquariums across the world—there (are) hundreds of species sitting still for blood samples. It all started with Sam and Scott over the tension disrupting his audiology research because Sam wanted a sample. They came to such a productive solution,” Dr. Xitco said.
Wealth of information
Another unique aspect of the program that allows for quality animal health care is its database, which has the most inclusive data sets in the marine mammal world, Dr. Cotte said.
Dr. Jensen recalls his first months with the program and being amazed at the depth of information available on each animal.
“I'd look on a sheet (for a particular animal), and they had 25 previous (bloodwork reports). I mean, people don't even have that,” he said.
The program has kept electronic records since the mid-1990s. The information includes results of laboratory and other tests, diets, medications, and travel data. It takes a staff of five full-time employees to maintain the database for health care and research purposes and preserve the program's archive of samples.
The program archives tissues and other biological samples from all animals in the program. These samples fill about 10 freezers and date to the beginning of the program.
“The advantage of the archive is if we have a question and there's something we want to go and look at, say if animals in the past had a virus or disease, we can pull samples, test, and see if there's something that could help us answer a question,” said Capt. Kamala Rapp-Santos, an attending veterinarian with the program.
Fostering the future
Not only are the record keeping and veterinary care done in-house, but also, so is the breeding of animals.
The first animal was born in the facility in 1973. Before then, dolphins were caught either from the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic Ocean. The older sea lions were wild-caught on local beaches, but the more recent ones come from rehabilitation facilities with animals that are deemed nonreleasable.
All the sea lions in the program are neutered males. Dr. Rapp-Santos said that's to prevent aggression and protect them against related injuries as well as reproductive diseases.
Dr. Ridgway said they started the dolphin breeding program with the thought that perhaps animals bred for certain traits could be trained more quickly, but said it hasn't been long enough to determine whether this works.
A unique health challenge from the breeding program emerged in 1977 when the breeding program was started in earnest. Not many people had handled baby dolphins before then.
“It's only been the last 10 to 15 years that the industry—not just us but places like Dolphin Quest and others—have found ways to safely handle babies so that they could really elevate their neonatal care programs, and that's had a huge positive impact on calf survival rates,” Dr. Jensen said.
Citing publications that estimate calf survival rates in the wild at around 50 percent, he said, “I know for a lot of institutions that our survival rates are significantly higher than that, and it has everything to do with wellness exams and if they're showing signs of infection, getting an early start on it.”
Dr. Rapp-Santos explained that dolphins spend their first two years learning basic behaviors and getting acclimated to humans. Then they are considered part of the pipeline, their equivalent of grade school.
Around age 9 or 10, dolphins that pass a certification process graduate as full-fleet animals. Trainers decide what system each animal is best-suited for. The others still have a place; they are considered “spares” to be deployed as backups.
Many marine mammals, one health
Environmental, human, animal health come together in San Diego
Marine mammal medicine—much like all of veterinary medicine—has changed a lot in the past 20 years because of better technology, a greater focus on specialty medicine, and an increasing emphasis on one health.
It's the third development, however, that seems to have truly elevated the medicine practiced at the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program in San Diego. And it was born out of a necessity for expertise in a field in which not much is known.
“Some days, we're doing procedures that have never been done before. That can be very rewarding and nerve-wracking. That's why it's nice to consult in the human and veterinary medical fields. You draw a lot of expertise in. So if you do a procedure that's never been done before, you can put together a protocol that's as safe as you can possibly put together,” said Dr. Eric D. Jensen, managing veterinarian for the program. “But there are days, though, when all of us would like to pull a book off the shelf and say, ‘Acute renal failure—how are we going to handle this in the dolphin?’ We can't do that quite yet. There are new challenges almost on a daily basis.”
The one-health concept became important to the program well before anyone knew to give it a name. Veterinarians would often consult with a wide range of specialists—from human oncologists to radiologists to infectious disease experts—at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego. Capt. Lara S. Cotte of the Army Veterinary Corps, officer in charge of clinical veterinary services for the program, said they have a good working relationship with interventional radiologists at the hospital, which allows them to perform ultrasound-guided biopsies and CT-guided bone marrow biopsies.
Before, the veterinarians didn't have a good way to place a catheter in a dolphin to administer fluid support during a procedure, so they used the knowledge gained from the human medical field, she said.
Experts in surgery and medicine from the Navy hospital have also visited the program to help with particular needs. For instance, urologists assisted with the first ureteroscopy of a male dolphin.
The collaboration doesn't stop with the hospital. Dr. Cynthia R. Smith, executive director for the National Marine Mammal Foundation, said the Navy program's other major collaborators include the University of California-San Diego, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Sea World, Dolphin Quest, and the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program, in addition to medical experts from various universities and hospitals around the country.
If the Navy program's plans are any indication, it appears further collaborations with human medicine are on the horizon.
Every five years, the program's veterinarians sit down with invited guests to create a clinical investment strategy. The last meeting, held in June 2010, came up with the following:
• Determine unique quality-of-life needs of aging animals.
• Improve the detection, treatment, and prevention of infectious and metabolic diseases.
• Apply advanced clinical technologies to better define population health baselines.
• Provide protection against disease.
• Apply one-health approach to research and medicine. “We all thought it would be a great opportunity for us to learn more about what's state-of-the-art in human medicine and pick and choose what to bring here and apply to this population of animals,” Dr. Jensen said.
This partnership won't be one-sided, though.
Dr. Stephanie Venn-Watson, director of the foundation's One Health Medicine and Research Program, hopes to translate research findings into medicine advances that benefit both marine mammals and humans. As part of this effort, she is seeking partners and funding to research methods for better detection, prevention, and treatment of infectious diseases and diseases associated with diabetes and aging.
For example, she and Dr. Sam Ridgway have found that the best nonhuman model for type 2 diabetes mellitus may be a dolphin. While healthy dolphins naturally have sustained hyperglycemia after eating, they can also be susceptible to metabolic diseases and conditions associated with diabetes in humans, such as fatty liver disease, excess iron storage, and kidney stones.
In 2007, Drs. Venn-Watson and Ridgway, after reviewing seven years of routine blood samples from 52 dolphins, found that their blood chemistry values after food was withheld resembled values for people with diabetes—with elevated concentrations of glucose and other molecules—while their blood chemistry values after a meal were similar to those of healthy people.
Figuring out how dolphins turn their diabetes-like state on and off—and how this leads to problems—could reveal clues to preventing diabetes in humans, Drs. Venn-Watson and Ridgway believe.
Taking a look at your surroundings
In emphasizing the one-health approach, program veterinarians are also looking at how the environment may impact the Navy program's animal population. The program has monitored total coliform counts in San Diego Bay for decades, Dr. Jensen said, but there's still a lot they don't know. A number of hazards exist, from runoff on the beaches to wildfires to pollution in the Tijuana River to sewage and oil spills.
Dr. Jensen said the Army Veterinary Corps officers with the program are tapping into their environmental resources and are reaching out to the Navy for help in deciding how and what information to collect.
The possibilities include testing fish, mussels, and plankton for domoic acid—a contaminant from blooming algae known to have toxic effects in marine mammals—and for metals, pesticides, and polychlorinated biphenyls. They may also look at the impact of native wildlife.
“We're putting together what we hope will be a comprehensive and sustainable environmental health program for here in San Diego. When we get that up and running, we want to see how that will translate when we deploy. So, if we're going to live somewhere for a month, how can we go on our site survey, look at the water and what might be running off the shores, the weather, and decide what impact, if any, it will have on animals and how we can mitigate that,” Dr. Jensen said.
He added, “It's challenging. I'm not a toxicologist, and as we research and learn about it more, we realize it's a really complicated area of health, so we're really having to rely on finding experts and getting their opinions.”
Marine mammal medicine still full of many unknowns
The U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program started more than 50 years ago as a means to improve torpedo and ship designs. Today, research continues, but the focus has shifted toward discovering how to improve the health of the program's California sea lions and bottle-nosed dolphins. By extension, the marine mammal and zoo communities have benefited, and there's potential for results to translate to the greater veterinary and human medical fields as well.
From the beginning
The Navy started using animals because its scientists were interested in learning how they could swim so fast and silently, how their sonar worked, how deep they could dive, and more. The answers, they figured, might be useful to humans trying to live and work under the sea.
“The Navy mainly wanted to figure out secrets from dolphins and then go on with their business. It wasn't viewed as some long-term thing,” said Dr. Sam Ridgway, who joined the Navy program in 1962, two years after it was started at Point Mugu, a missile base on the California coast.
In Dr. Ridgway's book, “Dolphin Doctor,” he wrote: “Our small laboratory at Point Mugu was to become a focal point of dolphin research in the 1960s. Many scientists from major universities came there to study our dolphins. As the first veterinarian to work full-time with dolphins, I faced unique problems in my job of keeping these mammals healthy for the scientists. Little was known about dolphin medical care or physiology. We did not know how to anesthetize a dolphin for surgery or even how to take a blood sample for diagnostic tests, let alone how to interpret the test results.”
Researchers learned more about the dolphins, particularly that they would cooperate with people in the open ocean. In 1965, a dolphin named Tuffy participated in a Navy program called SEALAB II, an undersea station where people lived more than 200 feet below the surface for a month. Tuffy assisted Navy divers by taking them objects and transporting messages.
Dr. Ridgway was encouraged to create a veterinary research component for the Navy program. Early on, most studies were supported by the Office of Naval Research. They explored everything from diving to water balance to kidney physiology to hearing, echolocation, and the effects of sound on marine mammals.
“Usually, with the Office of Naval Research, we had to come up with something new every few years. So, rather than being a physiologist forever, you had to be a behaviorist or psychologist or something else. You had to learn something new, but that's kind of a lot of fun to explore new things,” Dr. Ridgway said.
With that approach, program veterinarians made big breakthroughs, such as discovering how to safely administer anesthesia to dolphins, how to study their physiology in the open sea, and how to apply medical technology to marine mammals.
More recently, the Navy needed to know how close its animals could be to Navy sonar and still be safe. That's when Dr. Ridgway and others including Dr. James J. Finneran hit on the notion of using the temporary threshold shift (TTS), a well-established parameter in human audiology, as a metric to identify how much sound is tolerable for animals.
So, they trained Navy dolphins and sea lions to undergo hearing tests similar to those given to people who are seated in a booth and told to push a button when they hear a sound. The animals are taught to vocalize when they hear a sound played, and such training has become a routine part of animal care, said Mark Xitco, PhD, head of the scientific and veterinary support branch of the Navy program.
While this was happening, the impact of anthropogenic sound on wild marine mammals became a hot topic.
“Lawyers from each side were arguing, and we were the only ones who could inject any data into the discussion. And much of the current mitigation measures the (National Marine Fisheries Service) imposes on the wider Navy, oil and gas industry, and other activities they regulate about producing sound in the ocean, those safe sound limits are based largely on TTS data that was derived here at our program,” Dr. Xitco said. Dr. Finneran has taken the work further, he said, by developing a noninvasive hearing test involving electrophysiological techniques, with surface electrodes measuring small electrical changes in the brain associated with sound. This advancement enables the use of hearing tests in wild marine mammals.
The latest developments
Despite publication of more than 1,000 papers since the program's inception, much remains unknown about marine mammals. One reasons is that the sample size is smaller compared with that of domestic animals, said Capt. Kamala Rapp-Santos, an attending veterinarian with the program. Plus, marine mammals are not as easy to work with as domestic animals are, and most research has been limited to the past 50 years or so.
A procedure still in research is the pulmonary function test. The program's physiologists and clinicians have been working to define the functional parameters of dolphin and sea lion lungs. They hope to learn what the animals’ normal pulmonary capabilities are so they can be better ventilated during anesthesia.
Dr. Cynthia R. Smith, executive director of the National Marine Mammal Foundation, is investigating ammonium urate uroliths, which are commonly found in managed-collection dolphins.
The project started with a single animal that had a ureteral obstruction. The process of unblocking the ureter brought together an entire network of specialists and experts in marine mammal medicine.
“We learned the best way to diagnose the disease, the prevalence of the disease in wild and managed dolphins, and now we're working on the prevention and treatment,” Dr. Smith said.
Dr. Rapp-Santos is working with the Naval Medical Center to develop an extended-release antibiotic hydra gel. She said dolphins can form abscesses in the body, including their lymph nodes.
“With dogs, you could easily put them under anesthesia to flush and drain the abscess. With dolphins, anesthesia is more complicated and is avoided except in cases where it is absolutely essential. They don't tolerate anesthesia well, and putting them in the ocean with an open and draining wound is not a good idea, so we are working on advanced methods, including the gel,” she said.
The gel would allow veterinarians to treat the abscess without pulling the dolphin from the water.
Additional areas that program researchers are working on include using adipose stem cells to heal skin wounds and defining diabetes in dolphins, which have a type 2—like syndrome that they can turn on and off (see page 873).
Marine mammal veterinarians are also trying to determine whether there's a probiotic for dolphins, but first, they must figure out what bugs dolphins have in their gastrointestinal tract. They are developing a product to enhance dolphins’ GI health, said Capt. Lara S. Cotte, officer in charge of clinical veterinary services.
Median incomes up, 2009–2011
Yet, veterinarians express concern about practice revenues
The newest income numbers look better than a lot of veterinarians feel.
Median income for full-time private practitioners—comprising owners and associates—increased from $97,000 in 2009 to $100,000 in 2011, according to the recently released 2013 AVMA Report on Veterinary Compensation.
“Overall, veterinarians make good livings,” said Dr. Karen E. Felsted of Felsted Veterinary Consulting, former chief executive officer of the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues. “I think what's difficult is maybe gross earnings aren't as high as they used to be. And it costs more to run a practice, it costs more to live, student debt is higher.”
Median gross practice revenue decreased from $822,804 in 2009 to $728,640 in 2011, according to the 2013 AVMA Report on Veterinary Practice Business Measures, after increasing for each two-year period between 2001 and 2009.
Among other findings from the reports, median income for veterinarians in public and corporate practice—including academia, government, and industry—increased from $109,000 in 2009 to $124,000 in 2011. Female veterinarians still have lower incomes than male veterinarians in private practice and in public and corporate practice (see page 879).
The new reports draw on results from the AVMA Biennial Economic Survey of 2012, along with results of previous surveys. The 2012 survey collected data for the 2011 calendar year.
Companion animal practice
As in private practice altogether, the median income was $100,000 in 2011 for veterinarians in both companion animal–exclusive and –predominant practice. Income numbers for veterinarians in private practice comprise salary, bonuses, practice profits, consulting fees, and contributions to retirement or profit-sharing plans.
Income is not commensurate with the expertise of veterinarians, said Dr. Kate Knutson, president of the American Animal Hospital Association and co-owner of Pet Crossing Animal Hospital & Dental Clinic outside Minneapolis.
“The hospitals and clinics are trying their hardest to bring quality medicine to their clients, and all that equipment and training has a huge cost to it,” Dr. Knutson said. Partly as a result, she said, practices cannot afford to pay veterinarians enough for a decent living—especially considering the increase in student debt.
She said one factor influencing practice revenues is a divergence in client expectations, with some clients expecting basic veterinary care and some expecting the state of the art.
Dr. Knutson believes practices need to focus their efforts on particular types of clients and services. Her practice, for example, focuses on wellness and dentistry.
“This is a great profession, it's a phenomenal profession,” Dr. Knutson said. “We just need to find a way that we can make enough money to pay off our student debt and to have a decent standard of living.”
Mean income continues to be higher than median income in private practice, reflecting the high incomes of some veterinarians. Dr. Felsted noted that mean income decreased in companion animal–exclusive practice between 2009 and 2011, and she speculated that high-end companion animal practitioners might be a little tapped out.
Dr. Felsted cited multiple factors as contributing to soft practice revenues.
“Part of it could be because fewer people are visiting, and that could be because of the economy or because they're getting their information from the Internet or whatever,” she said. “But it could also be that there are more veterinarians out there, and the income is getting spread around among a greater number of veterinarians and a greater number of practices.”
Food animal, equine practice
As in companion animal practice, the median income was $100,000 in 2011 for veterinarians in both food animal–exclusive and –predominant practice. The median income was $88,000 for those in mixed animal practice.
The numbers belie the idea that food animal practice is the poor cousin of companion animal practice, said Dr. Nigel Cook, president of the American Association of Bovine Practitioners and head of the Food Animal Production Medicine Section at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine.
He said one difference is the time input. Food animal–exclusive practitioners work a median of 50 hours per week, while companion animal–exclusive practitioners work a median of 45 hours per week.
“If you just left out the cost of education, these are pretty good salaries,” Dr. Cook said. “If education is going to continue to cost what it is, which I don't see changing very easily, then what are the ways we can increase practice revenues?”
He said food animal practitioners still face challenges in learning how to serve ever-larger farms and how to transition from emergency calls to a consulting role. He also expressed concern about a potential oversupply of veterinarians in food animal and companion animal practice as state universities enroll more veterinary students in response to state budget cuts.
In equine practice, the median income was $88,000 in 2011. Equine practitioners have been struggling in the wake of the recession and a decrease in the number of horses, said Dr. Ann Dwyer, president of the American Association of Equine Practitioners and co-owner of Genesee Valley Equine Clinic in Scottsville, N.Y.
“We're going to have to raise the profit structure of our practices, and that means being better and smarter business owners,” she said.
Equine practice is innately inefficient, Dr. Dwyer said, as practitioners make ambulatory farm calls to see individual patients. Equine practitioners work a median of 55 hours per week.
Dr. Dwyer said equine practitioners will have to find ways not only to become more efficient but also to pass on some of their increasing costs to their remaining clients.
Public and corporate practice
Median income for veterinarians in public and corporate practice in 2011 ranged from $88,000 for state and local government to $112,000 for academia, federal government, and uniformed services to $160,000 for industry.
Dr. Cook said state budget cuts led many state universities to reduce employees’ pay, pensions, or other benefits in recent years. The median income for veterinarians in academia had remained constant, however, at $103,000 in 2007 and 2009, then increased to $112,000 in 2011.
“I think the economy is going to keep improving for the foreseeable future,” Dr. Cook said. “I think most of the states have done the difficult things.”
Veterinary specialists continue to have a lower median income in public and corporate practice than in private practice. Specialists had a median income of $136,000 in public and corporate practice, in comparison with $148,000 in private practice.
The AVMA has released the 2013 AVMA Report on Veterinary Compensation and 2013 AVMA Report on Veterinary Practice Business Measures in book form and as downloadable PDF files.
The reports are available for purchase via the AVMA Store at www.avma.org/products, under “Market Research Reports.”
The AVMA will conduct the next economic survey in 2014 to collect data for the 2013 calendar year.
The gender gap
Why do female veterinarians earn less than male veterinarians?
By Katie Burns and Malinda Larkin
That female veterinarians continue to earn less than male veterinarians is clear from the 2013 AVMA Report on Veterinary Compensation. The reasons for this gender gap, however, are not so clear.
The new report found that female veterinarians in private practice had a median income of $88,000 in 2011, while male veterinarians had a median income of $112,000. For public and corporate practice, female veterinarians had a median income of $112,000 in 2011, while male veterinarians had a median income of $136,000.
The report also revealed that even for veterinarians with the same amount of experience, female veterinarians generally earn less than male veterinarians. In private practice, female associates and owners generally earn less than their male counterparts both in terms of total income and in terms of hourly income.
Veterinarians and researchers say factors contributing to this income disparity could include the broader societal context, women's approach to business and family, issues with pay negotiations, and the career choices of female veterinarians.
It's important to remember that veterinary medicine is not unique when it comes to the gender gap in pay, said Dr. Stacy Pritt, laboratory animal veterinarian and former chair of the board of directors for the Association of Women Veterinarians Foundation. She said the pay gap extends to most professions in the United States.
A related concern is that salaries in veterinary medicine could drop as the profession becomes feminized.
“I have certainly encountered that when I talk to people about studies and pay,” Dr. Pritt said.
To Dr. Pritt, the ongoing pay gap says three things. One, the things that affect women's salaries in other professions are the same things that affect salaries in the veterinary profession. Two, the blame for the difference in pay needs to be placed on the greater culture and the way women's work is valued. And three, the veterinary profession needs to look at changing things.
“We're just following what everyone else is doing,” Dr. Pritt said. “We can accept it or give veterinarians the skill sets to deal with it.”
She and others have advocated for more business and finance education for veterinarians. Dr. Pritt also wants to see more discussions on the differences in approaches men and women take to business, finance, and management; how those differences are perceived; and what the outcomes of those different approaches are. She would like to see veterinary leaders analyze how other professions are dealing with the gender pay gap.
Business and family
Business savvy as well as family matters are among the factors that impact the long-term income of female veterinarians, said Dr. Kate Knutson, president of the American Animal Hospital Association and co-owner of Pet Crossing Animal Hospital & Dental Clinic outside Minneapolis.
Veterinarians tend not to be good at business, Dr. Knutson said, and perhaps female veterinarians place even less emphasis than male veterinarians do on the business side of veterinary medicine.
“Veterinarians are not trained in business,” she said. “Loving animals and providing medical care is a separate mindset than running a profitable business.”
Dr. Knutson decided to become a practice owner because she wanted to determine the culture of her hospital, not because she had a beautiful business plan. Now, she talks with veterinary students about how the money has to come from somewhere.
As for family, Dr. Knutson chose not to have children, because she did not see enough time in the day for herself also to own a practice.
“If you want to have a family, you need to invest the time into it to make it a functioning unit,” she said. “A lot of people do it very well.”
The 1996 graduate said many of her female classmates dropped out of veterinary medicine to raise children, and some are returning now. She sees many female veterinarians working part time while raising children.
Dr. Knutson thinks fewer of the female veterinarians graduating now, with higher student debt, will be able to afford the loss of income that accompanies such approaches.
One might think a solution to the gender pay gap would be to encourage female associates to hone their negotiation strategies, but not everyone agrees.
Anne E. Lincoln, PhD, is an associate professor of sociology at Southern Methodist University whose research has focused on attraction, retention, and attrition in science careers.
She says this line of thinking “places the burden more squarely on the victim than the person who has power in the relationship. You walk into a job interview, the person hiring you has more power in the situation, so you're at a power disadvantage.”
Dr. Lincoln continued, “It really affects women more because women who ask for raises and negotiate are viewed as pushier than men. Negative characteristics are ascribed to women who negotiate, who stand up for themselves and do anything a man would do to secure a higher salary. Many women choose not to negotiate because of stereotypes that they're not fulfilling normal gender roles.”
Telling women to negotiate more also absolves the employer of any responsibility in the process, she said.
Further, if that person is offering a lower salary to a woman to begin with, that's not fair (see sidebar, this page).
Notably, this practice of devaluing women's work can affect—and potentially already has affected—the larger profession.
“The practice owner could be saying, ‘I need to keep my costs low,’ but it has a larger cumulative effect,” Dr. Lincoln said.
“Employers are contributing to this. Any discussion of rectifying the problem for your field or mine needs to address both sides of the equation.”
Productivity is another variable in the income equation, said Dr. Karen E. Felsted of Felsted Veterinary Consulting, former chief executive officer of the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues.
The 2013 AVMA Report on Veterinary Compensation found that, in private practice, personal gross revenue was generally lower for female associates and owners than for their male counterparts. The causes could be manifold, Dr. Felsted said.
The report found that female veterinarians generally do work somewhat fewer hours than male veterinarians do. Dr. Felsted postulated that some of the additional causes might include female veterinarians spending more time with each client, charging lower prices, or working in particular types of practices.
Like others, she believes female veterinarians tend to earn less than male veterinarians do over the course of a career because of career choices such as working fewer hours or fewer years to care for children or parents.
“I'm not sure we want to say that everybody should have to pick the same life course that means spending more time at the office or practicing in a certain way,” Dr. Felsted said.
She said other factors in career earnings are income expectations and the decision to become a practice owner. A recent study (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2011;239:329–334) found that male veterinary students had higher long-term salary expectations than female veterinary students did and were more likely to expect to become practice owners.
Dr. Felsted noted the persistence of the income disparity between female and male veterinarians, but she remains optimistic that female veterinarians can earn as much as male veterinarians in similar positions.
Dr. Ann Dwyer, president of the American Association of Equine Practitioners and co-owner of Genesee Valley Equine Clinic in Scottsville, N.Y., also points to productivity as being key to income.
As a member of a veterinary management group, Dr. Dwyer sees numbers indicating that male veterinarians tend to produce more revenue than female veterinarians. She suspects causes include pricing, time per case, and work hours.
Dr. Dwyer said she respects women who work fewer hours by choice or necessity. She has cut back on her own hours on various occasions to recover from injury, care for her parents, and serve with the AAEP. She observed that many younger men also are choosing to work fewer hours.
“I've seen enough veterinarians over the course of my career to think all of us have really equal capabilities of becoming really great veterinarians—whether it's great in terms of our clinical skills, our communication skills, our income production,” Dr. Dwyer said. “We've all got it; we just have to figure out how to use it. And yet, we all have to make our choices for how we want our lives to be.”
Anne E. Lincoln, PhD, an associate professor of sociology at Southern Methodist University, pointed to a study, “Science faculty's subtle gender biases favor male students,” that appeared last year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS 2012;109(41):16474–16479) as an example of how employers devalue women's work.
In a randomized double-blind study, science faculty from research-intensive universities rated the application materials of a fictitious student—who was randomly assigned either a male or female name—for a laboratory manager position. According to the study, faculty participants—both male and female—rated the male applicant as significantly more competent and hireable than the identical female applicant. These participants also selected a higher starting salary and offered more career mentoring to the male applicant.
“The woman, even though it was the same exact resume, was viewed very differently. The only thing she was rated better at than the man was that she was more likeable. It was so absurd, and this study was done just last year. So we're talking about these long-held beliefs about appropriate behaviors for the genders and appropriate remuneration by gender,” Dr. Lincoln said.
Motherhood and veterinary medicine
Tension between family, work responsibilities a continuing struggle
By Malinda Larkin
This year marks the 50th anniversary of “The Feminine Mystique” by Betty Friedan, the classic feminist text that defined “the problem that has no name”—the purported widespread unhappiness of women in the 1950s and early 1960s. The book encouraged women to find meaningful work that used their full mental capacity.
How have things changed for women and mothers since then?
Notably, the share of American families with children that have a male breadwinner and a female homemaker dropped from more than half in 1975 to just one in five in 2011, according to the Center for American Progress.
Looking at the veterinary profession, in 1963, there were only 277 female veterinarians in the U.S. Comparatively, during the 2012–2013 academic year, women represented 78.6 percent of veterinary students enrolled in the United States. And as of 2012, 54.1 percent of the profession was female.
Clearly, any barriers that kept women from entering veterinary medicine have been removed, but women continue to face additional challenges, compared with their male colleagues.
Given the often long hours, physically demanding tasks, and responsibilities associated with being on call, balancing family and work responsibilities can be difficult, particularly for women working in smaller practices.
Another on the way
Dr. Elizabeth Chosa (GA ′05), owner of Courtenay Animal Hospital on Merritt Island, Fla., is one of those trying to make it all work. She is a solo practitioner who bought her clinic in March 2012 and is working at growing her client base. She and her husband, Pete, have a 2-year-old daughter, Mary Belle, and Dr. Chosa is pregnant with their son, who's due in May.
“I am very fulfilled, both as a mom and as a vet. I don't have much time to do things for myself, and I'm sleep-deprived, but right now, the small sacrifices are absolutely worth it. I'm doing the best I can to have a good balance and I don't think my family or my practice has suffered much,” she said. “My time with my daughter is limited, but that makes it more precious to me and in some ways, makes me a better mom.”
Dr. Chosa admits that part of the reason she is able to be a practice owner is that she also has a full-time nanny. She also says a supportive husband and good staff have made a big difference, as has the timing for having her kids and becoming a practice owner.
“I think being in my 30s definitely helps, too. I have enough energy to work hard at the hospital and still spend quality time with family. I am also old enough to really value all of these opportunities, and I don't take much for granted,” Dr. Chosa said. “In some ways, owning a practice certainly makes it harder, because there is more responsibility. At the same time, I think I would have to sacrifice more with my family as an associate veterinarian, because I wouldn't have as much flexibility.”
For example, she intends to insert breaks in her schedule after the baby comes to make time for nursing. The child will also be able to play and sleep in a separate area in the practice, allowing Dr. Chosa to spend more time with him.
She said she's always wanted to be a mother but didn't always have ambitions to be a practice owner. That came after working for other practices and deciding she wanted to practice her kind of medicine, her way, and create a culture within the clinic for how her staff takes care of clients.
Of course, it's that drive that can be a positive and a negative for Dr. Chosa, and women in general.
“Every working mom, regardless of the profession, feels guilty both at work and home,” she said. “I still work later than the staff, but I always feel like I should be home earlier and I should stay at work later, and you can't do both.”
She continued, “Women practice owners are different than male practice owners. It's not better or worse, but we tend to give too much of ourselves to everything. Trying to do that for your family and your practice leaves little in the tank for your personal needs.”
An early struggle
Dr. Wendy Hauser (OKL ′88), a small animal practitioner at Coal Creek Veterinary Hospital in Centennial, Colo., is on the other end of the spectrum. She has two older kids, Andrew, 18, and Elizabeth, 16, with her husband, Edmond.
Dr. Hauser sold her practice in 2008 but as the clinic's managing veterinarian, retains responsibility for the culture and medical policies of the practice and for mentoring staff veterinarians.
Those first few years as a new mom and a veterinarian brought a number of trials for her family. She and her husband relocated from Pennsylvania to Colorado for his job when their son was 7 months old.
“There were challenges with that. We had six weeks to make the move happen. Finding reliable child care in an area where we didn't know anyone was tough,” she said. Fortunately for her, Dr. Hauser's new boss and his wife proved to be a helpful resource.
Then, in 1997, when she was pregnant with her second child, Dr. Hauser had preterm labor, resulting in her quitting her job and going on bed rest.
Fast-forward a year to Dr. Hauser opening her own practice; the kids were 3 years and 8 months at the time. Her mother came for three months to help with the transition. After that, Dr. Hauser and her husband tried using an outside care provider but later hired a nanny. This afforded them greater peace of mind on days when the kids were sick or she and her husband were delayed at work, which was often in those early years. Dr. Hauser worked six days a week the first 19 months, because she couldn't afford to hire any employees.
“I would come home after 10-, 12- hour days, and (Edmond) would go to the hospital to clean,” Dr. Hauser said.
She said she's glad to have a life partner who works with her to achieve their goals. She also says being a practice owner allowed her flexibility, freedom, and a job that provided many benefits.
“Once we started hiring associates, then I could work part time, so then I got to be in the kids’ schools when they were in grade school,” said Dr. Hauser, who taught a veterinary electives class twice a week to grade school children.
Currently, she works 30 hours a week, and recently, she was elected to the American Animal Hospital Association board of directors.
She said her daughter once asked her if she had any regrets in life.
“I said I have one, and that is, I would have loved to spend more time with them when they were little. Truly, the most important role is being a mom, but I also recognize as long as they have a very invested caregiver, which we were lucky to have, I had a feeling they would need me more as they age, and that's been the truth,” Dr. Hauser said.
Finding an alternative
As evidenced by Drs. Chosa and Hauser, maintaining a healthy work-life balance requires a lot of stamina, flexibility, and support from family and colleagues. But not every veterinarian has all these things. For them, the road can be much harder.
Dr. Stacy Pritt (WSU ′97), alternate delegate for the American Society of Laboratory Animal Practitioners in the AVMA House of Delegates, has coordinated gender and generational issues programing at previous AVMA conventions, which she notes has always been well-attended, typically by women and recent graduates.
Dr. Pritt said veterinarians in private practice will often tell her they are frustrated because they're not achieving their work-life balance. She says they don't realize there may be another career pathway within veterinary medicine that would provide them with that balance.
“I see that as a stumbling block for vets, because so many have and continue to go into private practice, and they'll say, ‘I keep applying to practice jobs, and I want all this,’ and I say, ‘Have you considered a nonprivate practice job?’ And they're like, ‘It didn't even enter into my thought process,”’ she said. “I've seen article after article regarding work-life balance for private practitioners, and never once do they mention looking at a career pathway outside private practice.”
Dr. Pritt noted another complaint expressed by female veterinarians is the feeling that they can't take time off to raise their children and successfully re-enter the profession.
An article and survey produced in 2005 by the Harvard Business Review and the Center for Work-Life Policy lend credence to this belief. The survey revealed that, while 37 percent of highly qualified women “off-ramp” for some period of time, 93 percent want to return to work. Yet, only 74 percent succeed in rejoining the workforce, and only 40 percent return to full-time jobs.
Dr. Pritt said she's heard discussions about the need for conferences that would target continuing education for veterinarians who have left for a few years to raise children and now have decided to take up practice again and need to come up to speed on the latest developments quickly. These sessions have been compared with those offered to veterinarians who want to make transitions in their careers to another field of veterinary medicine.
“We're going to start having to think along those lines to have a level playing field,” Dr. Pritt said.
Dr. Scott Aoki (CAL ′06), AVMA Membership Services Committee chair, said committee members discuss work-life balance issues for young parents on an annual basis.
“The problem is challenging and multifaceted. In general, our committee tends to come to the conclusion that one of the biggest things the AVMA and MSC can do for new parents is to try and make life simpler for them,” he said.
The committee has encouraged the AVMA to shorten council terms from six years to three. On the committee's recommendation, the AVMA added a reduced-dues category for those who leave the profession for a short time because of family obligations. The MSC wellness subcommittee has scheduled work-life balance talks at previous AVMA conventions.
Dr. Carrie Ann Javorka (PUR ′06), AVMA assistant director for recent graduate initiatives, said work-life balance is on the list of concerns for the Early Career Development Committee. Members planned to discuss this topic more thoroughly at the committee's Feb. 24–25 meeting.
“We certainly hope to develop more resources on this front,” she said.
APHIS may change swine disease programs
A proposal from federal animal health officials would have states develop swine health plans as part of a national program to combat brucellosis and pseudorabies.
Officials with the Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service are seeking comments on the document, which proposes combining the federal swine pseudorabies and brucellosis programs. Information provided by APHIS spokeswoman Workabeba Yigzaw describes the document as a regulatory concept paper.
APHIS is accepting comments through April 8 at www.regulations.gov under docket number APHIS–2010–0086, and the 16-page concept paper is available at www.aphis.usda.gov. At press time, the AVMA planned to develop and submit comments on the APHIS document.
If a future disease program functions as described in the concept paper, state governments would—and tribal governments could—develop documents detailing their swine disease risk assessments and their efforts to reduce the risk that swine would become infected and leave the state. Those risks largely depend on feral swine populations, which harbor both diseases.
“At least 38 states have feral swine populations, and the overall feral swine population keeps expanding,” the document states.
Feral swine have infected domestic animals with the diseases, and transmission is most likely to occur through contact with the minority of domestic swine herds that are not kept in biosecure facilities, the concept paper states. Exposed domestic swine are sometimes mixed with swine from other herds at fairs, exhibitions, and markets.
The current swine brucellosis and pseudorabies programs were not designed to deal with the disease risks connected with feral swine or swine exposed to feral swine, the concept paper states. The change would involve state governments implementing APHIS Veterinary Services-approved swine health plans involving swine population assessments and surveillance, record keeping, actions to control or manage outbreaks, and agreements to make the plans publicly available.
If a state or tribe had no such health plan, the owners of swine within the state would need negative tests for both diseases prior to moving the swine interstate. The tests could be conducted prior to movement, or owners could receive APHIS certification that their animals were “movement-eligible” on the basis of prior tests.
Under the proposal, exposed swine also could be quarantined on feedlots and tested prior to movement, although the agency still would let animals with appropriate permits move directly to slaughter in sealed vehicles. State and tribal governments could decide whether to allow quarantine feedlots within their borders but not prevent people from shipping exposed swine through their lands.
APHIS also proposes combining indemnity programs for brucellosis, pseudorabies, and other swine diseases. The program would allow payment of up to fair market value for animals and full payment of costs to destroy and discard infected swine.
Guidelines address feline environmental needs
The American Association of Feline Practitioners and International Society of Feline Medicine released new guidelines on feline environmental needs in the March issue of the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery.
The Environmental Needs Guidelines were established to address the needs of cats in any environment—including homes, veterinary practices, and animal shelters. The guidelines are organized around the following five pillars that form the framework for a healthy feline environment, regardless of the cat's lifestyle.
• Provide a safe place.
• Provide multiple and separated key environmental resources: food, water, toileting areas, scratching areas, play areas, and resting or sleeping areas.
• Provide opportunity for play and predatory behavior.
• Provide positive, consistent, and predictable human-cat social interaction.
• Provide an environment that respects the importance of the cat's sense of smell.
According to the guidelines, “Understanding these principles and the unique environmental needs of the cat will help veterinarians, cat owners and care-givers to reduce stress, the incidence of stress-related disorders, and unwanted behavior in their feline patients and pets.”
The Environmental Needs Guidelines are available at www.catvets.com/guidelines.
Finding alternatives in the face of resistance
Researchers see promise in alternatives to antimicrobials
By Greg Cima
Dr. Cyril G. Gay has seen substantial money and labor invested in researching antimicrobial resistance but far less in finding new tools to treat and prevent diseases.
“We really need to shift, in a significant way, our investment to focus on providing solutions,” he said.
Dr. Gay is a national program leader for the Agricultural Research Service in the Department of Agriculture, and he chaired the organizing and scientific committees for a September 2012 World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) symposium in Paris on alternatives to antimicrobials in agriculture. He expects those working in agriculture will have fewer antimicrobials available as bacterial populations become more resistant to existing products and regulations increasingly restrict uses.
“Antibiotic resistance has always been around,” he said. “We're looking at bacteria and their ecological niches, where, essentially, they produce these substances to be able to compete in the environment, whether we're looking at the gut microbiome, in the soil, in plants, or what have you.”
Dr. H. Morgan Scott, a professor of epidemiology at the Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine, said that, as governments in Europe and North America restrict antibiotic use, particularly in farm animals, they increase opportunities for alternatives.
He likened the current jostling of proposed replacements for antibiotics to the land grabs that occurred as people settled the Old West.
Heavy metals, lytic enzymes, disinfectants, vaccines, genetic selection, probiotics, and peptides are among the interventions and technologies cited at conferences and in articles and commentaries as potential additions to the current antimicrobial arsenal, both for human and animal medicine.
For example, Dr. Guy H. Palmer and Douglas R. Call, PhD, wrote in a recent commentary for the Institute of Medicine that the best ways to limit antimicrobial use in food animal production involve reducing demand through improvements in vaccination protocols, husbandry, sanitation, and biosecurity.
“Similarly, expanded research investment in livestock probiotics, immunostimulants, and vaccines will provide alternatives that can reduce the need for antibiotics with less chance of unintended consequences for food availability and access,” the commentary states. “Regulation accompanied by viable alternatives will have a much higher likelihood of success.”
That commentary is available at www.iom.edu/Global/Perspectives/2013/AntimicrobialResistance.
While veterinary medicine has effectively used vaccines to prevent diseases, the profession needs additional tools that can be used as treatment alternatives to antibiotics, Dr. Gay said.
Concern extends across species
Dr. Mark Papich, a professor of clinical pharmacology at the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine, said charitable and pharmaceutical organizations have funded research into the causes of resistant bacteria in companion animals but have not yet provided conclusive answers.
“If we knew what caused it, we could stop it,” he said.
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus pseudintermedius is becoming an increasing concern in companion animal medicine, particularly in connection with skin infections in dogs, Dr. Papich said. MRSP is the bacteria most commonly connected with resistant infections at the NCSU veterinary teaching hospital, he said. Among the others are antimicrobial-resistant Escherichia coli—including extended spectrum beta lactamase—positive E coli—and resistant Enterococcus.
The hospital most often encounters such organisms in treating urinary tract, skin, wound, and post-surgical infections.
That lack of identified causes of resistance increases the difficulty in finding alternatives to antimicrobials for treatment, Dr. Papich said. But he noted that veterinary dermatologists have provided good examples of alternative treatments in the use of ointments, topical treatments, shampoos, and disinfectants on infected skin, where the products are used as adjuncts or replacements for systemic antimicrobial administration.
“They help tremendously to allow us to use fewer systemic antibiotics and also to help us decrease the use of our antibiotics overall, and that's incredibly important,” Dr. Papich said.
Antimicrobial use in pet care also has been a concern for the AVMA, which plans to develop antimicrobial stewardship programs similar to those used in human health care. The AVMA Executive Board voted in January to create the 10-member Task Force for Antimicrobial Stewardship in Companion Animal Practice, which will develop education materials and promote appropriate use.
Dr. Gay said a range of technologies also could prove to be effective at fighting viruses or parasites, and some, such as phytochemicals from plants, could be used to alter gastrointestinal bacterial populations. All could help with disease treatment and prevention across animal species, and prebiotics, probiotics, and phytochemicals could improve agricultural animals’ health and increase their nutritional efficiency and growth, he said.
“We're at the stage where we're starting to understand the mechanisms by which these products may work,” he said.
In an article in the May-June 2012 issue of Agricultural Research Magazine, Dr. Gay wrote that naturally occurring phage endolysins and bacteriocins are easy to genetically modify, making them prime candidates for producing novel antimicrobials. ARS researchers created a combination of three such antimicrobials to kill S aureus with simultaneous lytic activities.
Another article in that issue stated that ARS scientists had studied the use of vitamin D to reduce bacterial counts and clinical signs in cows with mastitis, selective breeding of chickens for disease resistance, and addition of chlorate-based compounds to water to reduce gut E coli populations in cattle.
Dr. Steven D. Vaughn, director of the Office of New Animal Drug Evaluation in the Food and Drug Administration's Center for Veterinary Medicine, said the FDA has adopted a new process to better work with developers of new technologies, such as genomics and stem cell and gene therapies, that could help animals survive infectious diseases. When organizations present a proof-of-concept study for such a technology, the FDA assembles teams that understand the technologies and report what information the sponsor will need to provide to show that its product would be safe, effective, well-manufactured, and properly labeled, he said.
FDA officials also have been talking with researchers about ways to ensure the agency has an efficient, predictable approval process, and the agency can waive some fees for developers of innovative products. Many technologies, including those involving alteration of an animal's immune system or gastrointestinal microbiome, could be useful across many species, Dr. Vaughn said. Enzymes extracted from one species also could be used to fight disease in others.
More medical interventions are needed to stay ahead of development of resistant microorganisms, and some microorganisms will survive any intervention, Dr. Vaughn said.
“The key is to maintain a strong discovery pipeline for interventions for infectious diseases,” he said.
But Dr. Vaughn cautioned that some alternatives to antibiotics treat disease and kill bacteria through the use of mechanisms similar to those associated with antibiotics, increasing selection pressure that favors bacteria resistant to both. Dr. Scott expressed similar concerns and said available evidence from European studies suggests use of high concentrations of zinc and copper in feed, for example, has co-selected for tetracycline resistance in methicillin-resistant S aureus and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus, respectively.
“Is the heavy metal—as an alternative to the antibiotic—effectively creating the same problems that the antibiotic is?” Dr. Scott asked.
While Dr. Scott noted that some researchers are bullish about the potential uses for naturally occurring peptides, he expressed concern that bacterial populations eventually could develop resistance to those as well, greatly increasing treatment difficulty. He noted that he was speculating that such a change would be less likely to occur and slower to develop than other resistances, but bacteria have proved able to adapt and thrive in altered environments as humans have discovered and adapted antimicrobial products.
Dr. Gay noted that antibiotic interventions have had tremendous impact, and it behooves humanity to invest more in the fight.
World Veterinary Day to focus on vaccination
On April 27, World Veterinary Day 2013 will seek to raise awareness of vaccination as a means to prevent disease.
The World Veterinary Association created World Veterinary Day in 2000 as an annual celebration of the veterinary profession, falling on the last Saturday of April. Each year, the WVA and World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) choose a theme for the event.
“Vaccination of animals helps people to protect their livestock and their companion animals, as well as themselves in case of zoonotic diseases,” according to an online announcement for World Veterinary Day 2013. “Through well organised campaigns, vaccination contributes to the eradication of diseases from certain areas and even from the world.”
According to the announcement, the veterinary profession is crucial to the success of vaccination in protecting animal health.
The WVA and OIE again are offering the $1,000 World Veterinary Day Award for the most successful celebration of the occasion by a national veterinary association working alone or in cooperation with other veterinary groups.
In 2012, Turkey won the award for best program promoting awareness of antimicrobial resistance. The Turkish VMA and Veterinary Pharmacology and Toxicology Association-Turkey developed and distributed a 30-page brochure on antimicrobial resistance.
Information about World Veterinary Day and the World Veterinary Day Award is available at www.worldvet.org.
Renewals begin for revised NVAP
About 1,100 veterinarians whose federal accreditation renewals were due in January renewed in time, but about 400 let their accreditation lapse, according to information provided by the Department of Agriculture.
In the revised version of the National Veterinary Accreditation Program, the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has given each participating veterinarian a renewal deadline sometime within the three-year period starting in January. Those participating in the program need to meet continuing education requirements and send in renewal documents every three years to continue to be eligible to perform certain duties for the USDA, such as issuing travel documentation for pets or livestock.
Those who fail to renew their accreditation but continue performing duties limited to accredited veterinarians could face criminal and civil penalties, APHIS information states.
APHIS Veterinary Services area offices can provide information on renewal deadlines, and APHIS offers webinars every Thursday to help accredited veterinarians through the renewal process.
More information, including information on continuing education, is available at www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_health/vet_accreditation.
Idexx drops distribution arrangement after FTC charges
Idexx Laboratories Inc. has dropped an arrangement with MWI Veterinary Supply Inc. for MWI to carry Idexx diagnostic products exclusively, resolving charges by the Federal Trade Commission that Idexx was using exclusive arrangements with distributors to stifle competition.
Idexx is the largest U.S. supplier of diagnostic products for small animal veterinarians. The company agreed to a settlement order that prohibits concurrent exclusive distribution arrangements with three top distributors of diagnostic products for small animal veterinarians. The order became final in February.
According to the FTC complaint, Idexx used its dominant market power to reduce competition by threatening to drop distributors if they carried products from other companies that compete with Idexx products.
Jonathan Ayers, Idexx chairman and chief executive officer, said, “While we admit no wrongdoing and continue to believe that our distribution practices did not violate the antitrust laws, this marks final resolution of the multiyear FTC investigation.”
Agricultural economist heads newest AVMA division
Former university professor will provide economic analysis of veterinary challenges
By Story and photo by R. Scott Nolen
Michael Dicks, PhD, spent most of his career at Oklahoma State University studying the production, distribution, and consumption of agricultural goods and services.
Now, Dr. Dicks will apply his analytic skills to veterinary medicine as director of the AVMA's new Veterinary Economics Division.
The AVMA Executive Board created the division in 2011 as part of a broad strategy to reverse perceived economic declines throughout much of the veterinary profession.
“No question that economic issues are among those most pressing for our profession,” AVMA President Douglas G. Aspros said. “One of our most significant initiatives was to approve a new economics division, and we've waited impatiently to identify the right person to lead it.
“Mike Dicks has the background and experience to allow us to gather and analyze the data we need to understand, perhaps for the first time, where we are and where we're headed. I expect Mike to help make AVMA a more effective advocate for our members, and he'll be a terrific asset for the profession for years to come.”
For the past 24 years, Dr. Dicks has worked at Oklahoma State, most recently as a professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics and as chair of international trade and development in the School of International Studies.
Along with his academic duties, Dr. Dicks has operated a 100-head Angus cow-calf operation for several years in Stillwater, Okla.
Dr. Dicks earned his master's degree from the University of Missouri in 1982 while working on a waste-to-energy project in Tunisia. Three years later, the university awarded him a doctorate in agricultural economics. From 1984–1989, Dr. Dicks worked for the Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service in Washington, D.C. In 1989, he was hired by Oklahoma State to work on agricultural policy.
Over the past three decades, Dr. Dicks has assisted farm, commodity, and environmental groups; the USDA; and Congress in developing farm policy. He also has aided foreign governments, U.S. agencies, and nongovernmental organizations in international agricultural development activities.
Since accepting his role as director of the AVMA's new division, Dr. Dicks has begun to familiarize himself with the economic studies and reports on veterinary medicine, specifically the IHS Global analysis of the U.S. veterinary workforce that the AVMA commissioned (see JAVMA, June 15, 2012, page 1384), which is expected to be released this April.
“He has definitely hit the ground running,” observed Dr. Link Welborn, chair of the AVMA Economics Strategy Committee. “Mike Dicks’ knowledge and expertise in the practical application of economics are impressive, and I have no doubt that his leadership will produce a robust economics division to the benefit of all AVMA members.”
Before Dr. Dicks learned about the job at the AVMA, he had been planning to retire. He couldn't pass up the opportunity to work in a field with so much research potential, however. “I feel like I'm a kid in a candy store,” he said. “There are all these data that AVMA has collected over the years, and they've been underutilized. It's going to be fun trying to put together a picture of what's going on in the veterinary profession.”
Dr. Dicks described his role as providing the AVMA with an economic perspective of the challenges confronting the veterinary profession. Then he'll propose alternative solutions to the problems and identify the potential costs of each action. “My job is to increase our understanding by examining every issue from an economic standpoint,” he said.
And don't bother asking for his opinion. “I do not like being asked for my opinion,” Dr. Dicks explained. “I can tell you what the data show, and what you might think about and some options, but my opinion is irrelevant. My arguments are not based on beliefs but the raw data.”
The work of the AVMA's economics division won't be limited to veterinary employment and salary issues alone, according to Dr. Dicks. “What can we learn about animal welfare by including economics in those evaluations?” he asked. “It's not just about how I feel, but it's also about what I'm able to afford. We all have wants and needs, but we can only fulfill those based on how much money we have.”
When the National Research Council published its long-awaited study on workforce needs in veterinary medicine in 2012, researchers said the lack of data in key areas hindered their work. If information on a particular area of the profession wasn't available, assumptions were made, which, Dr. Dicks explained, helps him immensely.
“Now we know where to begin. Every place where there's an assumption, we need to get the data and get rid of that assumption. We need to find out exactly what it is and not assume. That pretty much lays out our work plan,” he said.
Soon, a statistical analyst and an economic analyst will join the division and begin building a database of information about the U.S. veterinary profession. Dr. Dicks said it will contain every bit of data imaginable, such as the number and type of pets and livestock in specific geographic areas and the socioeconomic characteristics of the people in the area and their willingness to pay for veterinary services.
“The idea is use all that information to increase the demand for veterinary services,” Dr. Dicks explained. “That's what we're ultimately talking about.”
AVMA launches online news show for members
The AVMA has launched a biweekly online news show, “AVMA NOW,” to provide members with updates about what's happening in the Association.
The show offers a roundup of news and interviews. Guests appearing in recent episodes have discussed subjects as diverse as the new system to allow member comments on AVMA policies and the Association's efforts to impact legislation in the new Congress.
“AVMA Now” is available on the Association's YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/AmerVetMedAssn by clicking on “Browse videos,” then “Playlists.” Eventually, the Association plans to move the show from YouTube to the AVMA website, www.avma.org, where it will be accessible to members only.
Education council schedules site visits
The AVMA Council on Education has scheduled site visits to six schools and colleges of veterinary medicine for the remainder of 2013.
Site visits are planned for the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, April 7–11; University of Glasgow School of Veterinary Medicine, April 21–25; University of Missouri-Columbia College of Veterinary Medicine, May 19–23; VetAgro Sup Campus Veterinaire de Lyon, Sept. 22–26; Tuskegee University College of Veterinary Medicine, Oct. 13–17; and The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Oct. 27–31.
The council welcomes written comments on these plans or the programs to be evaluated. Comments should be addressed to Dr. David E. Granstrom, Director, Education and Research Division, AVMA, 1931 N. Meacham Road, Suite 100, Schaumburg, IL 60173. Comments must be signed by the person submitting them to be considered.
State of the (veterinary) union
Aspros reflects on his presidency so far
Interview by R. Scott Nolen
In February, JAVMA News talked with AVMA President Douglas G. Aspros about being the Association's top spokesman and asked him to reflect on some of the initiatives he's looking forward to in the months ahead.
Since taking office last August, do you still feel this is the best and worst of times for the veterinary profession?
I wish I could say that in the six months I've been president I've solved all the problems of veterinary medicine. But since I'm only halfway through my term, I only needed to solve half of them. Seriously, I don't think that was anybody's expectation, and it certainly wasn't mine.
It remains a time of fundamental change in the profession. The ground is shifting underneath us, and times like these are stressful on everyone: practitioners, employers, colleges. But I'm confident that AVMA has fully appreciated the issues that the profession is facing, both today and in the future. Although we don't have answers for all those concerns, we do have plans, strategies, and, as (AVMA CEO) Ron DeHaven likes to say, “boots on the ground” throughout the profession working on solutions.
Do you see the AVMA differently now that you're the “face” of the Association?
It is an interesting experience being the face of anything, other than myself. It's humbling and quite special to represent AVMA at so very many places and in so many contexts. AVMA is widely respected across the profession and around the world. People complain to AVMA about how things are, but also look to us for answers that address the problems they face. I'm proud of AVMA for having earned the reputation we have and our willingness to use that strength in service of the profession.
Were any parts of the latest AVMA Biennial Economic Survey particularly notable to you?
It reinforced my belief that the veterinary profession and our problems don't exist in a vacuum. Many of the challenges we face are not unique to veterinary medicine; rather, they are outgrowths of a society in flux. People are moving out of rural areas and into cities; boomers are growing older; information technology is constantly changing.
The AVMA is involved in two major initiatives: conducting an economic analysis of the U.S. veterinary workforce and reforming the organization's governance structure. What are your hopes for each?
I'm very excited about our economics work, and I'm particularly excited about finally identifying Mike Dicks (PhD) to head the AVMA Veterinary Economics Division (see page 889). It's been a long time coming, because we were careful to find the right person. I'm very impressed with Dr. Dicks’ skill set; he has real-world experience as well as an academic background. He'll help AVMA make sense of the workforce data and plan our next steps. Then there's the Veterinary Economics Strategy Committee, a group of amazing people. I've attended each of their meetings, and the breadth of experience and range of out-of-the-box thinking they bring is going to pay off for AVMA and help us move forward to solving some of our most important concerns.
The governance reform process is of fundamental importance to the future of AVMA. The perspective that “nothing's broke” is not a forward-looking perspective. As I said earlier, many structural changes have occurred in American society, which is certainly true in terms of how people want to and are interacting with professional associations like ours. If we are going to be good stewards of this wonderful association, then it is our responsibility to make good choices for the future health and vitality of AVMA.
Lately, I've been thinking about Vetlandia, a mythical place where you gain citizenship, with all the rights and privileges, by graduating from veterinary college.
At its heart, AVMA is Vetlandia.
We do so many things: We advocate, we provide benefits such as PLIT and GHLIT, we produce resources including the model veterinary practice act and the Panel on Euthanasia guidelines. But at the end of the day, the most important thing about the AVMA is it speaks for every one of us. Regardless of what you do—whether you're a small animal practitioner or you work for APHIS, whether you're a researcher or you manage dairy herds—AVMA listens to your perspectives and amplifies your voice.
There's a concern that AVMA is going to evolve into a small animal—focused association. That totally misses why I think most of us are AVMA members. We don't want AVMA to turn into another AAHA; we already have an AAHA, and they do a great job fulfilling their mission. What we need is for AVMA to be the organization bringing all of us together as veterinarians. We can't afford to lose that unity, but we don't have to, in order to become a more nimble and contemporary organization.
I'm eager to see how the (AVMA Governance and Member Participation) task force approaches these and other concerns that came up at the AVMA Veterinary Leadership Conference (see JAVMA, March 1, 2013, page 569).
Talk about the upcoming Intraprofessional Communications Summit on Animal Welfare and why there's a need for it.
Many of the issues that have been divisive at AVMA during my time with the organization have centered on animal welfare. It's become clear to me that there's a big degree of misunderstanding and distrust inside the profession when we talk about and develop policies on these matters. The summit will be an opportunity for us to talk to ourselves, without having nonveterinary groups stirring up the waters. A lot of groups use animal welfare issues to raise funds, and you don't do that by being reasonable, but instead, by amplifying people's anger and raising the level of rhetoric, and that gets in the way of real communication and community.
The summit will be a chance for us to talk to each other, as veterinarians, about what veterinary medicine's role is in terms of animal welfare in a wide range of practice settings. I was in China last fall, and it's a really interesting country; the pace of change is awesome. When I asked them how they viewed the veterinarian's role in animal welfare, they said, “When we have human welfare, we'll worry about animal welfare.” Animal welfare is a highly complex field, contextual, and there's no single solution to the issues facing us. We have to talk about what's expected of veterinarians in this arena and what we expect of ourselves in a way that feels safe and supportive. I'm excited about it.
The father of veterinary public health
By promoting the one-health concept, James Harlan Steele has enhanced the lives of animals and humans
By Michael J. White
Dr. James Law, America's first university-based veterinary professor and an early advocate of the one-health concept, envisaged a “new style of practitioner” who was “more comprehensively educated [and] more thoroughly acquainted with the diagnosis and treatment of maladies of man and beast” (see JAVMA “Legends” profile, Feb. 1, 2013, page 286). Dr. James Harlan Steele, who became known as the father of veterinary public health, certainly embodied Dr. Law's vision.
Dr. Steele arrived at veterinary medicine almost by accident. As a young man considering his career path, he was cautioned by friends that he would be better off painting houses. With the encouragement of his first wife, Aina, Dr. Steele persisted and earned his DVM degree from Michigan State University in 1941.
Since that time, he has dedicated his life and career to advancing understanding of the connections between human and animal health. Dr. Michael Cates, former chief of the U.S. Army Veterinary Corps and a student of Dr. Steele's at the University of Texas, told JAVMA News, “I think his greatest accomplishment has been his extraordinary leadership regarding the inextricable linkages between animal and human health, resulting in a fantastic expansion of interest and expertise throughout our world which will continue for generations to come.
“I don't think any other person has had such a global impact on veterinary public health as Dr. Jim Steele.”
Working in uncharted territory during the 1940s and ′50s, Dr. Steele pioneered the field of veterinary public health, earning countless achievements along the way. It would be difficult to find a veterinarian more highly regarded by his peers or who has done more to elevate the status of the veterinary profession in the eyes of government and the public alike.
Born in 1913, Dr. Steele grew up in Chicago during the tumult and aftermath of World War I. He attended local schools and enrolled in classes offered by the YMCA College (now Roosevelt University) in Chicago before earning his undergraduate degree from Michigan State University. After graduation, Dr. Steele evaluated his options and even considered pursuing a career in forestry.
Still, he could never shake an interest that had been with him since childhood. As a boy growing up during the waning days of the Great War, Dr. Steele wondered how the United States could defeat the German army but be leveled by the 1918 influenza epidemic. Even then, the concept of infectious disease enthralled him.
“Legends in U.S. veterinary medicine”
In honor of the AVMA's 150th anniversary this year, JAVMA News is profiling 12 individuals who have made substantial contributions to the American veterinary profession.
Accepted to the College of Veterinary Medicine at MSU, Dr. Steele found his interest only strengthened. When numerous classmates came down with brucellosis, he pursued an internship at the Michigan Health Department to expand his knowledge of zoonoses, specifically investigating how diseases spread from animals to humans.
In a JAVMA article (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2000:217:1813–21) about the history of public health and veterinary public service, Dr. Steele explained that “the brucellosis epidemic among veterinary students and others in the bacteriology building at Michigan State College raised epidemiologic questions about how Brucella organisms were spread. Up to then, the disease was believed to be caused by direct exposure or ingestion of milk containing Brucella bacteria. Airborne organisms had not been thought of.”
Reaching the end of his veterinary studies, the young Dr. Steele, then president of the student chapter of the AVMA at MSU, paid his first visit to AVMA headquarters, located at that time in Chicago at the intersection of S. Michigan Ave. and E. Harrison St. While there, he met former AVMA Executive Secretary Dr. John Hardenbergh, who provided strong support for Dr. Steele's aspirations to pursue a career in public health.
“Why don't you fly under one flag?”
Following his natural interest in zoonotic pathogens, Dr. Steele earned a Master of Public Health from Harvard University, the lone veterinarian in a class of physicians. Graduating in 1942, he discovered that most job opportunities in public health required a medical degree. Discouraged and considering medical school, Dr. Steele said he consulted with Cecil K. Drinker, MD, dean of Harvard's School of Public Health, who told him, “Steele, it's quite apparent. Why don't you fly under one flag?” “And that's the best advice I ever got,” Dr. Steele told JAVMA News. “That was the beginning.” Abandoning his plans of further advanced education, Dr. Steele resolved to stay true to his veterinary roots.
Commissioned as a sanitarian in the United States Public Health Service on the 1st of November 1943, Dr. Steele spent most of World War II in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. He coordinated milk and food sanitation and evaluated zoonotic threats on the islands, which had become isolated because of the war. There, Dr. Steele researched brucellosis, bovine tuberculosis, rabies, and Venezuelan equine encephalitis.
As the European campaign came to an end, Dr. Steele anticipated reassignment to the Pacific theater, but Japan surrendered in August 1945. He then expected to become a food and milk sanitarian in Kansas City, but a conversation with then–U.S. Assistant Surgeon General Joseph Mountin, MD, wildly altered his career trajectory. Dr. Steele recounted the conversation (Vet Herit 1997:20:19–24): “Dr. Mountin's challenge to me was, ‘What are you veterinarians going to do for the public health now that the war is over?’ This was my opportunity to tell him what VPH could do.
“The animal diseases communicable to man were a largely unexplored area. I described some of the known zoonotic diseases. Dr. Mountin asked questions as to prevalence and control. My answers were mainly, ‘We don't have any data, nor do we know how to control these zoonoses.’ Finally Dr. Mountin said, ‘Steele, it is quite apparent that we have a problem and a lot of ignorance—let us explore it.”’
“If you get in trouble, don't come back”
In November 1945, Dr. Steele presented a lengthy report titled “Veterinary Public Health,” representing the first time that term had been used, to Dr. Mountin and U.S. Surgeon General Thomas Parran Jr., MD. The report outlined the risks of zoonotic disease and the benefits of employing veterinarians to research and respond to the causative pathogens. Dr. Mountin was persuaded and sent Dr. Steele to the National Institutes of Health with some final words of encouragement: “If you get in trouble, don't come back.”
Under the tutelage of Dr. B.T. Simms, chief of the former Bureau of Animal Industry in the Department of Agriculture, Dr. Steele spent the next two years traveling to places such as Brazil, Maryland, Indiana, and Michigan, investigating outbreaks and the human health implications of diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease, brucellosis, and salmonellosis. Dr. Steele credits Dr. Simms as being a “helluva man and a dedicated mentor who offered guidance and moral support” during these formative years.
When Dr. Mountin decided to evaluate the progress of the VPH program in March 1947, he was impressed. Capitalizing on the project's recent success, Dr. Steele urged the assistant surgeon general to consider establishing a Veterinary Medical Officer category within the USPHS. His report was well-received, and the surgeon general signed an amendment to the USPHS regulations in the summer of 1947, thereby creating the VMO position. Alongside an impressive cadre of veterinarians, Dr. Steele was inducted into the first class of Regular Corps VMOs in February 1948. Since that time, hundreds of regular and reserve VMOs have served in the United States and worldwide, benefiting human and animal populations alike.
Lifetime of achievement
During the postwar period, Dr. Steele was a consistent champion of veterinary medicine within the public health domain. His VPH framework served as a model for similar programs undertaken by the World Health Organization, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, and numerous countries. Dr. Steele became chief veterinary officer of the USPHS in 1950 and retired as the first assistant surgeon general for veterinary affairs in 1971. During his tenure, Dr. Steele worked at the Geneva-based WHO as a consultant to the late Dr. Martin Kaplan, the organization's first director of veterinary public health.
On behalf of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Steele attended the first WHO Expert Committee on Zoonoses meeting in 1950. He then chaired the second meeting in 1965. The meetings brought together the most eminent scholars within the world of zoonotic disease and emphasized the need for international collaboration and common goals. In outlining the mission of these committees, Dr. Steele found wisdom in the insight of his longtime colleague Dr. Calvin Schwabe. In the textbook “Veterinary Medicine and Human Health,” Dr. Schwabe wrote: “The final objective of veterinary medicine does not lie in the animal species that the veterinarian commonly treats. It lies very definitely in man, and above all in humanity.”
Legacy of success
After his retirement from the USPHS, Dr. Steele joined the faculty at the University of Texas School of Public Health in Houston. In 1983, he was appointed professor emeritus there, and he continues to remain active on campus, providing wisdom, insight, and words of encouragement to countless students and professionals alike.
During his tenure at the University of Texas, Dr. Steele helped to compile and edit the CRC (Press’) Handbook Series in Zoonoses, the first comprehensive collection to address diseases shared by humans and animals. First published between 1979 and 1984, the tome (now in its second edition) remains a staple of public health curricula throughout the world. And as testament to his dedication to public health, Dr. Steele remains active in the American Veterinary Epidemiology Society, an organization that he founded in the 1980s. He is also a founder and honorary diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Preventive Medicine.
Not surprisingly, Dr. Steele has received numerous awards throughout his storied career. Among them, he earned the USPHS Order of Merit in 1963 and was recognized as an honorary member of the Epidemic Intelligence Service of the CDC in 1975. He was awarded the XII International Veterinary Congress Prize by the AVMA in 1984. In 2006, Dr. Steele received the Surgeon General's Medallion. Most recently, Dr. Steele's granddaughter Jamie xxxxxxxxxxx accepted the Medal of Merit on his behalf from the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) in May 2012. The commendation recognized Dr. Steele's “meritorious service to world animal health” and was strongly supported by Dr. John R. Clifford, deputy administrator and chief veterinary officer for the Veterinary Services program of the Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
Despite all his formal achievements, Dr. Steele is most proud of his accomplishments in the classroom and the potential of his students. This sense of appreciation is shared by his pupils. His former student Dr. Cates adds, “Dr. Steele has been relentless in his support of my career. Whatever it took—advice, encouragement, compliments, challenges, or attendance at important events—he did it all, pushing me to do even more for VPH.
“What is amazing is that he did the same for countless others around the world.”
Voicing the thoughts of so many others, Dr. Cates lauded Dr. Steele for the high bar he set. “He has set a tremendous, unparalleled example of intelligence, passion, and tenacity in his own VPH career for me and others to emulate. He often points to other people who went before him, but to me, he is the one person I think of when you mention VPH.”
Echoing these sentiments, Dr. Howard Erickson, emeritus professor of physiology and the history of veterinary medicine at Kansas State University, lauds Dr. Steele for being “a pioneer in veterinary public health, a legend, who is certainly an inspiration to anyone who has read about him or who has met him.”
This month, Dr. Steele celebrates his 100th birthday, as the veterinary world collectively celebrates his numerous contributions to the profession. Even at the age of 100, his mind is fixed on the future. In his words: “I look forward to my 107th birthday when I can finally say, ‘Hindsight being 2020, yep—we got it right.”’
Michael J. White is a second-year veterinary student at Kansas State University and a recent JAVMA News extern.
Dr. Steele's colleagues are planning several events this July at the AVMA Annual Convention in Chicago to celebrate his 100th birthday, April 3. They include recognition at the AVMA Opening Session on Friday, July 19; Dr. Steele in the exhibit hall on Saturday signing copies of the new birthday edition of his biography by Dr. Craig Carter, “One Man, One Medicine, One Health: The James H. Steele Story”; a Sunday evening banquet at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place; and on Monday, a special scientific session by the American Veterinary Epidemiology Society and Dr. Carter's presentation at the Public and Corporate Practice session. For event details, call Dr. Carter at (859) 321-4890 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cats may be greater threat to wildlife than first thought
Study estimates free-roaming cats kill billions of birds and mammals in the US annually
By R. Scott Nolen
A new study claims free-ranging domestic cats kill substantially more wildlife than previously thought and may be the single greatest source of human-related death of birds and mammals in the United States.
Scientists with the Smithsonian Institution and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimate that cats kill 2.4 billion birds and 12.3 billion mammals in the contiguous United States every year. The scientists identified feral cats as being responsible for most of the deaths—approximately 69 percent of bird deaths and 89 percent of mammal deaths.
The study goes on to speculate that free-ranging cats could kill 258 million to 822 million reptiles and 95 million to 299 million amphibians annually.
Scott Loss, PhD, lead author of the study published Jan. 29 in the journal Nature Communications, said his team's research indicates cat predation is an even bigger environmental and ecological threat than anyone realized.
“Our study provides motivation for further research and for incorporating cat impacts into conservation and management efforts,” said Dr. Loss, a fellow with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute.
Earlier estimates of annual cat-related bird deaths in America were sparse, but a study published in the 2009 Proceedings of the Fourth International Partners in Flight Conference put the number at around 1 billion.
The Nature Communications study is the latest development in a long-running debate over the scope of wildlife death attributable to cat predation and how to reduce the number feral cats, which the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals estimates to be in the tens of millions.
“We've long known that feral cats can decimate wild animals, but these numbers elevate the threat to a new level,” said Gary Langham, PhD, chief scientist for the National Audubon Society. “The results add new urgency to the feral cat problem and underscore the need for effective solutions to protect wild birds. Audubon strongly supports all efforts using science to better understand the causes and impacts of bird mortality.”
The CATalyst Council, a national initiative comprising animal health and welfare organizations, worries the study and related news reports cast a negative light on cats and might hinder the ability of shelters to place them in adoptive homes.
“We regret the fact that the articles written about the study have maligned cats as a whole, when in fact, the vast majority of the estimated destruction to wildlife was reportedly by feral or stray cats,” Dr. Jane Brunt, CATalyst Council executive director, said. “This works to discourage prospective cat owners from adopting one of the hundreds of thousands of healthy, enjoyable cats that are held in shelters across this nation.”
The International Union for Conservation of Nature, an environmental advocacy organization, lists the domestic cat among the world's 100 worst invasive alien species on account of the danger they pose to native wildlife populations.
Dr. Loss and his colleagues designed a mathematical model based on 21 publications that estimated free-ranging cat predation in the United States and Europe. They took a rigorous and conservative approach, excluding studies that did not distinguish between owned cats and unowned cats and studies based on a small sample size or a short sample collection period.
“When we ran the model, we didn't know what to expect,” said Pete Marra, PhD, a research scientist with the Smithsonian Institution and the study's senior author. “We were absolutely stunned by the results.”
Prior to the study's publication, cats were thought to kill far fewer birds than were other human-related threats, such as building collisions and pesticides, and were unlikely to have a significant effect on mainland vertebrate populations. “Given these results, free-ranging cats are likely having a population-level impact on native species of birds,” Dr. Marra said.
Despite the high wildlife mortality rate, policies to manage free-ranging cat populations are dictated by concerns for the welfare of the cats rather than the ecological impacts they're having, according to the study. Trap-neuter-return colonies, the study states, are potentially harmful to wildlife populations and are implemented without consideration of the scientific evidence and the environmental review process usually required for actions with harmful environmental consequences.
The Audubon Society's Dr. Langham said, “We must have the courage to investigate and address all human sources of wild bird mortality.”
Louise Holton believes the study authors are tacitly advocating for lethal control policies to reduce feral cat populations. “They don't, of course, say ‘killing’ outright, because they know this is a cat-loving society,” said Holton, president and founder of Alley Cat Rescue, which supports nonlethal control of free-ranging cat populations.
Holton said the authors ignored several studies showing cats prey on young, old, and sickly birds and mammals and that any bird population unable to withstand cat predation would've been wiped out long ago. Agriculture and habitat loss, she added, are in fact the major causes for declines in wild bird populations.
“Trap-neuter-return definitely works,” Holton said. “Catch-and-kill seems like an attractive, quick way to get rid of cats, but it usually fails, as new cats will move in and start the breeding process all over again.”
Smithsonian and FWS scientists plan to further refine the estimates of how many birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians are killed by feral cats, including those in TNR colonies. They also hope to determine which wildlife species are most affected by free-ranging cats, the precise numbers of feral cats throughout the country, and where feral cats are more and less abundant.
Study finds neutering-disease link in Golden Retrievers
Neutering and the age at which a dog is neutered may affect the animal's risk for developing certain cancers and joint diseases, according to a study published Feb. 13 in the online scientific journal PLOS ONE.
An examination of health records of 759 Golden Retrievers by researchers with the University of California-Davis discovered significantly higher incidents of hip dysplasia, cranial cruciate ligament tears, lymphosarcomas, hemangiosarcomas, and mast cell tumors among neutered dogs, compared with sexually intact dogs.
“The study results indicate that dog owners and service dog trainers should carefully consider when to have their male or female dogs neutered,” said the lead investigator, Dr. Benjamin Hart, a distinguished professor emeritus in the UC-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.
“It is important to remember, however, that because different dog breeds have different vulnerabilities to various diseases, the effects of early and late neutering also may vary from breed to breed,” he said.
While results of the study are revealing, Dr. Hart said the relationship between neutering and disease risk is a complex issue. For example, the increased incidence of joint diseases among early-neutered dogs is likely a combination of the effect of neutering on the young dog's growth plates and the increase in body weight that is commonly seen in neutered dogs.
A small body of research has indicated that neutering can have adverse health effects for certain dog breeds. A study of the relationship between life expectancy and ovary removal in Rottweilers found Rottweilers spayed after they were 6 years old were 4.6 times as likely to reach 13 years of age as were Rottweilers spayed at a younger age (see JAVMA, March 1, 2010, page 496).
Against that backdrop, Dr. Hart and colleagues launched their study, using a single hospital database. The study was designed to examine the effects of neutering on the risks of several diseases in the same breed, distinguishing between males and females and between early or ate neutering and not neutering.
Researchers focused on Golden Retrievers because of the breed's popularity and its vulnerability to various cancers and joint disorders. The breed also is favored for work as a service dog.
The research team reviewed the records of female and male Golden Retrievers, ranging in age from 1 to 8 years, that had been examined at UC-Davis' William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital for hip dysplasia, cranial cruciate ligament tear, lymphosarcoma, hemangiosarcoma, and mast cell tumor. The dogs were classified as sexually intact, neutered before 12 months of age, or neutered at 12 months of age or later.
The disease rates for all five diseases were significantly higher in both males and females that were neutered either early or late, compared with that of sexually intact dogs. Specifically, early neutering was associated with an increase in the occurrence of hip dysplasia, cranial cruciate ligament tear, and lymphosarcoma in males and in the occurrence of cranial cruciate ligament tear in females.
Late neutering was associated with the subsequent occurrence of mast cell tumors and hemangiosarcoma in females.
In most areas, the findings of this study were consistent with that of earlier studies, suggesting similar increases in disease risks. The UC-Davis study, however, is the first to specifically report an increased risk of mast cell tumors and hemangiosarcoma with late neutering.
Furthermore, the new study showed a 100 percent increase in the incidence of hip dysplasia among early-neutered males. Earlier studies had reported a 17 percent increase among all neutered dogs, compared with all non-neutered dogs, indicating the importance of the new study in making gender and age-of-neutering comparisons.
The study is available at http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0055937.
A new approach to teaching ethics
By Michael J. White
Responding to concerns about a perceived lack of training in veterinary ethics, the Society for Veterinary Medical Ethics is scheduled to release an online course in April that introduces veterinarians and veterinary students to common ethical concerns they may experience in practice.
The course was the brainchild of former SVME president Dr. John McCarthy, who died before it could be finished. When Dr. Alice Villalobos became SVME president in 2010, she saw the potential in the project and helped guide it to completion.
Written by multiple authors, the seven-module course is designed to provide a basic framework for examining and resolving ethical dilemmas. Rather than steering users in a preferred direction, the course allows them to draw their own personal conclusions.
Caitlin Dooley, a third-year veterinary student at Washington State University, appreciates the opportunity to receive extracurricular ethics training. After earning the technique for dewclaw removal and tail docking last year, for instance, her professor mentioned that “this is something you all need to decide for yourselves—whether or not you want to perform these procedures.”
Unsure how to resolve the question for herself, Dooley quickly saw the potential benefits of ethics training. “I think it's important to have a process of knowing: Do I want to do this? Or most importantly, for each person to have an understanding of how to decide whether it's right or wrong.”
Sylvie Cloutier, PhD, agrees there is merit to an online course. She tells JAVMA News, “We need to find ways to provide the essential tools for students—not only how to deal with ethical issues, but also, where to find information to reach these conclusions.”
Some within the ethics community argue that an online forum may not be the optimal method for delivering this information. At the forefront is Bernard Rollin, PhD, who believes the study of ethics inherently requires interpersonal contact and discussion. He recommends redesigning veterinary curricula to remove ethics as a separate course and integrate the topic into existing coursework.
While some members of the SVME agree with Dr. Rollin in theory, most think a complete overhaul of the veterinary curriculum is unlikely in the present academic environment. “At the very least, the online course is a step in the right direction,” Dr. Villalobos explains.
The SVME is working to attain certification from the Registry of Approved Continuing Education so that veterinarians who successfully complete the series can receive continuing education credit.
Ultimately, Dr. Villalobos hopes that the course will expand beyond veterinarians and veterinary students, envisioning a series that “may be written specifically for paraprofessionals such as veterinary technicians, veterinary assistants, groomers, pet store and kennel personnel.”
The SVME online course will be available via the organization's website, www.svme.org. The course will carry a nominal fee to users to offset the cost of acquiring CE credit. Each module is expected to require one to two hours to complete.
Michael J. White is a second-year veterinary student at Kansas State University and a recent JAVMA News extern.
FDA changes name of laboratory network
A federal veterinary diagnostic aboratory network changed its name in February.
The network now known as the Veterinary Laboratory Investigation and Response Network was previously known as the Veterinary Laboratory Response Network. The network is part of the Food and Drug Administration's Center for Veterinary Medicine, and it is intended to help the agency delegate work to laboratories during investigations.
U.S. may get better BSE rating
An international health organization's scientific commission found that the U.S. has negligible risk connected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy, according to the Department of Agriculture.
The finding could help the U.S. increase its beef trade if the commission's parent organization agrees.
The Scientific Commission for the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) recommended changing the U.S. risk classification for the disease from “controlled” to “negligible,” a USDA announcement states. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in the announcement that the findings could support U.S. efforts to normalize beef trade with several nations.
Information from the office of Dr. Bernard Vallat, director general of the OIE, stated that the OIE Scientific Commission report would be publicly available after validation and translation, which typically takes several weeks. The World Assembly of Delegates, the OIE's highest authority, is responsible for approving official recognition of a country's disease status, and its delegates meet every May in Paris.
The U.S. is among 30 countries listed by the OIE as having a “controlled” BSE risk. Nineteen countries are considered to have “negligible” risk.
OIE information states that a country's BSE risk status is based on historical and current risks and the country's efforts to manage those risks. Countries can earn the “negligible” risk status in part by having no reported BSE cases for seven years, by demonstrating that each BSE-positive animal or material in that period was imported and subsequently destroyed, or by having no indigenous BSE cases involving animals less than 11 years old. Other provisions involve awareness, reporting, investigation, and surveillance of animals potentially infected with BSE; demonstration that ruminants have not been, during the past eight years, fed parts or products of other ruminants that could transmit the prions connected with BSE; and destruction of carcasses from animals that could have been reared with BSE-positive animals.
Countries with “controlled” risk status have met most but not all those criteria.
The U.S. most recently detected BSE in April 2012 in a 10 1/2-year-old dairy cow from California that was found to have an atypical form of BSE, according to the USDA.
Atypical BSE is not generally associated with consumption of infected feed, according to the OIE. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has prohibited adding ruminant protein to ruminant feed since 1997, and the agency banned inclusion of high-risk ruminant materials, such as brains and spinal cords, to any animal feed beginning in 2009.
A country's BSE risk status affects the numbers and types of assurances the OIE recommends countries receive before accepting imports.
For example, the OIE recommends that veterinary authorities in a country planning to import beef from a “controlled” risk status country require an international veterinary certificate attesting that the beef did not come from cattle subjected to a stunning process involving injecting compressed air or gas into the cranial cavity or to a pithing process—a requirement not suggested when importing from a “negligible” risk country. The organization also recommends that the certificate from a “controlled” risk country additionally attest that the meat is not contaminated with mechanically separated meat from the skull and vertebral column of cattle more than 30 months old.
NAVC broadening reach
The 2013 North American Veterinary Conference, Jan. 19–23 in Orlando, Fla., offered more than 1,300 hours of continuing education and attracted nearly 16,000 attendees.
On Feb. 15, the NAVC as an organization unveiled a new brand identity, featuring a new name—the North American Veterinary Community. The community includes the annual conference, other CE offerings, a journal, and partner conferences abroad.
“Together, the new name and logo signify our ongoing goal of helping veterinary professionals refresh and renew their knowledge about the newest trends and techniques in diagnostics and treatment,” said veterinary technician Lynne E. Johnson-Harris, 2013–2014 NAVC president.
The NAVC also recently formed an agreement with Vetstream, a United Kingdom–based supplier of online veterinary content, to bring NAVC content to veterinarians around the world via the new Vetacademy, a source of online CE. Vetstream is working with the NAVC to make other Vetacademy content available to the U.S. audience.
Among the many CE offerings during the 2013 annual conference was a new track on Backyard Chicken Medicine. Janine Driver, an expert on body language, was a featured speaker for the practice management sessions. For the first time, the conference provided Spanish translation for a number of sessions.
Conference attendance included 6,126 veterinarians, 1,435 veterinary technicians, 561 practice managers, 459 support staff members, and 865 students. Attendees hailed from more than 70 countries.
The 2013–2014 NAVC officers are Lynne E. Johnson-Harris, Hinckley, Ohio, president; Dr. Charlotte Lacroix, Whitehouse Station, N.J., president-elect; Dr. Richard A. LeCouteur, Davis, Calif, vice president; Dr. Earl H. Rippie Jr., Pennsauken, N.J., secretary-treasurer; and Dr. M. Gatz Riddell, Auburn, Ala., immediate past president. Thomas M. Bohn is the new chief executive officer.
Auburn's seventh veterinary dean named
Auburn University veterinary professor, department head, and alumnus Dr. Calvin Johnson was named dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine effective March 1.
Dr. Johnson joined the Auburn faculty as a professor in 2003 and was named head of the Department of Pathobiology in 2005. His experience also includes 11 years at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine.
Dr. Johnson becomes Auburn's seventh veterinary dean since the college was established in 1907; the veterinary program began at Auburn in 1892. He succeeds Dr. Timothy Boosinger, who served as dean for 16 years until 2011, when he was named Auburn's provost and vice president for academic affairs. Dr. Johnson was acting dean for 17 months, followed by Dr. Fred Hoerr as interim dean for four months.
“I look forward to building upon the successful leadership of Dr. Boosinger and all the previous deans. Among his many contributions, Dr. Boosinger developed a business model to construct state-of-the-art hospitals for large and small animals, and a premier educational facility that can accommodate expanded classes and novel instructional strategies,” Dr. Johnson said in a Feb. 13 Auburn press release. “My goal is to continue building the program and to support the faculty in pursuing the college's mission.”
A 1986 veterinary graduate of Auburn, Dr. Johnson earned his doctorate in veterinary medical science (pathology) from North Carolina State University in 1992.
He is chair of Auburn's Health Sciences Task Force and serves on numerous other university and college committees.
He is also a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Pathologists. Dr. Johnson's primary research areas involve the pathogenesis of feline immunodeficiency virus infection and veterinary immunology.
Couple gives millions for cancer research at Mizzou
The University of Missouri-Columbia College of Veterinary Medicine recently received a more than $5 million estate gift that honors two of its alumni.
Cottrell and Kay Fox of Town and Country, Mo., a suburb of St. Louis, gave the gift in recognition of the work of their longtime family veterinarians, Drs. James Schuessler and Fred Bendick from St. Louis, who are both alumni of the veterinary college.
The money will support an endowment in companion animal medicine in honor of the two veterinarians. It also will fund studies in comparative oncology as well as enhance training for graduate students and veterinary oncology residents, according to a Feb. 20 MU press release.
The Foxes' interest in the veterinary college began when their family dog was treated for cancer at the MU Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital years ago. As a part of that cancer treatment, MU veterinarians used a drug developed at the university called samarium (brand name Quadramet). Years later, Kay Fox's father was treated for cancer using the same drug. According to the release, samarium was made available for use in human patients only because of the years of research by MU scientists at the veterinary college. Dr. Carolyn Henry, an MU professor of veterinary oncology, said in the release that the gift will be used to develop more effective methods of cancer diagnosis and treatment for animals and humans.
The Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges gave the 2012 AAVMC Distinguished Teacher Award to Dr. Mary Anna Thrall at the AAVMC's 2013 Annual Conference on March 8 in Alexandria, Va. This prestigious teaching award is sponsored by Zoetis.
Dr. Thrall (PUR 70) is a veterinary clinical pathologist who taught at Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences before moving to Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine on St. Kitts, West Indies, where she now serves as a professor of clinical pathology and section head of pathobiology.
A diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Pathologists, Dr. Thrall has participated in the training of more than 40 veterinary clinical pathologists and more than 20 graduate students. In addition, she co-authored the reference textbook “Veterinary Hematology and Clinical Chemistry.” Her research, supported by a long-term National Institutes of Health grant, has focused on bone marrow transplantation for management of lysosomal storage disorders.
New Mexico VMA
The New Mexico VMA honored three veterinarians in January.
Dr. Manuel Garcia was named Veterinarian of the Year. A partner at San Juan Veterinary Hospital in Farmington, he graduated from the veterinary cooperative program between Oregon State and Washington State universities in 2000. Dr. Garcia gives back to the veterinary community by serving the NMVMA and the New Mexico Board of Veterinary Medicine. He assists his community through support of the local animal shelter and the veterinary technology program at San Juan College in Farmington.
The Distinguished Service Award went to Drs. Darryl Leslie and Kathleen Ramsay.
Dr. Leslie owns Leslie Animal Clinic in Alamagordo and received his DVM degree in 1991 from Colorado State University. He has consistently supported the veterinary profession through his work with the NMVMA, of which he is a former president, and as current treasurer of the Southwest Veterinary Symposium.
Dr. Ramsay owns Cottonwood Veterinary Clinic in Espanola and in 1987 founded the Wildlife Center, a wildlife rehabilitation and education center in Espanola. She has served on the New Mexico Board of Veterinary Medicine for 10 years, including secretary of the board, and has worked hard to bring the regulations up to date. Dr. Ramsay received her DVM degree from Colorado State University in 1981.
Veterinary Dental Forum
Event: 26th annual forum, Nov. 8–11, 2012, Seattle Program: The forum, co-sponsored by the Academy of Veterinary Dentistry, the American Veterinary Dental College, and the American Veterinary Dental Society, attracted more than 1,000 participants. The specialist-in-training module focused on dental radiography. Also offered were lectures, briefs, and laboratories for veterinary dental clinicians and technicians. Gary Glassman, DDS, Toronto, spoke on endodontic therapy. The forum also served as the venue for the annual meetings of the Foundation for Veterinary Dentistry and the Academy of Veterinary Dental Technicians, which recognized newly certified technicians.
American Veterinary Dental College
Awards: AVDC Peter Emily Service Award, sponsored by Virbac Animal Health: Dr. Paul Mitchell, North Attleboro, Mass., for outstanding contributions made to further the field of veterinary dentistry. A 1991 graduate of the Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Mitchell serves as a senior veterinarian with the Pfizer Animal Health Veterinary Specialty Team. He is a diplomate and president-elect of the AVDC. AVDC Robert Wiggs Outstanding Candidate Award, sponsored by Pfizer Animal Health: Dr. Boaz Arzi, Davis, Calif. A 2002 graduate of the Szent Istvan University Faculty of Veterinary Science in Hungary, Dr. Arzi is a project scientist and a staff veterinarian in dentistry and oral surgery at the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Arzi is a diplomate of the AVDC. Journal of Veterinary Dentistry Debra Smith Award: Dr. Christopher Smithson, Tampa, Fla., was the first recipient of this award, given for the best article authored by a resident. A 2002 graduate of the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Smithson works at Tampa Bay Veterinary Specialists.
New diplomates: Eight new diplomates were welcomed into the AVDC. They are as follows:
Boaz Arzi, Davis, Calif.
Sarah Bonner, Walnut Creek, Calif.
Susan Crowder, Lenexa, Kan.
Wade Gingerich, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Robert Menzies, Philadelphia
Debra Nossaman, South Lake, Texas
Santiago Peralta, Ithaca, N.Y.
Carlos Rice, Philadelphia
Academy of Veterinary Dentistry
Awards: AVD Fellow-of-the-Year Award, sponsored by Pfizer Animal Health: Dr. Ken Capron, Tulsa, Okla. A 1965 graduate of the Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Capron owns and serves as director of Capron Veterinary Hospital & Dental Clinic For Pets in Tulsa. He is a past president of the AVDS, a diplomate and a past president of the AVDC, and a fellow and president-elect of the AVD. Dr. Capron founded the National Pet Dental Health Month, co-sponsored by Hill's Pet Nutrition. AVD Dentistry Research Grant: Dr. Santiago Peralta, Cornell University, for “Feline buccal bone expansion—Clinicopathological assessment of potential underlying pathogenic mechanisms.” AVD Fellows: Drs. Lorraine Hiscox, Oakville, Ontario, and Caroline Niederman, Houston
American Veterinary Dental Society
Awards: AVDS–Hill's Education and Research Award, sponsored by Hill's Pet Nutrition Inc.: Dr. John Lewis, Philadelphia, for contributions in the area of veterinary dentistry and for helping to achieve the AVDS mission of a global society for the advancement of veterinary dental knowledge. A 1997 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Lewis is chief of the Section of Surgery, Dentistry and Anesthesiology at the University of Pennsylvania. He is a diplomate of the AVDC, a fellow of the AVD, and the immediate past president of the AVDS.
Academy of Veterinary Dental Technicians
The AVDT welcomed newly certified members Nicole Anderson of Menomonie, Wis.; Eliza Krauter of Lakeville, Minn.; and Tammi Smith of Port St. Lucie, Fla.
Foundation for Veterinary Dentistry
Awards: Miltex Golden Scaler Award, for outstanding contributions to veterinary dentistry: Dr. Brett Beckman, Punta Gorda, Fla. A 1985 graduate of the Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Beckman is chief of dental services at Florida Veterinary Dentistry and Oral Surgery of Orlando and Punta Gorda, he is also seeing patients in Atlanta. He is a diplomate of the AVDC and American Academy of Pain Management, a fellow of the AVD, and a past president of the AVDS.
Peter Emily International Veterinary Dental Foundation
Awards: Service Award: Dr. Clarence Sitzman, Colorado Springs, Colo., for outstanding contributions in the field of veterinary dentistry with relation to captive animals and wildlife.
Officials: American Veterinary Dental College—Dr. Jan Bellows, Weston, Fla., president; Academy of Veterinary Dentistry—Dr. Brook Niemiec, San Diego, president; American Veterinary Dental Society—Dr. Kevin Stepaniuk, St. Paul, Minn., president; Academy of Veterinary Dental Technicians—Susan A. Berrhill, Branson, Mo., president; Foundation for Veterinary Dentistry—Dr. William Scott, Madison, Miss., chair
National Pet Week 2014 contest deadline extended by Auxiliary
The Auxiliary to the AVMA has extended the deadline for its 2014 National Pet Week poster and writing contests to May 10, 2013. Entries should center on the 2014 theme, “Celebrate a Healthy Pet.”
The contests are open to students in kindergarten through 12th grade. The winner of each contest will receive $100. Judging will be based on originality, content, and use of the theme.
An application form must be attached to each poster and writing entry. A JPEG file must also be submitted with each poster entry.
Posters must be colorful and be the artist's original work. They may be any size.
Stories, essays, or poems can be submitted for the writing contest.
Entry forms and contest guidelines are available from the Auxiliary via email at email@example.com or by calling (847) 285-6747 or (800) 248-2862, Ext. 6747. Contestants may email their entries or send them to NPW Poster and Creative Writing Contest, Auxiliary to the AVMA, 1931 N. Meacham Road, Suite 100, Schaumburg, IL 60173.
Event: 129th annual meeting, Jan. 31-Feb. 3, Indianapolis
Program: The meeting drew more than 400 veterinarians and 200 veterinary technicians and assistants and offered in excess of 140 hours of continuing education.
Awards: Lifetime Achievement Award: Dr. Tony Rumschlag, Noblesville, for cumulative service and accomplishments benefiting the profession, organized veterinary medicine, and the community. A 1985 graduate of the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Rumschlag is director of technical consultants for Elanco Animal Health. He is a past president of the IVMA; serves on the IVMA Annual Meeting, Legislative, and Audit and Budget committees; and is a member of the Indiana Animal Health Foundation board of directors. Dr. Rumschlag served on the AVMA Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities from 2004–2010, chairing it the last two years of his service, and represented the IVMA and Elanco on the North American Veterinary Medical Education Consortium in 2009 and 2010. Volunteer of the Year: Dr. Marybeth Feutz, Princeton, for leadership or service to a particular project or program of the association. A 2003 graduate of Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine and a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine, Dr. Feutz is a large animal consultant at Princeton Veterinary Hospital. She has served on the IVMA Membership and Annual Meeting committees and is a past chair of the Power of 11 training program. Achievement Award: Dr. Matt Cantrell, Brownsburg, won this award, given to a member who has graduated within the preceding five years and has accomplished outstanding things in veterinary research, civic duties, academia, and/or organized veterinary medicine. A 2010 graduate of the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Cantrell practices small animal medicine at Brownsburg Animal Clinic and serves on the board of directors of the Misty Eyes Animal Shelter and Learning Center. He is a member of the IVMA Annual Meeting Committee. President's Award: Dr. Jerry Risser, McCordsville. A 1992 graduate of the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Dr. Risser owns Fall Creek Veterinary Medical Center. He is vice president of the IVMA and represents the Central Indiana VMA on its board of directors. Dr. Risser recently chaired the IVMA Not for Profit Task Force.
Officials: Dr. Philip Borst, Indianapolis, president; Dr. John T. Feutz, Princeton, president-elect; Dr. Jerry Risser, McCordsville, vice president; Dr. Aileen McDivitt, Kokomo, treasurer; Dr. Paul Clemente, Fort Wayne, immediate past president; and Lisa A. Perius, Indianapolis, executive director
Event: 121st annual convention, Jan. 18–20, Kansas City
Program: The convention, which offered 60 continuing education lectures, drew more than 600 attendees.
Awards: Veterinarian of the Year: Dr. James G. Thorne, Columbia. Dr. Thorne earned his DVM degree in 1961 from the University of Missouri-Columbia College of Veterinary Medicine and obtained his doctorate in physiology from the University of Georgia in 1978. He serves as an associate professor and clinical epidemiologist in the Department of Veterinary Microbiology at the MU-CVM. Dr. Thorne is a diplomate and a past president of the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners. President's Award: Richard Antweiler, Jefferson City. Antweiler has served as executive director of the association for 13 years, assisting members with professional education, legislative issues, and public relations initiatives to enhance the quality of veterinary medicine in the state. He is the secretary-treasurer of the Missouri Academy of Veterinary Practitioners and a past president of the American Society of Veterinary Medical Association Executives. Missouri Veterinary Medical Foundation Distinguished Service Award: Dr. George Buckaloo, Independence, for helping expand the foundation's mission of public education and charitable giving to worthy organizations. A 1972 graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Buckaloo is the director of the MU-CVM's Mizzou Animal Cancer Care Facility in Wentzville. Earlier in his career, he owned Crysler Animal Hospital in Independence for 30 years. Honorary Membership Award of the Missouri Academy of Veterinary Practice: Dr. John R. Dodam, Columbia, won this award, given for distinguished or meritorious service to the veterinary profession. A 1985 graduate of The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Dodam serves as department chair and associate professor of anesthesiology at the MU-CVM. He is a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Anesthesiologists.
Officials: MVMA—Dr. Craig A. Payne, Columbia, president; Dr. David A. Prigel, Republic, president-elect; Dr. Charles L. Barry, Warrensburg, vice president; Dr. Shelia L. Taylor, Springfield, secretary-treasurer; Dr. James K. Schuessler, Kirkwood, Executive Board chair/immediate past president; and Richard D. Antweiler, Jefferson City, executive director. Missouri Academy of Veterinary Practice—Dr. Thomas Blumhorst, Marshall, president; Dr. Ronald Brown, Appleton City, president-elect; Dr. George Fischer, Amity, vice president; and Richard Antweiler, Jefferson City, executive secretary/treasurer. Missouri Veterinary Medical Foundation—Dr. William J. Shore, St. Louis, board chair; Dr. Phillip R. Brown, Springfield, board vice chair; Ann White, Perryville, secretary-treasurer; and Dr. Roger Dozier, Jefferson City, museum director
Obituaries: AVMA member AVMA honor roll member Nonmember
Benton C. Allen Jr.
Dr. Allen (IL ′57), 80, Galesburg, Ill., died Nov. 27, 2012. During his more than 40-year career, he practiced small animal medicine, first in Dunlap, Ill., and later at Knox Veterinary Clinic in Galesburg. Dr. Allen was a lifetime member of the Illinois State VMA. Active in civic life, he served on the District 205 School Board and Regional School Board and was a member of the Kiwanis Club, receiving its Hixton Award for community service. Dr. Allen also served as a court-appointed special advocate for children and volunteered with Hospice Compassus. His wife, Ruth; two daughters; and a son survive him. Memorials may be made to First Presbyterian Church, 101 N. Prairie, Galesburg, IL 61401.
William E. Beavers
Dr. Beavers (OSU ′51), 93, Brookville, Ohio, died Oct. 3, 2012. Prior to retirement in 2008, he owned a small animal practice in Brookville. Early in his career, Dr. Beavers worked for the Department of Agriculture. He was a life member of the Ohio VMA, was a past president of the Brookville Rotary Club, served as Rotary district governor in 1988, and was a member of the Masonic Lodge. Dr. Beavers served in the Army during World War II, attaining the rank of first lieutenant. He was awarded a Purple Heart. Dr. Beavers was a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion. His wife, Mary, survives him. Memorials may be made to the Brookville Masonic Lodge, 259 Hay Ave., Brookville, OH 45309; or Brookville Handi Van Ministry, 42 W. Westbrook Road, Brookville, OH 45309.
Darrell L. Bower
Dr. Bower (KSU ′63), 77, Columbus, Kan., died Dec. 11, 2012. He served as a veterinary medical officer with the Department of Agriculture. Earlier in his career, Dr. Bower owned a mixed animal practice, serving the quad-state area for almost 30 years. He was a member of the Kansas VMA, Texas Longhorn Association, and Freemasons. Dr. Bower is survived by a daughter and a son. Memorials toward a future college scholarship may be made to the Columbus Community Foundation Inc., P.O. Box 323, Columbus, KS 66725.
Ross A. Burd
Dr. Burd (KSU ′87), 54, Olathe, Kan., died Dec. 5, 2012. A small animal practitioner, he owned Oxford Animal Hospital in Overland Park, Kan. Dr. Burd also bred Golden Retrievers. His life partner, Tedd Lamprecht, survives him.
Benjamin H. Cassutto
Dr. Cassutto (VMR ′89), 52, Millsboro, Del., died Oct. 18, 2012. At the time of his death, he was president of Lightbeacon Veterinary Consulting in Millsboro. Dr. Cassutto also served as campus veterinarian at Salisbury University in Salisbury, Md., and taught at Delaware Technical Community College.
Following graduation and until 1995, he practiced small animal medicine in Virginia and Maryland. From 1995 to early 2000, Dr. Cassutto served in the Army. During that time, he was chief of the veterinary resources section at the clinical research laboratory at Kessler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Miss.; served as the liaison to the commander in animal care and use; and was the veterinary officer at Kadena Air Force Base in Japan. Dr. Cassutto attained the rank of captain.
Subsequent to his military service, he worked for a year at the Reisterstown 24-Hour Veterinary Complex in Reisterstown, Md. From 2001–2005, Dr. Cassutto owned a weekend wellness clinic in Salisbury, simultaneously working for Intervet/Akzo in Delaware. He went on to operate a Banfield pet hospital in Salisbury until establishing his veterinary consulting company in 2010. Dr. Cassutto was a member of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's veterinary medical assistance team. His wife, Elizabeth, survives him. Memorials may be made to the American Cancer Society, P.O. Box 22718, Oklahoma City, OK 73123.
Arthur E. Davis
Dr. Davis (COR ′44), 92, Delhi, N.Y., died Nov. 18, 2012. Prior to retirement in 1987, he served as a veterinarian for the state of New York and worked for the federal government in meat inspection. Earlier in his career, Dr. Davis practiced mixed animal medicine in Delhi. He was a member of the New York State VMS and Catskill Mountain VMA. Dr. Davis was a veteran of the Army. He is survived by his wife, Olga.
Russell W. Hackler
Dr. Hackler (MO ′70), 68, Danville, Calif., died Nov. 23, 2012. A mixed animal veterinarian, he owned Grove Way Veterinary Hospital in Castro Valley, Calif., until April 2012, focusing on small animal medicine for the past 25 years. Earlier in his career, Dr. Hackler owned Eden Pet Hospital in Castro Valley and Dublin Pet Hospital in Dublin, Calif. He was a founding member of the Southern Alameda County Pet Emergency Clinic and donated his services to the Rowell Ranch Rodeo, Tri-Valley Fix our Ferals, Friends of the Fairmont Animal Shelter, 4-H Club, Sulphur Creek Nature Center, and Dusty Paws Rescue. An avid pilot, Dr. Hackler volunteered his time and resources to LIGA International, flying medical supplies and medical professionals to a free clinic in El Fuerte, Mexico. He was a veteran of the Army, attaining the rank of captain. Dr. Hackler's wife, Kathie; two daughters; and a son survive him. Memorials may be made to Sulphur Creek Nature Center, 1801 D St., Hayward, CA 94541.
Theron A. Haufler
Dr. Haufler (KSU ′57), 80, Montfort, Wis., died Sept. 18, 2012. Following graduation, he moved to Fennimore, Wis., where he practiced mixed animal medicine for a number of years. During that time, Dr. Haufler established Fennimore Veterinary Clinic and bought a farm near Montfort. He was a past president of the Southwestern Wisconsin VMA. Dr. Haufler's wife, Rose Anne; two daughters; and two sons survive him. Memorials may be made to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, TN 38105.
John T. Helgeson
Dr. Helgeson (MIN ′78), 63, Reedsburg, Wis., died Oct. 16, 2012. A food animal practitioner, he owned Dairyland Veterinary Clinic in Reedsburg for more than 30 years. Earlier in his career, Dr. Helgeson practiced in Blanchardville, Wis. He was a member of the Southwest Wisconsin VMA. Dr. Helgeson's wife, Diane; a daughter; and a son survive him. Memorials may be made to Sacred Heart Catholic Church, 624 N. Willow St., Reedsburg, WI 53959.
Donald E. Hur
Dr. Hur (CAL ′57), 86, Lakeside, Ore., died Nov. 28, 2012. He was the co-founder of Santa Barbara Pet Hospital, a small animal practice in Santa Barbara, Calif. Dr. Hur also helped develop and donated his services to the Santa Barbara Zoo. He was a past president of the California and Santa Barbara-Ventura VMAs. Dr. Hur was a member of the Santa Barbara Junior Chamber of Commerce. He is survived by two sons. Dr. Hur's grandson, Dr. Brian Hur (WSU ′11), works at Animal Emergency Hospital of Redmond in Redmond, Wash.
Howard A. Hurley
Dr. Hurley (GA ′62), 79, Newnan, Ga., died Dec. 31, 2012. Prior to retirement in 1999, he owned a mixed animal practice in Newnan. Dr. Hurley also established an artificial insemination operation and volunteered his services to Coweta County. He was a veteran of the Army. Dr. Hurley is survived by his wife, Charlotte.
Steve L.H. Tsonoma Johnson
Dr. Johnson (CAL ′61), 74, Helena, Mont., died Aug. 13, 2012. He raised Hereford cattle and ranched in Elbert County, Colo., before retiring to Helena in 2003. Following graduation, Dr. Johnson established a large animal practice in the Healdsburg area of California. Soon after, he took over the operation of the family's Redwood Hereford Ranch in California's Sonoma County. In 1974, Dr. Johnson obtained his master's in education from Stanford University and began a teaching career that included work at the Mercersburg Academy in Pennsylvania and the Mountain School in Vermont. He retired from teaching in 1990.
Dr. Johnson co-founded the Alexander Valley Association for agricultural preservation in Alexander County, Calif., and served on the Open Lands Advisory Committee in Elbert County. His wife, Mary Irish, and three children survive him. Memorials may be made to the Prickly Pear Land Trust, P.O. Box 892, Helena, MT 59624; or Hospice of St. Peter's, 2475 Broadway, Helena, MT 59601.
William T. London
Dr. London (MO ′58), 85, Glen Arm, Md., died Dec. 11, 2012. His wife, Lorraine; a daughter; and a son survive him. Memorials in his name may be made to Gilchrist Hospice Care, 11311 McCormick Road, Suite 350, Hunt Valley, MD 21031; or Snyder Center for Aphasia Life Enhancement, 5910 York Road, Baltimore, MD 21212.
Dennis K. Mann
Dr. Mann (IL ′60), 83, Centralia, Ill., died Dec. 26, 2012. After earning his master's in public health from Tulane University in 1963 and a doctorate in veterinary medical sciences at the University of Illinois in 1967, he worked in microbiology at the University of Iowa College of Medicine, the former Sangamon State University, Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, and the School of Medicine at Marshall University. Dr. Mann then served as a veterinary pathologist with the Illinois Department of Agriculture's Centralia Animal Disease Laboratory for 23 years prior to retirement in 2000. He was a member of the North Central Conference of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians and the Illinois State and Southern Illinois VMAs. Dr. Mann is survived by his wife, Mary; a daughter; and two sons.
Dr. Mannix (CAL ′80), 60, Coto De Caza, Calif., died Dec. 4, 2012. A small animal veterinarian, he owned San Juan Animal Hospital in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., since 1986. Earlier in his career, Dr. Mannix practiced at Carmel Animal Hospital in Carmel, Calif. He was active with several organizations, including Boy Scouts of America and YMCA Indian Guides. Dr. Mannix's wife, Liz, and three children survive him. Memorials may be made to Guide Dogs For the Blind, P.O. Box 3950, San Rafael, CA 94912; University of California-Davis Companion Animal Memorial Fund, Office of Development, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, One Shields Ave., Davis, CA 95616; or The Ark of San Juan-Companion Animal Rescue, P.O. Box 117, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92693.
George W. Meyerholz
Dr. Meyerholz (ISU ′54), 84, Estero, Fla., died Nov. 30, 2012. A diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Preventive Medicine, he retired in 1990 from the Department of Agriculture's Extension Service. Prior to joining the USDA in 1981 as program leader of veterinary medicine, Dr. Meyerholz was extension veterinarian and coordinator of veterinary medical extension at the University of Florida, where he also served as a professor. Early in his career, he was an extension veterinarian in Freeport, Ill., and served in the same capacity at the University of Illinois. Dr. Meyerholz was a past president of the American Association of Extension Veterinarians and a member of the Illinois State VMA. In 1981, he was named Extension Veterinarian of the Year. Dr. Meyerholz was a veteran of the Navy. He is survived by his wife, Linda; two sons; and a daughter. His cousin, Dr. David Meyerholz (ISU ′94), is a veterinarian in Williamsburg, Iowa.
Charles A. Miles
Dr. Miles (TEX ′85), 54, Tilden, Texas, died Dec. 25, 2012. A mixed animal practitioner, he established Brush County Veterinary Clinic in Freer, Texas, where he practiced for more than 25 years.
Jack D. Noyes
Dr. Noyes (IL ′59), 83, Barrington, Ill., died Dec. 5, 2012. A small animal veterinarian, he founded Noyes Animal Hospital in Barrington, where he practiced for 40 years. Dr. Noyes was a past president of the American Heartworm Society and the Illinois State VMA, Chicago VMA, and Lake County VMS. He received several honors, including the American Animal Hospital Association Region III Outstanding Practitioner Award in 1977, the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine Alumni Award of Merit in 1978, and the ISVMA Service Award in 1993. Active in civic life, Dr. Noyes was a past president of the Barrington School Board and a member of the Barrington Lions Club. He served in the Army during the Korean War. Dr. Noyes' wife, Virginia; a son; and a daughter survive him. Memorials may be made to District 220 Education Foundation, P.O. Box 262, Barrington, IL 60011.
Robert M. Ragsdale
Dr. Ragsdale (COL ′71), 68, Newhall, Calif., died Dec. 17, 2012. He practiced large animal medicine in Santa Clarita, Calif., for more than 40 years. Dr. Ragsdale is survived by his wife, Renel; two daughters; and a son. Memorials may be made to The Sierra Club Foundation, 85 Second St., Suite 750, San Francisco, CA 94105.
Hubert C. Sebolt
Dr. Sebolt (MO ′51), 88, Lee's Summit, Mo., died Dec. 22, 2012. He owned a predominantly large animal practice in Buckner, Mo., from 1957 until retirement in 1993. Earlier in his career, Dr. Sebolt practiced in Richmond, Mo. He was a member of the Missouri and Kansas City VMAs. Dr. Sebolt was an Army Signal Corps veteran in World War II. His son survives him. Memorials toward the building fund may be made to First Baptist Church, 1405 W. Main St., Blue Springs, MO 64015.
Frederick B. Shulak
Dr. Shulak (MSU ′58), 78, Southfield, Mich., died Nov. 29, 2012. He was the founder of North Branch Animal Hospital, a small animal practice in Southfield. Early in his career, Dr. Shulak served as a preventive medicine officer and base veterinarian with the Air Force Veterinary Corps. He attained the rank of captain.
Known for his expertise in avian medicine, Dr. Shulak was a charter member of the Association of Avian Veterinarians. He was a past treasurer of the Southeastern Michigan VMA and a life member of the Michigan VMA. In 1986, the SMVMA honored him for outstanding contributions to clinical practice. The Frederick B. Shulak Endowed Fund in Avian Medicine was established at the MSU-CVM in 2000. Memorials toward the fund may be made to Michigan State University, College of Veterinary Medicine, East Lansing, MI 48824.
Jerome C. Speltz
Dr. Speltz (ISU ′41), 96, Rochester, Minn., died Oct. 26, 2012. He practiced mixed animal medicine in southeastern Minnesota and Wisconsin for 45 years. In retirement, Dr. Speltz served on the board of directors of Winona Volunteer Services, Winona Library, and Winona Chapter of the American Red Cross. He was also active with Meals on Wheels and was a member of the Winona Planning Commission. Dr. Speltz is survived by his wife, Laurine; three daughters; and five sons. Memorials may be made to Holy Trinity Church, 83 Main St., Rollingstone, MN 55969.
David L. Stewart
Dr. Stewart (MIN ′69), 70, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., died Nov. 28, 2012. He practiced small animal medicine in southern Florida for 43 years. Dr. Stewart is survived by his life partner, Kristine, and a daughter.
William H. Stewart
Dr. Stewart (TEX ′50), 92, Munday, Texas, died Nov. 23, 2012. He owned a practice in Munday. Dr. Stewart was a veteran of the Air Force. His son and two daughters survive him.
James L. Thompson
Dr. Thompson (COL ′83), 57, El Centro, Calif., died Oct. 14, 2012. A mixed animal practitioner, he owned El Centro Animal Clinic. Dr. Thompson is survived by his wife, Kaye, and a daughter. Memorials may be made to the Humane Society-Imperial County, 1575 W. Pico Ave, El Centro, CA 92243.
Dale O. Turner
Dr. Turner (OKL ′64), 76, Pineville, La., died Nov. 30, 2012. He owned Turner Animal Clinic in Pineville prior to retirement. Earlier in his career, Dr. Turner practiced in Alexandria, La. A past vice president of the Louisiana Board of Veterinary Medicine, he helped update the state's veterinary board examination in retirement. Dr. Turner was a member of the Louisiana VMA and received the 1993 Ralph C. Cooper Veterinarian of the Year Award.
Active in civic life, he co-founded the Central Louisiana Food Bank, was a past president of the Coalition Against Homelessness in Central Louisiana, and volunteered with the American Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity. He received the Lions Club Outstanding Citizen Award in 1991. Dr. Turner was a veteran of the Air Force. His wife, Janice; two sons; and a daughter survive him.
Steven J. Wagner
Dr. Wagner (WSU ′68), 68, Oak Hills, Calif., died Nov. 18, 2012. He practiced mixed animal medicine in California, initially in Upland, and more recently, in Phelan. Dr. Wagner was a past president of the California VMA. He served as an investigator for the Bureau of Consumer Affairs, volunteered as a San Bernardino Sheriff's reserve deputy and ranger, and was active with the Wild Horsemen of America. Dr. Wagner is survived by his wife, Nancy; a daughter; and a son. Memorials may be made to Wild Horsemen of America, 10637 Anaconda Ave., Oak Hills, CA 92345; www.wildhorsemen.com.
Marion K. Weberlein
Dr. Weberlein (MSU ′55), 83, Cheboygan, Mich., died Dec. 27, 2012. A small animal practitioner, she owned Black River Animal Hospital in Cheboygan from 1976 until retirement in 1999. Dr. Weberlein also raised and showed Arabian horses. Earlier in her career, she practiced in Plymouth, Mich. Dr. Weberlein was a founding member of the Cheboygan County Humane Society. Memorials may be made to Cheboygan County Humane Society, 3107 N. 20th St., Sheboygan, WI 53083.