Letters to the Editor

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Thinking and working together for the common good

The veterinary profession faces a number of perplexing questions and seems unable to find agreeable answers. It is our belief that viewing the veterinary profession's problems through the eyes of numerous individual veterinarians and independent professional associations divides us at a time when cooperation and collective actions are critically important.1,2 Without a common understanding, there will be no common agreement on solutions. We must address our differences with candor but also with civility.1,2 Calls for additional studies do little more than encourage procrastination. The veterinary profession is not short in information, but seems to be lacking in determination.

Veterinarians generally are civil, honest, and compassionate professionals who lead productive lives serving the well-being of animals and society. Professional associations such as the AVMA and Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) help advance and protect the profession and maintain high standards for veterinary medicine. However, these organizations are only as good as their rules and regulations, which can sometimes be difficult to change. Thus, new ideas and calls for a different direction3,4 may be disregarded while little changes.

Civility is more than just polite behavior. It is a way of thinking, a trust that enables us to function as a society. Differences of opinion are inevitable and must be understood. The answer is not to erase the differences, but to incorporate different perspectives for the common good. For many years, a number of veterinarians have argued for the establishment of a permanent, semi-autonomous visioning organization (the Future Council) cosponsored by the AVMA and AAVMC comprising individuals with widely diverse professional connections and expertise, including individuals from the AVMA and AAVMC but also veterinarians at large, veterinary students, and nonveterinarian members of society. This group would meet on a regular basis to evaluate challenges and opportunities in the veterinary profession, identify priorities guided by society's needs, and make recommendations to the AVMA and AAVMC regarding potential courses of action.5,6 While being socially and professionally inclusive, the group should also be small enough to permit efficiency. In such an eclectic group, members would be obliged to lower their voices and refrain from finger pointing. Trust would be key, and members should not bring personal agendas to the discussion.

The future does not just happen; it is shaped by today's actions and inactions. As the pace of change accelerates, it becomes harder to make accurate predictions. Nevertheless, all parts of the veterinary profession are interdependent, and without a consistently dependable mechanism for collaborative, farsighted, strategic thinking, the profession will continue to be victim to its own internal dissent and failure to grasp the true dimensions of its problems before it is too late.

Peter Eyre, dvm&s, bvms, bsc, phd

Professor and Dean Emeritus VA-MD College of Veterinary Medicine Virginia Tech Blacksburg, VA

Theodore J. Cohn, dvm

Immediate Past President AVMA Lone Tree, Colo

  • 1. Nolen RS. For Cohn, relevance of AVMA and profession is front and center. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2014; 245: 462464.

  • 2. Nolen RS. Cohn: AVMA leaders must repair trust with members. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2015; 246: 489.

  • 3. Pritchard WR, Pew National Veterinary Education Program. Future directions for veterinary medicine. Durham, NC: Duke University, 1988.

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  • 4. North American Veterinary Medical Education Consortium. Roadmap for veterinary medical education for the twenty-first century: responsive, collaborative, flexible. Washington, DC: Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, 2011.

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  • 5. Eyre P, Nielsen NO, Bellamy JEC. Serving society first: a time for change in veterinary medicine. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2004; 225: 4041.

  • 6. Eyre P, Brown RC, Wayner CJ, et al. Rethinking veterinary education: focusing on the profession and society. DVM360 2015; 46 (3): 2627.

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Editor's note

Dr. Cohn currently is the AVMA Immediate Past President and serves on the AVMA Board of Directors. Thoughts expressed in this letter are his own and do not necessarily represent the views of the AVMA or the AVMA Board of Directors.

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