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IN SHORT

HOUSE PASSES BILL THAT WOULD BAN UNSAFE HORSE TRANSPORT

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Horse Transportation Safety Act in July as part of a broader transportation bill. The HTSA would ban the use of double-deck trailers for interstate horse transport.

Reps. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn.; Peter King, R-N.Y.; Dina Titus, D-Nev.; and Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., sponsored the HTSA, which was first introduced in 2008 and was approved as part of the Moving Forward Act by a vote of 233-188.

The HTSA is endorsed by the AVMA, the Animal Welfare Institute, The Humane Society of the United States, and the Humane Society VMA, among others.

“Horses deserve to be transported in as humane a manner as possible,” Cohen said in a statement. “Double-deck trailers do not provide adequate headroom for adult horses, and accidents involving double-deck trailers are a horrendous reminder that the practice is also dangerous to the driving public.”

The AVMA recommends trailers have at least a 7- to 8-foot head clearance for horses. Double-deck trailers typically have a head clearance of about 4-5 feet.

STUDY EXPLORES OPIOID-RELATED VETERINARIAN SHOPPING IN APPALACHIA

A small study found that eight of 14 veterinarians practicing in rural Appalachia had personally encountered veterinarian shopping, the use of deceit by clients to acquire animal medication for personal use. New laws have made it more difficult for people seeking opioids, so some drug seekers have turned to veterinary clinics as an avenue to obtain prescription opioids.

The study was published June 22 in BMC Veterinary Research and is available at jav.ma/vetshopping.

The project was a collaboration among Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee; the University of Arkansas; Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi; and the University of Mississippi.

Fourteen veterinarians from 14 different practices within the Appalachian footprint of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia were interviewed for the qualitative study. One of the veterinarians was unaware of the phenomenon of veterinarian shopping. Four had received training on prevention or management of veterinarian shopping.

Practitioners interviewed expressed a desire to communicate with veterinary colleagues, professionals in human medicine including pharmacists, and law enforcement regarding the use of prescription opioids by clients and pets. Some veterinarians expressed a need or desire to be able to track and control animal prescriptions through databases. Laws are currently in place across the nation to curb physician shopping.

Some states require veterinarians to report dispensing of controlled substances through prescription drug monitoring programs.

The AVMA provides resources at jav.ma/opioid on how to navigate veterinary challenges posed by human opioid abuse.

AUXILIARY SCHOLARSHIPS OPEN TO APPLICANTS

The application period for the American Veterinary Medical Foundation's Auxiliary to the AVMA Legacy Endowed Scholarship Program opens Sept. 1. Students can apply for $1,000 scholarships until Oct. 15 at scholarships.avmf.org.

Eligible students are any second- or third-year student attending an AVMA Council on Education-accredited veterinary college in the U.S. or attending veterinary college at the University of Guelph, St. George's University, Ross University, the University of Edinburgh, the University of London, or the University of Glasgow. They must also be a Student AVMA member and a U.S. citizen.

The Auxiliary to the AVMA is an organization of family members of veterinarians and other friends of the profession. In 2013, the Auxiliary transferred $2 million to the AVMF to establish the scholarship fund. Last year, the AVMF awarded 35 scholarships through the program.

For more information, contact Patti Gillespie, AVMF senior manager of programs and operations, at 847-285-6709 or pgillespie@avma.org.

Please send comments and story ideas to JAVMANews@avma.org.

President Kratt wants unified, inclusive profession

The former AVMA Future Leader pledges to serve and listen to members

By R. Scott Nolen

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2020-21 AVMA President Douglas Kratt

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 257, 5; 10.2460/javma.257.5.451

Dr. Douglas Kratt's agenda as AVMA president is simple.

“My mission is to listen, serve, and connect with (AVMA) members; to build within our profession; bring together shared interests; and to be more inclusive,” Dr. Kratt said.

The small animal practitioner from La Crosse, Wisconsin, and incoming AVMA president spoke in a prerecorded video that aired during the regular annual session of the AVMA House of Delegates on July 30. For the first time, the HOD meeting was held virtually, as a result of safety precautions relating to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

“The AVMA will continue to support our members by working on personal mental health and well-being, student and early-career debt load, and diversity and inclusion,” Dr. Kratt said. “Yet, we need to still advocate for and advance our profession by advancing the science and practice of veterinary medicine to improve animal and human health.”

Dr. Kratt noted the turmoil of recent months, from the devastating Australian wildfires and impeachment of President Donald Trump to the novel coronavirus pandemic and push for social justice. “It is clear that civil unrest and calls for justice deserve our time and attention,” he said. “I am making—and will continue to make—an intentional effort to listen more, learn more, and do more.”

He recalled when, as a member of the 2012-13 class of AVMA Future Leaders, he read an American Medical Association study about people preferring to seek medical care from people they relate to and look like. That people of color are often treated differently by institutions and individuals may be news to many people, but it isn't to people who feel marginalized, Dr. Kratt said.

“We must address these issues as individuals, as businesses, and as organizations,” he insisted.

What do diversity, inclusion, equity, and justice have to do with veterinary medicine? The answer can be as simple as they're the right thing to do. Dr. Kratt said that “99.9% of our DNA is the same. We are equals.

“For those that want more of a ‘What is in it for me?’ answer, it is as simple as it makes good business sense, as it helps meet the needs of a growing population of people who will become our potential clients.”

Dr. Kratt said that he, as a white man from a conservative area of the Midwest, needs to make an intentional effort to learn more about why diversity is part of a healthy, thriving profession—and how to put those principles into action.

“Increased diversity improves access to health care in the United States in regions where severe ethnic and racial disparities exist,” he said. “Studies show researchers with more diverse backgrounds and experiences shape their critical thinking at a higher level, which leads to accelerated advances in public health and medical research.

“All of this sounds like it is good for business and our profession.”

At a minimum, recognize that this work is challenging and uncomfortable, and then commit to doing it anyway, Dr. Kratt continued. “Our biggest mistake will be to take no action at all,” he said.

Dr. Kratt also praised the AVMA for how well it has supported members during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Association was a leading advocate for the federal Paycheck Protection Program and subsequent amendments, he said, provided valuable updates and resources to keep veterinary professionals safe while continuing to see patients, and educated the public about the virus's impact on animal health.

“The AVMA is here,” Dr. Kratt said, “not just in times of crisis, but 365 days a year.”

Dr. Kratt isn't worried about how veterinary medicine will fare in a post-COVID-19 world. “We are veterinarians; we meet challenges head-on,” he said. “It is what we do. This is our passion. This is our profession. This is our AVMA.”

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Dr. José Arce

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 257, 5; 10.2460/javma.257.5.451

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Dr. Sandra Faeh

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 257, 5; 10.2460/javma.257.5.451

AVMA DELEGATES ELECT ARCE, FAEH

Drs. José Arce of San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Sandra Faeh of Elmhurst, Illinois, are the 2020-21 AVMA president-elect and 2020-22 vice president, respectively.

The two candidates ran unopposed and were declared elected by unanimous consent July 31, during the regular annual session of the AVMA House of Delegates. Delegates met virtually after the AVMA canceled the in-person HOD session over public health concerns relating to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Dr. Arce is the first native of the U.S. territory elected to the AVMA presidency. He has been the Board representative for AVMA members living in Florida, Georgia, and Puerto Rico since 2014.

A 1997 graduate of the Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Arce is president and co-owner of Miramar Animal Hospital in San Juan, Puerto Rico. His wife, Dr. Anik Puig, is also a veterinarian.

Dr. Arce was a member of the HOD from 2000 until joining the AVMA Board in 2014. He currently is a member of the board of advisers for the American Veterinary Medical Foundation.

Dr. Faeh is the Illinois delegate in the House of Delegates. She recently chaired the House Advisory Committee, a position which made her the HOD representative on the AVMA Board.

The AVMA vice presidency is a two-year office as the AVMA Board of Directors’ liaison to the Student AVMA and, by extension, to the veterinary college deans and faculty.

A 1996 graduate of the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Faeh practices at Elmhurst Animal Care Center in Elmhurst, Illinois. Her major interests include pediatric veterinary medicine and surgery, focusing mostly on cats and dogs.

Dr. Faeh is active in organized veterinary medicine at the local, state, and national levels. She has served as president of the Illinois State and Chicago VMAs and has been a member of the HOD since 2012. Additionally, Dr. Faeh is a member of the AVMA Veterinary Leadership Conference Planning Committee.

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Dr. Lori Teller

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 257, 5; 10.2460/javma.257.5.451

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Dr. Karen Bradley

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 257, 5; 10.2460/javma.257.5.451

AVMA BOARD ELECTS TELLER CHAIR, BRADLEY VICE CHAIR

The AVMA Board of Directors elected Dr. Lori Teller of Bellaire, Texas, as 2020-21 chair during a virtual meeting of the Board on July 31. Additionally, the Board elected Dr. Karen Bradley of Montpelier, Vermont, as vice chair.

In 2015, Dr. Teller was elected District VIII representative on the AVMA Board, representing AVMA members living in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas. Last year, she was the Board's vice chair, and she is currently a candidate for 2021-22 AVMA president-elect.

Dr. Teller is a 1990 graduate of Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences as well as a diplomate of the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners in canine and feline practice.

She worked at Meyerland Animal Clinic in Houston for many years, starting at the age of 12 and continuing after graduation from veterinary school. In 2018, she joined the TAMU veterinary faculty as a clinical associate professor of telehealth.

Dr. Teller has held several leadership positions in organized veterinary medicine at both the national and state levels. She is a founding board member of the Women's Veterinary Leadership Development Initiative, which is dedicated to helping develop female leaders in veterinary medicine.

As vice chair of the Board of Directors, Dr. Bradley will substitute for Dr. Teller in her absence and perform other duties as prescribed by the Board chair.

Dr. Bradley has represented AVMA members living in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont since 2016, when she was elected as the Board's District I representative.

A 1996 graduate of the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Bradley currently co-owns Onion River Animal Hospital in Barre, Vermont. She is active in the AVMA and her state VMA, and she is a co-founder of WVLDI, serving as president from 2013-15.

EDUCATION COUNCIL MEMBERS APPOINTED

Two new members joined the AVMA Council on Education this summer. The AVMA Council on Education Selection Committee appointed Dr. Bruce Coston of Moneta, Virginia, to represent private small animal clinical practice. The Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges’ Council on Education Selection Committee appointed Dr. Amara H. Estrada of Gainesville, Florida, to represent small animal clinical sciences.

After deaths of Thailand horses, researchers warn of risk in US

Biting midges could be vectors for African horse sickness virus

By Greg Cima

As a viral disease outbreak killed horses in Thailand, entomologists at one university warned that midges in the U.S. could also potentially spread the disease.

Agriculture authorities in Thailand confirmed an outbreak of African horse sickness March 27, according to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). By July 3, it had killed 562 of the 604 horses with known infections, OIE reports state.

Researchers from the Texas A&M University Department of Entomology said biting midges present in the U.S. likely would be effective vectors for the AHS virus, which causes respiratory and circulatory impairment. In an article published on the department's site, they cited study results that showed, under laboratory conditions, some midges present in Texas transmitted African horse sickness virus.

Pete Teel, PhD, who is a research entomologist and regents professor at Texas A&M, told JAVMA News the U.S. has a history of incursions involving arthropods and arthropod-borne diseases, despite controls at borders and ports. Examples of vectors that have been introduced include cattle fever ticks and Asian longhorn ticks; recent pathogen introductions include West Nile and Zika viruses.

When his department's entomologists see news of African horse sickness spreading beyond Africa, “Our antennae, so to speak, go up,” he said.

Specialists in Texas A&M's entomology department study mosquitoes, ticks, midges, methods to control vector-borne diseases, and ways to suppress vector populations, Dr. Teel said. He described a combination of interdisciplinary research and international monitoring.

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A one-sixteenth inch long Culicoides sonorensis midge drinks blood through an artificial membrane. Such midges have transmitted African horse sickness under laboratory conditions. (Courtesy of USDA Agricultural Research Service)

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 257, 5; 10.2460/javma.257.5.451

African horse sickness is prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa and parts of the Middle East, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. It affects all equids, although zebras and African donkeys typically develop mild or subclinical disease.

The African horse sickness virus is in the genus Orbivirus, as are the bluetongue virus that causes disease in ruminants in the Southern and Western U.S. and the epizootic hemorrhagic disease virus that circulates in the Southern U.S. and sometimes causes severe outbreaks among white-tailed deer in the Northern U.S., according to information from the USDA and Cornell University. All three viruses are known to spread through midges in the genus Culicoides, which includes 1,500 species worldwide and about 30 that are capable of transmitting orbiviruses, according to a draft APHIS manual for responding to African horse sickness.

“C sonorensis, which is native to North America and a vector of bluetongue virus, is a competent vector for AHSV in the laboratory,” the document states.

Mosquitoes and ticks also can spread African horse sickness, though less often than midges, agency information states.

Horses can develop severe pulmonary and respiratory signs, and death rates can range from 50%-95%, the draft manual states. Mules tend to have death rates closer to 50%, whereas European and Asian donkeys have 5%-10% death rates and African donkeys and zebras seldom die from infections.

Equids may develop fever, shortness of breath, coughing, dilated and runny nostrils, conjunctivitis, fluid-filled swellings, and death from anorexia or cardiac arrest within a week.

Imported zebras were implicated in spread of the disease to Thailand, according to the Texas A&M article.

Thailand's livestock department started vaccination efforts April 19, starting with horses raised to produce immunoglobulins to treat rabies or bites from venomous snakes and followed by all horses within 50 kilometers from disease sites in seven provinces. Reuters reported that month that, without the mass vaccination campaign, the disease threatened to wipe out the country's approximately 11,800 horses.

The Texas A&M article indicates vaccines against African horse sickness are effective. But they contain live pathogens that may sicken horses or, by increasing virus replication, increase the risk of accidentally breeding genetic variants.

In regions with biting midges, horse owners can protect their animals by keeping them in stalls and using insecticides.

“It's easier, obviously, to deal with an animal that is stabled,” Dr. Teel said. “It's another matter to deal with animals that have to be pastured or are free-ranging.”

Dr. Teel said his department is monitoring other diseases worldwide and vulnerabilities in the U.S. For example, African swine fever devastated China's swine herds over the past two years through pig-to-pig transmission, but the ASF virus spreads in its native range between African warthogs and soft ticks, he said.

He learned about four years ago that African warthogs tunneled out of captivity in southern Texas, and they since established a range in several counties. The state already had a competent soft tick vector, he said.

DOLPHINS IN NAVY PROGRAM SICKENED BY GAMMACORONAVIRUS

By Greg Cima

A novel coronavirus sickened four U.S. Navy dolphins in spring 2019, according to a research letter.

Sea lions in the same program developed similar illnesses at the same time, although tests on samples from those animals were negative for the virus, according to one of the letter authors.

Atlantic bottlenose dolphins in the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program in San Diego developed acute-onset illness with lack of appetite, diarrhea, and lethargy in April and May 2019, according to a letter published in the July 2020 issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases. Researchers identified a gammacoronavirus in fecal samples from the dolphins.

Navy animals are trained for tasks such as identifying underwater objects and marking their locations.

Dr. Leyi Wang, who is one of the authors and a veterinary virologist and clinical assistant professor at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, said four dolphins and three sea lions in the Navy program developed similar clinical signs, although only samples from the dolphins were positive for the virus. The National Marine Mammal Foundation and U.S. Army Veterinary Corps, which care for the Navy dolphins, collected diagnostic samples and shipped them to veterinary diagnostic laboratories for the University of Illinois and University of Georgia, he said.

Initial checks for Escherichia coli, Clostridium perfringens, herpesviruses, Salmonella, and other known pathogens turned up no results, Dr. Wang said. Whole-genome sequencing on fecal samples helped identify a coronavirus.

All the animals recovered with supportive care, including fluid therapy, Dr. Wang said. He wants to search for antibodies against the virus if funding becomes available.

In response to questions about monitoring since the illnesses, Navy officials provided a statement that a team monitors the health of all Navy marine mammals each day.

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A novel coronavirus sickened dolphins in the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program. All dolphins recovered with supportive care. (Courtesy of the U.S. Navy)

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 257, 5; 10.2460/javma.257.5.451

“The animals that displayed these relatively mild clinical signs suspected to be caused by the gammacoronavirus described in the paper all made a full recovery,” according to the statement.

The new virus is a cetacean coronavirus, a member of a recently proposed species of gammacoronavirus, the authors wrote. It's related to two other coronaviruses: beluga whale coronavirus SW1, identified in 2008, and bottlenose dolphin coronavirus HKU22, identified in 2014.

An article published in January 2014 by the Journal of Virology describes the discovery of one of the prior coronaviruses in the feces of three Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins in a Hong Kong oceanarium. But that virus likely is associated with subclinical to mild infection, as none of those dolphins developed notable clinical signs or persistent shedding, the article states.

The researchers who found the virus collected respiratory, fecal, and blood samples from 45 marine mammals—dolphins, sea lions, and harbor seals at the oceanarium—from August 2008 through July 2010 on a hypothesis that marine mammals could be hosts for groups or species of gammacoronaviruses.

The article notes that the prior discovery of a coronavirus in a 13-year-old beluga whale occurred after that whale died of heart disease and liver failure. Dr. Wang noted the beluga whale had lived in captivity in the U.S.

MORE DOGS, CATS INFECTED WITH SARS-COV-2

By Greg Cima

At least 12 dogs and 10 cats in the U.S. have been confirmed to be infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

In July, pets in Arizona, California, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin became the most recent confirmed positive for the virus. All animals with confirmed infections so far were exposed to people with known or likely infections, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

A veterinarian in California saw an 11-year-old male cat in late June for signs of respiratory difficulty and found the cat had hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. It died the following day, according to California Department of Health officials.

Agency officials provided a statement that they didn't know why the veterinarian requested SARS-CoV-2 testing. A second cat lived in the same home without clinical signs of illness.

On July 16, officials at Clemson University in South Carolina announced that the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service had confirmed an infection in an 8- or 9-year-old shepherd mix that lived with a person who developed COVID-19. Dr. Boyd Parr, South Carolina state veterinarian and director of Clemson Livestock Poultry Health, said the dog's owners consulted their veterinarian in March about respiratory disease, and signs recurred in June. The dog was hospitalized June 23 and euthanized because of the chronic respiratory condition July 2, he said.

The Texas Animal Health Commission reported a veterinarian requested testing of a 2-year-old dog for SARS-CoV-2 as a precaution because its owners had confirmed infections. The dog tested positive but was healthy as of July 8.

An announcement published July 1 by the Georgia Department of Public Health indicates the department found SARS-CoV-2 infection in a 6-year-old dog after it developed neurologic illness. It was euthanized days later.

“While the dog did test positive for SARS-CoV-2, the progressive neurological illness was caused by another condition,” the announcement states.

The Georgia dog's owners had confirmed infections with SARS-CoV-2 prior to the dog's illness, state officials said. A second dog from the same home lacked signs of illness, and health authorities were waiting for results of testing on that dog.

In a July 23 update to the World Organisation for Animal Health, APHIS officials said a dog in Arizona tested positive after showing signs of respiratory disease, but recovered. A cat in Texas was infected but did not have clinical signs; it was tested as part of surveillance testing of animals exposed to the virus, the report states.

The report also says that, in July, health authorities reported finding virus-neutralizing antibodies in four cats and two dogs in Utah, two dogs in Wisconsin, and one dog in North Carolina.

APHIS officials have been tracking infections in animals, starting with April's infections among ill tigers and lions at the Bronx Zoo in New York City. The other infected animals were two cats and four dogs in New York state and one cat each in Illinois and Minnesota.

Dr. Ryan M. Wallace, veterinary epidemiologist for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and member of the agency's One Health Working Group, said the CDC helped state agencies investigate reports this summer of SARS-CoV-2-infected pets with severe illness, and all of those animals had severe underlying conditions. The dog in Georgia with neurologic abnormalities, for example, had a brain tumor found during necropsy.

SARS-CoV-2 infections were not identified as the cause of death for those animals, although it's difficult to determine whether the virus could have contributed to their illnesses.

Studies of experimental infections in dogs and cats so far have involved small sample sizes, typically comprised of young and healthy animals, Dr. Wallace said. But the infections in those studies tended to result in few clinical signs of illness.

Most pets with confirmed infections also have required little veterinarian intervention, he said.

Influenza virus in China's pigs may have pandemic potential

Experts see no evidence of human-to-human transmission

By Greg Cima

An influenza virus circulating among Chinese pigs has the genetic potential of a pandemic virus in humans, according to a scientific report.

The virus appears to have already spread from pigs to people who work with or live near them. The authors wrote that further mutations could increase the risk to humans.

The article, published in late June in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, describes an H1N1 influenza virus different enough from today's seasonal influenza viruses that people would be unprotected by vaccines or prior illnesses.

The H1N1 influenza virus emerged during 2013 in southern China and became the predominant cause of influenza in the country's swine in 2016. Known as Genotype 4 or just G4, it carries genetic features from human-, swine-, and avian-type influenza viruses.

The article, available at jav.ma/influenzapaper, shows no evidence the virus has spread person to person. But, under laboratory conditions, the authors found the virus replicated well in human airway epithelial cells and spread with ease among Angora ferrets, which are used as animal models for human infections with influenza viruses.

Dr. Richard Webby, director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Studies on the Ecology of Influenza in Animals and Birds and a faculty member in the infectious diseases department at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, said the virus is concerning but not “head-for-the-hills” alarming. It's one of many influenza viruses worth studying, and more research is needed to understand how swine influenza strains become more dangerous to humans, he said.

Prior research gives some idea which mutations help avian influenza viruses replicate or transmit well in humans, Dr. Webby said. But swine influenza viruses share many properties with human-type influenza viruses, and researchers are trying to figure out which changes are important.

“We would assume that only a few changes would be necessary, but we don't really know what those changes are and where they would be,” he said.

The institutions behind the research paper—the China Agricultural University College of Veterinary Medicine,

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This digitally colorized image, produced by transmission electron microscopy, depicts a small grouping of H1N1 influenza virus particles. (Image by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases)

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 257, 5; 10.2460/javma.257.5.451

Shandong Agricultural University College of Animal Science and Veterinary Medicine, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the Chinese Academy of Sciences WHO Collaborating Center for Influenza Research and Early-Warning, and the University of Nottingham School of Veterinary Medicine and Science in the United Kingdom—collected about 30,000 nasal swab samples from slaughterhouse pigs from 2011-18 and another 1,000 nasal swabs or lung tissue samples from pigs with signs of respiratory disease during that period.

They found swine influenza viruses in only about 0.5% of pigs in slaughterhouses. They also collected nasal swabs and lung tissue samples from about 1,000 pigs that had signs of respiratory disease and were brought to a veterinary teaching hospital, and they found the portion positive for influenza grew from 1.4% in 2011 to 8.2% in 2018.

The surveillance also included collecting blood samples from 338 people who worked on 15 swine farms—10% were seropositive, with younger workers twice as likely to have antibodies against the virus. The prevalence of antibodies also rose over time, from 7% of swine workers tested in 2016 to 12% in 2018.

Among 230 members of the public, 10 people—about 4%—had antibodies against the virus.

Blood and serum tests can indicate people were exposed to the target virus—or a similar virus—but those tools cannot show how people became exposed to the virus, Dr. Webby said. They also cannot show whether people became ill or infectious or how much the virus replicated within their bodies.

With the results so far, most people assume the virus spread from pigs to humans, with very limited amounts of human-to-human spread, he said.

Dr. Amy Vincent, who is a research veterinary medical officer for the Agricultural Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, expects the influenza surveillance programs already used in U.S. swine herds likely would find the G4 virus or its close relatives. As for risks to humans, she also said the reported 10% overall seropositivity rate among swine workers suggests the virus did not spread efficiently to people from pigs and there was no evidence of human-to-human spread among those people tested.

“Although the viruses reported in the PNAS paper showed elements of risk for the human population, the results are within comparable ranges to other swine viruses that have been evaluated in a similar way,” Dr. Vincent said. “There was no evidence for human-to-human transmission, a key element of concern for novel influenza viruses from animal sources.

“Surveillance in animals, research, and cooperation among animal and human health sectors are critical for the early identification of pathogens that have the potential for human zoonoses.”

Pigs can be mixing vessels for influenza viruses. The swine-origin 2009 H1N1 influenza virus, for example, developed through a combination of genes from avian, human, and swine viruses.

Dr. Vincent said biosecurity is important to keep novel influenza strains out of U.S. swine herds as well as reduce the risk that a variant strain could develop and spark a zoonotic event. She noted that China's CDC, in collaboration with WHO authorities, has helped prepare for a pandemic by submitting a candidate vaccine virus from a closely related H1N1 influenza virus.

The PNAS article also arrived almost two years after African swine fever began killing millions of pigs and devastating herds in China, which is the world's largest pork producer. Dr. Webby noted those outbreaks and said he wants to see how widespread influenza viruses remain in herds today.

STONE TAKES CE POSITION WITH AVMA

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Deborah Stone, PhD

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 257, 5; 10.2460/javma.257.5.451

Deborah Stone, PhD, joined the AVMA this June as an assistant director for continuing education.

Previously, Dr. Stone was a digital education contractor for the AVMA from July 2018 to May 2020, overseeing the development of the AVMA Axon online CE platform.

Dr. Stone has worked in the veterinary profession for more than three decades, including as a practice manager, adviser, and analyst; as a CE program manager for the Veterinary Meeting & Expo, the flagship conference of the North American Veterinary Community; and as an editor for various veterinary publications.

“All of these experiences have prepared me for this role as the assistant director for continuing education,” Dr. Stone said. “I look forward to working with my education development team and continuing to bring a diversity of learning opportunities to AVMA members as well as other veterinary professionals.”

Dr. Stone received her doctorate from Our Lady of the Lake University School of Business and Leadership in 2015. Additionally, she earned an MBA from St. Edwards University and holds certifications as a veterinary practice manager, as an emotional and social competency inventory administrator, and in diversity and inclusion.

GENETIC SELECTION MAY REDUCE CWD AMONG FARMED DEER

By Greg Cima

Researchers found genetic variations in deer may be associated with chronic wasting disease susceptibility.

The findings give hope that breeding programs could reduce disease on deer farms.

So far, no deer have demonstrated immunity to CWD, which is an always-fatal prion disease. The ongoing studies examine naturally occurring genetic features that could make certain white-tailed deer less likely to become infected when exposed to the prions.

Dr. Christopher Seabury, who is the lead geneticist on the studies and an associate professor in the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences Department of Veterinary Pathobiology, said CWD-resistant deer may exist and some may be enrolled in his studies. In high-prevalence herds, some deer lacked detectable CWD prions, suggesting that possibility.

CWD has been detected in free-ranging cervids in 26 states and three Canadian provinces, and deer farming has been implicated in some spread of the disease.

Researchers from Texas A&M, with collaborators from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, reported earlier this year the discovery of genetic characteristics associated with susceptibility to infection with CWD-causing prions and disease progression among white-tailed deer. Dr. Seabury analyzed DNA samples from 807 farmed deer—284 of them positive for CWD—and identified highly susceptible animals with 80% accuracy.

Dr. Seabury said the study results show genetics can explain most of the differences in susceptibility.

APHIS is sponsoring further work at the university to validate those findings and rank the genetic risk of deer developing CWD, from high to minimal susceptibility. Once that study ends, APHIS officials hope to genotype CWD-positive cervids on farms, determine susceptibility in herds, and start a breeding project with monitoring for the prion disease.

Dr. Seabury said his team also plans to study susceptibility in wild deer populations. State wildlife agencies could use that information to relocate white-tailed deer with reduced susceptibility into areas where, for example, anthrax killed substantial numbers of deer.

The article published on the first phase of research, “Accurate Genomic Predictions for Chronic Wasting Disease in U.S. White-Tailed Deer,” is in the April 2020 issue of G3: Genes, Genomes, Genetics, available at jav.ma/CWDstudy.

In July, APHIS officials also announced plans to fund $3.5 million in research and management to combat the spread of CWD in farmed and wild deer and elk. The money, $50,000-$250,000 per entity, will help state agencies develop CWD management, response, research, and education activities.

The federal agency plans to give priority to local governments that have confirmed infections and are working to understand or control their spread. Funding decisions are scheduled to be announced Sept. 30.

RACETRACK VETERINARIANS KEEP RUNNING DURING COVID-19

By Kaitlyn Mattson

Some racetracks around the U.S. closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but racetrack veterinarians haven't stopped working.

Dr. Sara Langsam, a managing partner at TFB Equine serving Belmont Park and the Aqueduct Racetrack in the New York City area, said her day-to-day routine hasn't changed much since April.

“Daily life didn't change much for us once we got onto the grounds during the lockdown,” she said. “Horses were still training and getting their normal ailments.”

As racetracks begin to reopen, veterinarians will likely face continued safety modifications including no fans in the stands and less racing, which could cause potential financial struggles. Safety guidelines depend on the state.

Dr. Langsam said the closed community at the racetracks has been key to keeping people healthy.

“In the middle of March, they limited the number of people on the back side to essential only, so no press, no owners, etc.,” she said. “We started temperature checks to get onto the grounds and required masks soon after.”

Dr. Eric Kates, owner and managing partner of Colts Neck Equine in New Jersey, said his practice made some scheduling changes, including having the office staff go part time in March.

“We divided the office in half, so the staff was not exposed to the veterinarians or the road support staff,” Dr. Kates said. “We tried to keep them apart as much as possible.”

Veterinarians on the road were paired up with a veterinary technician so there was even less exposure.

“We took calculated risks,” Dr. Kates said. “I think our practice mimics the country as a whole: We are learning to live with it. It takes constant reminders to our staff and our clients that this is not over.”

But, Dr. Kates said, no matter the reminders, there is a risk.

“Every day you get exposed to someone, that breaks the circle of safety. It is difficult. There is some calculated risk every day,” he said. “I think being outside and at the barn is a huge element that allows us to not worry nearly as much.”

Dr. Kates said COVID-19 has been a major financial hit, many businesses will fold, and the whole purse structure has had to change.

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Dr. Sara Langsam, a managing partner at TFB Equine serving Belmont Park and the Aqueduct Racetrack in the New York City area, has kept working during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Dr. Sara Langsam)

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 257, 5; 10.2460/javma.257.5.451

“The majority of money comes from gambling, and without fans at the racetrack, the purse structure has diminished,” he said.

And with less money to win per race, there is the potential for horse owners to struggle financially, said Dr. Kates, who serves on the Racing Committee for the American Association of Equine Practitioners.

“There are people who will go bankrupt, who owe us money,” Dr. Kates said. “When a client suffers, the racetrack veterinarian is the first not to get paid. Long term, our bottom line will be affected. The virus will be here for a long time, and we are going to have to learn to live with it. We need to be responsible for our clients and staff. It is going to take vigilance.”

CVTEA MAKES ACCREDITATION DECISIONS VIRTUALLY

By Kaitlyn Mattson

The AVMA Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities granted initial accreditation to five new programs and withdrew accreditation from two during a virtual meeting in April.

There are currently 211 CVTEA-accredited veterinary technology programs which are classified as follows: 165 at full accreditation, 41 at initial accreditation, three on probationary accreditation, and two on terminal accreditation.

The following programs were most recently granted initial accreditation:

  • • Black Hawk College, Galva, Illinois.

  • • Nash Community College, Rocky Mount, North Carolina.

  • • Tidewater Community College, Norfolk, Virginia.

  • • Ana G. Mendez University, Barceloneta, Puerto Rico.

  • • Ana G. Medez University, Ponce, Puerto Rico.

Initial accreditation is for newly accredited programs and lasts for five years. Graduates of an initially accredited program are considered graduates of a CVTEA-accredited program and are eligible in nearly all states to take the Veterinary Technician National Exam.

The CVTEA uses 11 standards to accredit veterinary technology programs, including standards related to finances, admissions, students, and resources for clinical instruction.

The committee withdrew accreditation from the following two programs:

  • • Vet Tech Institute at International Business College, Fort Wayne, Indiana.

  • • Vet Tech Institute at Bradford School, Columbus, Ohio.

The CVTEA has 22 site visits scheduled for 2020, as of press time in late July. Fourteen programs have indicated an interest in seeking initial accreditation, and 12 new program applicants have been approved for initial site visits. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, several site visits are being rescheduled or held virtually.

The committee published a COVID-19 policy, available at jav.ma/CVTEAsitepolicy. The document, first released in April and updated in June, outlines a contingency system for the site visits planned for 2020 and the foreseeable future.

For example, for Category 1a programs, which are new programs with no previous site visits and with students graduating in the spring, a site visit may be done virtually but will require a follow-up, in-person visit to be done within 18 months. Some site visits have been deferred depending on the category a program was assigned.

The CVTEA has not made any changes to the requirement that all graduates of accredited programs must complete all essential skills before graduation. However, for students graduating in 2020, the COVID-19 policy says, “If skills have been performed on live animals at clinical experience sites previously, but not assessed by program personnel, the AVMA-CVTEA will accept alternative documentation of skill evaluation.”

In addition, the CVTEA has been requiring that every accredited veterinary technology program publicly report the number of students who took the VTNE for the first time and the three-year mean pass percentage.

The CVTEA was to begin requiring that a program's three-year mean VTNE pass percentage for first-time test takers must be 50% or higher starting Sept. 1. But the committee has now delayed implementing this accreditation standard until Sept. 1, 2021.

“This decision is due to AVMA-CVTEA graduates’ inability or delay in completing the Veterinary Technician National Exam for the spring 2020 testing period, during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the COVID-19 policy says.

There are also about 35,000 veterinary technicians currently enrolled in campus or distance learning programs. The 2018-19 academic year included 5,212 graduates, and of those, 344 graduated with a bachelor's degree. A list of accredited veterinary technology programs is available at jav.ma/AVMACVTEA.

The next CVTEA meeting is scheduled for Nov. 5-8.

Students, recent grads from underrepresented backgrounds are building spaces for themselves

Group leaders on sharing stories, creating community, and having representation

By Kaitlyn Mattson

More groups representing individuals underrepresented in veterinary medicine are launching within the veterinary profession; most are being led by younger veterinarians or students. The founders and members of these groups are banding together to share resources, create community, and tell their stories.

JAVMA News spoke with leaders of five of these groups about their goals for the future and how they're creating a space for members—who are largely Black, Indigenous, people of color, or LGBTQ—to be seen.

BLACKDVM NETWORK: SHARING STORIES

Dr. Tierra Price started the BlackDVM Network on Instagram in 2018 when she was a third-year student at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine.

“For a minute there, I thought I was the only Black veterinary student out there,” she said.

The 2020 graduate said she wanted to highlight and share the stories of Black veterinary professionals, veterinarians, and veterinary students. She started to reach out to people and ask interview-type questions; then she would post their photos and answers. The BlackDVM Network, which is an LLC, now has 125 members.

“If I had this in my undergraduate years, I would have felt more comfortable and confident in the profession,” Dr. Price said, noting that 2% of veterinarians are Black, according to 2017 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. “What are the odds of people organically meeting a Black veterinarian? I saw value in sharing their stories.”

Along with showcasing Black veterinary professionals, Dr. Price created a directory to find Black-owned veterinary practices and Black veterinarians around the U.S., available at blackdvmnetwork.com/directory.

Dr. Price has plans to create additional resources, such as a mentorship program.

“I have had some great mentors, but sometimes they gave me advice, and it didn't work for me because they couldn't relate to my background,” she said.

Dr. Price envisions mentorship as a coaching experience. She is still working out the details as well as looking at hosting more online events, including monthly webinars and virtual happy hours. She said there will be student sectors of the network, too.

When Dr. Price started the Instagram page, she didn't have a plan for it. She just wanted to show people that Black veterinarians and veterinary technicians were out there.

“It's a platform for us to come together and have a community, pool our resources, and address the issues we see,” she said. “It is hard to face discrimination on top of everything else in veterinary school. You are experiencing microaggressions every day. It is like a breath of fresh air to come into a community. And so, that's what we do. … We are here, and we're doing amazing things.”

LATINX VMA: HAVING A VOICE

Juan Sebastian Orjuela, co-founder of the Latinx VMA and a third-year student at the University of Guelph Ontario Veterinary College, said the association was an idea he had had for a long time.

“I went through undergrad as a prevet student without any guidance from mentors who looked like me or spoke my language—Spanish,” he said. “There is a lack of representation. So, once I got into veterinary school, I made it my goal to create a community.”

Orjuela, who was born in Bogota, Colombia, created a personal Instagram platform to start networking.

“I started sharing my own experiences on Instagram and found that it was the only way for me to have a voice,” he said. “I was able to use my voice to recruit people that were interested in what I was doing.”

Once he did, Orjuela connected with Yvette Huizar, the other co-founder of LVMA and a fourth-year veterinary student at Cornell University.

The two founded the LVMA in February. The group is focused on four key pillars: empowerment, including professional development; mentorship; outreach; and scholarship.

LVMA established its first executive board recently, with Dr. Carlos Campos, a small animal practitioner at VCA San Francis Animal Hospital in Spring Hill, Florida, as treasurer and Richalice Melendez, a fourth-year student at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, as secretary.

Orjuela said he had to navigate the process of becoming a veterinarian all on his own, and he wants the LVMA to provide support and encouragement to Latinx students so that no one else has do it alone.

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Dr. Tierra Price, founder of the BlackDVM Network and a 2020 graduate of the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine (Courtesy of Dr. Price)

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 257, 5; 10.2460/javma.257.5.451

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Juan Sebastian Orjuela, co-founder of the Latinx VMA and a third-year student at the University of Guelph Ontario Veterinary College (Courtesy of Juan Orjuela)

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 257, 5; 10.2460/javma.257.5.451

“My parents supported my dream, but they couldn't provide me with the proper resources to facilitate my journey through veterinary medicine. I had to work hard,” he said. “LVMA aims to inspire people. We want to give people the guidance I never had, and I think it is one of the most important things we can do for our community and the profession. Creating visibility is vital.”

Although the association is only a few months old, Orjuela said he receives emails almost daily from people looking to get involved.

“The feedback is overwhelming,” he said. “People want this to happen. We are already getting interest from parents who want to expose their children to our resources.”

The LVMA also has plans to create student chapters at all of the veterinary colleges and is working to build a directory that highlights Latinx veterinary professionals in the United States and Canada.

ASSOCIATION OF ASIAN VETERINARY MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS: FOCUSED ON GROWTH

Hira Basit, a third-year veterinary student at the University of Florida and co-founder of the Association of Asian Veterinary Medical Professionals, said, “We are showcasing the stories of Asian people who are navigating veterinary medicine.”

The group, founded in April, was inspired by social media posts from the BlackDVM Network and the Latinx VMA. The AAVMP is focused on partnering with other organizations, building its platform, creating student chapters, recruiting established Asian veterinarians and veterinary professionals, and creating mentoring programs and educational resources for members.

“When I started as a veterinary technician, there wasn't anyone who looked like me,” Basit said. “I have felt like an impostor. It is important for people to see people who look like them. I feel like having representation, it matters in any profession, but veterinary medicine is not a diverse profession. Our voices are needed. We need to have a seat at the table. There wasn't any organization that was advocating for Asian professionals in veterinary medicine. We want the profession to be filled with the people we serve, which is diverse.”

Basit said she hopes the veterinary community is open to the AAVMP and similar groups.

“Make sure you are an ally and that people don't feel like impostors in their own profession,” she said.

NATIVE AMERICAN VETERINARY ASSOCIATION: BUILDING COMMUNITY

Dr. Evelyn Galban, associate professor of clinical neurology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, said she was involved in the American Indian Science and Engineering Society when she was younger, but when she decided to become a veterinarian, she couldn't find a similar organization to join.

Dr. Galban went through veterinary school and started her career, aware there still wasn't a group for her community.

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Hira Basit, co-founder of the Association of Asian Veterinary Medical Professionals and a third-year veterinary student at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine (Courtesy of Hira Basit)

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 257, 5; 10.2460/javma.257.5.451

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Stephanie Kuo, co-founder of the AAVMP and a fourth-year veterinary student at St. George's University School of Veterinary Medicine (Courtesy of Hira Basit)

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 257, 5; 10.2460/javma.257.5.451

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Dr. Evelyn Galban, associate professor of clinical neurology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine and founder of the Native American Veterinary Association (Courtesy of Dr. Galban)

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 257, 5; 10.2460/javma.257.5.451

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The Pride Student Veterinary Medical Community board and members of the Pride Veterinary Medical Community celebrate Pride Month in June. (Courtesy of Alexander Dhom)

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 257, 5; 10.2460/javma.257.5.451

“The opportunity presented itself when I saw that there was still no network out there to help or share experiences—a group of Native American professionals and allies to provide a support network that someone may be looking for,” Dr. Galban said.

She created the Native American Veterinary Association as a Facebook group in 2017, and now there are 70 members. Its goals are to provide resources, support, and mentorship for fellow Indigenous people.

Dr. Galban, who is a member of the Washoe and Paiute tribes, said young people also reach out and ask about how to apply to veterinary college, and she created the group to be a safe and honest space.

“I was late in thinking about a veterinary career,” Dr. Galban said. “It did not cross my mind until I was working in a research facility and I was working with some of the animals. I had never thought about it. I had never seen a veterinary career as an option or an idea.”

NAVA is working to create more awareness of the veterinary profession as an available career path and to build its membership.

“You are always the only person in the room, in the building, in the state,” she said. “But this organization is here to show you are not alone.”

PRIDE STUDENT VETERINARY MEDICAL COMMUNITY: RESTRUCTURING

The Pride Student Veterinary Medical Community, formerly Broad Spectrum Student VMA, has made a few changes recently.

Last year, the group merged with the Pride Veterinary Medical Community, which seeks to create a better world for the LGBTQ veterinary community, and is currently working on rebranding itself as Pride SVMC.

Alexander Dhom, president of Pride SVMC and a third-year veterinary student at the University of Georgia, said he is focused on getting the organization restructured around its relationship with Pride VMC and is looking forward to clearing up any confusion around the merger as well as starting new student chapters with more clarity and structure.

“Our real drive is to help local chapters with funding and networking opportunities,” he said. “And to help encourage campuses to be more inclusive and diverse with gender and sexual identities. We do that with grant money to fund and promote student awareness around different identities.”

Dhom said every school environment varies and has a different level of acceptance. He said Pride SVMC leadership works to provide specific resources for each student chapter depending on what is needed.

The organization uses social media to promote events and highlight grants and awards. Recently, Pride SVMC hosted a Zoom session with Black LGBTQ panelists discussing intersectionalities, or the overlap of various categorizations such as race and sexuality that can impact discrimination.

Students interested in starting a chapter can reach out to student@pridevmc.org or pridevmc.org.

AVMA, affinity organizations working to advance diversity, equity, inclusion

Representatives of 10 affinity organizations with a focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion—led by the Multicultural VMA—met virtually with members of the AVMA Board of Directors and senior AVMA leadership on July 25. The meeting provided a forum for everyone to get to know each other and discuss a letter that the organizations sent to AVMA leadership on July 19 outlining actions they would like to see, which is available at jav.ma/CalltoAction.

The organizations are the Association of Asian Veterinary Medical Professionals, BlackDVM Network, Latinx VMA, Multicultural VMA, National Association for Black Veterinarians, Native American Veterinary Association, Pride Veterinary Medical Community, Pride Student VMC, Veterinarians as One for an Inclusive Community for Empowerment, and Women's Veterinary Leadership Development Initiative. The meeting also provided an opportunity for the AVMA to talk about its diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.

“Everyone agreed that this is the time for action,” according to a July 31 joint report on the meeting. “The tragic deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, among others, have changed our world, and have created an increased sense of urgency.”

Affinity group members gave an overview of recommended action items and identified the following priorities:

  • • Self-assessment: Explain where the AVMA currently stands in relation to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

  • • Accessibility: Ensure an equitable process for all AVMA members, regardless of race, to join and grow within AVMA leadership.

  • • Accountability and transparency: Implement processes for which the AVMA will be held accountable with regard to DEI.

  • • Expanding membership: Identify opportunities to create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive AVMA membership.

  • • Organizational commitment: Ensure that AVMA leadership is culturally competent and acting in the best interests of all AVMA members.

  • • Investment: Provide financial and structural commitments from the AVMA to improve the state of DEI in veterinary medicine.

  • • Outreach and engagement: Advance lasting DEI initiatives among veterinary partners at the AVMA, state VMAs, other veterinary organizations, academic institutions, veterinary practices, and associate veterinarians.

During the meeting, the affinity groups noted they had created a video that featured some of the nearly 400 stories they had collected of veterinary professionals’ sacrifices and struggles with regard to diversity, equity, and inclusion; that video is available at jav.ma/DEIvideo. Later, Dr. Douglas Kratt, now AVMA president, introduced the video when it was presented at the AVMA House of Delegates regular annual session, held virtually July 30-31. Dr. Kratt emphasized that the AVMA is eager to listen, learn, and engage further with DEI organizations.

Discussion at the meeting between the AVMA and DEI organizations then moved to how many of the action items listed by the organizations align with the AVMA's DEI initiative currently in progress, according to the meeting report. AVMA representatives outlined the AVMA's work to date and described the following three main DEI strategies:

  • • Increase the number of diverse applicants to colleges of veterinary medicine.

  • • Build DEI capabilities and capacities within the AVMA staff and volunteers.

  • • Build DEI capabilities and capacities of veterinarians and their teams so they can support healthy practices and best serve their clients and communities.

Several AVMA projects are underway that fit under these strategies, such as the Association's plan to retain outside DEI expertise to help identify areas of greatest need, set priorities, and use resources most effectively in this area.

In addition, the AVMA has ongoing mandatory DEI training for AVMA employees. The Association will consider expanding its training requirements to volunteers, although with a slightly different focus, the meeting report stated.

Another project is the Brave Space Certificate program, set to launch in the fourth quarter of 2020 on AVMA Axon, the AVMA's digital education platform. Pride VMC is the founding education partner for the certificate program. “The program promotes work environments in which all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully, have equal access to opportunities and resources, and can contribute fully to the organization's success. The AVMA has dedicated considerable resources to this program, which was initiated in 2019 and will launch in Q4 2020,” according to the meeting report.

Finally, the AVMA has been in initial talks with the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges and Veterinary Medical Association Executives, among others, to explore the establishment of a professionwide commission to examine DEI issues affecting the profession. A consensus on the entity's concept is expected by Oct. 1. The AVMA and DEI-focused organizations planned to meet again virtually in August.

“We recognize that AVMA cannot do this job alone,” the July 31 meeting report stated. “These issues have a long and complex history, extend beyond the AVMA, and of course affect the entire profession and all of organized veterinary medicine. That's why it is so critical to work together.”

Q&A: ‘How long? Not long’: Longtime diversity champion still optimistic for change

Dr. Evan M. Morse talks about his activism inside and outside of the profession

By Malinda Larkin

In 2005, the AVMA commissioned its Diversity Task Force with the hope that it would “foster cultural competence in veterinary leadership and the delivery of veterinary services,” according to a JAVMA News article. The establishment of the task force followed on the heels of the AVMA's adoption of a diversity policy. The task force later developed a report, “Unity Through Diversity,” available at jav.ma/diversityreport.

One of the members of the task force was Dr. Evan M. Morse, owner of the Warrensville Animal Center in Cleveland, and co-founder of the Free Animal Clinic Team, a consortium of veterinarians providing free animal care to in-need pet owners throughout greater Cleveland.

Over several decades, Dr. Morse has been actively involved in efforts to address diversity and inclusion in the veterinary profession. He moderated and helped organize the annual AVMA Diversity Symposium during the AVMA Convention from 2005-13. In 2011, Dr. Morse received the AVMA President's Award for his efforts. He also holds a master's in psychology with a specialization in diversity management from Cleveland State University.

JAVMA News spoke with Dr. Morse about what it was like as a Black person growing up in Richmond, Virginia, primary capital of the Confederacy; how he felt attending Tuskegee University School of Veterinary Medicine during the civil rights movement; and what he has observed over the years in the veterinary profession. The answers have been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.

Q. YOU BECAME AN ACTIVIST AT A YOUNG AGE. DO YOU STILL CONSIDER YOURSELF ONE?

A. Growing up in Richmond, I was inspired by hometown figures such as Arthur Ashe, the famous tennis champion who was also a schoolmate, and Spottswood Robinson, a civil rights lawyer for the landmark case Brown vs. the Board of Education. During high school, I participated in sit-ins and department store picketing. I also helped spearhead the integration of Virginia's science and mathematics academic conferences.

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Dr. Evan M. Morse

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 257, 5; 10.2460/javma.257.5.451

After high school, while studying veterinary medicine at Tuskegee Institute, I participated in voter registration drives, political activism on campus, and protests on the shooting of Sammy Younge, Jr. And there was one event I participated in that I'll never forget: The historic Selma March in 1965, when I was 20 years old. And yes, I still consider myself an activist and am no less committed and engaged in the struggle for equal access and justice for all. The march isn't over.

Q. HAVE YOU EXPERIENCED MICROAGGRESSIONS OR DIRECT RACIST COMMENTS FROM CLIENTS OR COLLEAGUES? HAVE YOU FELT PHYSICALLY THREATENED?

A. I took my first job at the All Animal Clinic in Collinwood, Ohio, a neighborhood on Cleveland's East Side. When I left work every night and walked to my car, people in the neighborhood would yell the N-word at me. Every night. I had to steel myself and prepare to hear it. I owned an Austin Healey sports car, and those same neighborhood folks sliced my convertible top and egged my car. That was in the late ‘60s.

In those days at the All Animal Clinic, the receptionist would take the client and the animal into the examination room to wait for the veterinarian. Sometimes, when I walked in and the client saw that I was Black, they would grab the dog or cat and leave horrified.

Another event I'll never forget is when I walked into the examination room and there was a mynah bird on the table that uttered the N-word three times. Birds don't teach words to themselves!

When I first came to Cleveland, it took me a while to become a member of the Cleveland Academy of Veterinary Medicine. Then, 20 years later, I became the president of that organization. We were all sitting around in the meeting room after my first session as president, and I heard someone say from across the room, “The (N-word) done took over the farm.” Here I was the president, and someone was again calling me the N-word, 20 years later. I will never forget that experience.

Fortunately, those kinds of experiences of racism have happened less frequently as time goes on.

Q. WHEN CONSIDERING A CAREER IN VETERINARY MEDICINE, DID IT PUT YOU OFF THAT THE PROFESSION WAS OVERWHELMINGLY WHITE?

A. It did not.

When I was in high school, I was given my start by a white veterinarian. In fact, I had never seen an African American veterinarian until I enrolled at Tuskegee Institute. Dr. Arthur Yale Kavit owned an animal hospital in Richmond, Virginia. Miraculously, I was hired by him to serve as the night attendant. I worked at the animal hospital after school, spent the night there, and went back to school in the morning. Those amazing experiences at that animal hospital were my first encounters with the veterinary profession. The second white veterinarian who opened a door for me was Dr. David Rickards, a practitioner from London, who established a veterinary practice in 1953 in Cleveland. My first position out of veterinary college was working for him. He gave me a solid foundation in all aspects of the profession.

These many years later, I often note that the waiting room of my animal hospital is now a mosaic of races. I find great delight in seeing so many people of different backgrounds coming to me for care of their beloved animals. I see we have come a long way.

Q. HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED WITH THE TASK FORCE ON DIVERSITY?

A. We started a diversity committee with the Ohio VMA, and I was chairman of that. We had a diversity symposium at our annual convention in 2004. Dr. Bonnie Beaver was in attendance and she was presidentelect of the AVMA at that time. We talked, and she wanted to bring this to the AVMA. So when she was president, she spearheaded that.

It was so enthralling to me to have that opportunity on a national stage to make some movement and instill some diversity and inclusion work in the profession. I credit her for allowing me to get those efforts started. I planned and organized the AVMA Diversity Symposium, and we did that for nine years in a row.

Q. YOU SAID 10 YEARS AGO THAT YOU SAW PROGRESS. WHAT DO YOU THINK NOW?

A. I see change. I'm an optimist. We have the perfect set of circumstances now for real change. It's like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said in his famous speech, “How Long? Not Long,” which he delivered on March 25, 1965, on the steps of the state capital in Montgomery, Alabama, after the historic Selma March. I stood there riveted and awestruck as I listened to Dr. King say: “How long? Not long, because truth crushed to the Earth shall rise again. How long? Not long, because no lie can live forever. How long? Not long, because you shall reap what you sow. … How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” As Dr. King ended his mesmerizing speech, my entire sensory being was aflame.

I truly believe that it won't be long. The veterinary profession is like a big ocean liner at a pivot point—about to turn, redirect, and reorient. If it's going due north and wants to go west, it can't turn like a small boat. It's the size of four football fields, and it's been churning along slowly. Now it is starting to make the turn, and momentum will move it more quickly. The vector forces will make it turn. I see this change happening in society as well. We are going to have that “beloved community” that Dr. King dreamed about. How long? Not long.

Q. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON GEORGE FLOYD'S KILLING AND THE RESULTING PROTESTS? WHAT RESPONSE WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE FROM THE PROFESSION?

A. It is, of course, painful, and it never should have happened. One of my favorite writers, the famous African American novelist and activist James Baldwin, said, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” This is applicable to what is occurring now as a response to George Floyd's killing, both in the veterinary profession and in society at large. It is the perfect storm.

My initial reaction to the George Floyd killing was probably like most Black people in this country. “So, what's new? Black people in America have been experiencing this kind of treatment for centuries.” An important difference is the presence of the video. Increasingly, these acts—that have always been there—are being made public and thus less deniable. Another component was the lack of humanity on the part of Officer Chauvin. The look of indifference on the officer's face betrayed the perception he had of Mr. Floyd. If he had recognized Mr. Floyd's humanity, he could not have held his knee on his neck for almost nine minutes.

For many Black men, it is a common theme and an ongoing fear that it could happen at any time to anyone that looks like me. Some people reading this may not understand what it feels like or comprehend how I can be in a state of continuous alert. Some see me as a successful veterinarian who has not been affected much by racism. Letters behind your name—DVM, MD, JD—do not protect you, when all another person sees is a Black man.

What happened to Mr. Floyd is personal to me. It triggers a personal past that has been marked by discrimination, both intentional and unintentional. Do not misunderstand. I have received a lot of support along the way, for which I am thankful. However, mixed in with that support are negative interactions with people who saw me as a stereotype. It takes a lot of energy to keep in the pain. My hope is that what happened to George Floyd and so many others is a catalyst for sustained movement and progress. We have had such incidents in the past, but after a short time of uproar, things go back to the status quo. It is my prayer that we have lasting systemic change this time.

There appears to be a growing momentum for change. I hope it continues, but I caution that we not focus all our efforts on the police. Policing reflects the broader culture. Violence toward Blacks in the form of discrimination is embedded in that culture. An example is the differential susceptibility and mortality of Blacks in this country to the COVID-19 virus. Changing policing without changing the broader culture will ultimately fail.

As for the profession, we must continue to tell our story. My thesis on high-achieving, science-oriented minority students, “Minority Students’ Perceptions of the Veterinary Profession,” found that few knew much about veterinary medicine as a profession, and that knowledge was related to interest. We must do a better job of involving young minority students in our work so that it is on their radar when they decide on a profession. Of course, minority students still face systemic barriers in admissions, financial support, and more. We must remove those barriers. Progress takes place outside the comfort zone.

People: VETERINARY TECHNICIAN KILLED AT PROTEST REMEMBERED

By Kaitlyn Mattson

Summer Taylor, a 24-year-old veterinary technician, died in July after a car drove into a Black Lives Matter protest.

Taylor, who used they/them/their pronouns, worked at Urban Animal, a veterinary clinic with three locations in the Seattle area.

Dalia Taylor, their mother, said during a news conference that Summer was an imaginative, caring child who loved animals, and they had dreams of attending veterinary college one day at Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine.

“Summer was using their voice to advocate for what they believe while continuing to work full-time to share their love of their patients. Sadly, we will never know what Summer could have done and their voice was silenced,” according to a statement from the Washington State Association of Veterinary Technicians. “Summer lives on in the patients they helped along the way.”

Urban Animal has been posting memories, photos, and comments about Taylor on social media.

“Summer Taylor was not just a friend or coworker, they were family to most of us,” a former co-worker posted on Facebook. “They have a multitude of amazing qualities about them but some of my favorites will always be their infectious laugh, their ability to make anyone smile, the amount of care they put into their work, and their determination to make this world a better place.”

A Seattle man has been charged with vehicular homicide, vehicular assault, and reckless driving for driving a car through protesters on the I-90 freeway, killing Taylor and critically injuring another marcher, Diaz Love.

A GoFundMe page created to support Taylor is accepting donations at jav.ma/SummerTaylor. The page had raised over $78,000 as of press time in mid-July.

“We will be working with their family to determine how to direct the funds raised here. We are all in complete shock, and still trying to process the loss of this incredible light,” said Becky Gilliam, the fund organizer, in a statement on the page. “We ask that you respect their loved ones during this time.”

Obituaries: AVMA MEMBER | AVMA HONOR ROLL MEMBER | NONMEMBER

JAMES R. HOLLADAY

Dr. Holladay (Auburn ‘59), 86, Florence, Alabama, died May 7, 2020. He owned Holladay Animal Hospital in Florence, where he initially practiced mixed animal medicine, switching later to small animals. Dr. Holladay retired in 1997. Earlier in his career, he worked in Columbus, Georgia. Dr. Holladay is survived by his wife, Jeanette; a son and two daughters; and six grandchildren. Memorials may be made to Edgemont United Methodist Church, 1330 Eauclaire Ave., Florence, AL 35630.

CECIL B. LOWMAN

Dr. Lowman (Auburn ‘50), 97, Lexington, South Carolina, died May 6, 2020. He co-founded Newberry Animal Hospital in Newberry, South Carolina, where he practiced mixed animal medicine for 35 years prior to retirement. Dr. Lowman also served as veterinarian for the Newberry County Humane Society for several years. He was a member of the South Carolina Association of Veterinarians. An Army veteran of World War II, Dr. Lowman was awarded a Purple Heart. His son and three grandchildren survive him.

PATRICK D. MATHIS

Dr. Mathis (Texas A&M ‘71), 76, New Braunfels, Texas, died Jan. 21, 2020. In 1973, he bought Comal Animal Clinic in New Braunfels, where he practiced mixed animal medicine until retirement in 2010. Earlier, Dr. Mathis practiced in Stephenville, Texas. His wife, Lee; a daughter and a son; seven grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; and two brothers and four sisters survive him. Memorials may be made to the Dr. Ed Grist Memorial Veterinary Scholarship, c/o Comal County VMA, 1121 Eikel St., New Braunfels, TX 78130.

ANTHONY A. MATTHEWS

Dr. Matthews (Ohio State ‘73), 84, Genoa, Ohio, died April 21, 2020. He owned Village Veterinary Hospital in Genoa for more than 30 years, initially in mixed animal practice, switching later to small animals. Dr. Matthews was a member of the Toledo VMA. His wife, Marianne; eight daughters and five sons; 47 grandchildren; five great-grandchildren; and a sister survive him. One daughter, Dr. Sarah Cripps (Ohio State ‘95), owns a small animal practice in Schuylerville, New York. Her husband, Dr. Christopher Cripps (Ohio State ‘95), is a former food animal veterinarian. Memorials may be made to Humane Society of Ottawa County, 2424 E. Sand Road, Port Clinton, OH 43452.

JOHN T. PETERS

Dr. Peters (Cornell ‘62), 88, Wilmington, Delaware, died Feb. 11, 2020. A large animal practitioner, he began his career serving as a veterinarian at several racetracks, including Vernon Downs, Liberty Bell Park, and Rosecroft Raceway. Dr. Peters subsequently established his own equine practice in Wilmington, Delaware, also serving as a veterinarian for the state of Delaware at Delaware Park and Dover Downs racetracks. He retired in 2017.

A member of the Delaware VMA, Dr. Peters was named Delaware Veterinarian of the Year in 2002. He was a veteran of the Air Force, serving as a second lieutenant in Korea and Japan. Dr. Peters attained the rank of captain in the Air Force Reserve. He is survived by a son, a daughter, four grandchildren, and a sister. Memorials may be made to the Dr. John T. Peters DePauw Trust Endowed Scholarship, DePauw University, 201 E. Seminary St., P.O. Box 37, Greencastle, IN 46135, or the John T. Peters DVM 1962 Scholarship, Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, 130 E. Seneca St., Suite 400, Ithaca, NY 14850.

KENNETH J. SIMS

Dr. Sims (Oklahoma State ‘64), 81, Louisville, Kentucky, died May 22, 2020. He owned a small animal practice in Louisville for more than 50 years. During his career, Dr. Sims also practiced in Fern Creek, Kentucky, and in the Caribbean, on the Cayman and Turks and Caicos islands. He was a founding member of the Louisville Animal Emergency Center, was a member of the Kentucky VMA, and served on the Kentucky Board of Veterinary Examiners for several years. In 1991, Dr. Sims received the KVMA Distinguished Service Award.

He was a veteran of the Army, serving as a captain. Dr. Sims is survived by his wife, Carolyn; two daughters and a son; and two sisters. Memorials toward the Class of 1964 Endowed Scholarship at Oklahoma State University College of Veterinary Medicine, with the memo line of the check notated in his memory, may be made to the OSU Foundation and sent to Sharon Worrell, OSU CVM, 308 McElroy Hall, Stillwater, OK 74078. Memorials may also be sent to the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International, One Rotary Center, 1560 Sherman Ave., Evanston, IL 60201.

WILLIAM J. TIETZ

Dr. Tietz (Colorado State ‘57), 93, Bozeman, Montana, died June 10, 2020. From 1977-90, he served as the ninth president of Montana State University. Widely considered a transformative president, Dr. Tietz supported the development of the undergraduate core curriculum, expanded international studies, reactivated the university's honors program, and bolstered educational opportunities for Native Americans. He also emphasized research activities, launched the university's Advanced Technology Park, and oversaw the funding, planning, and construction of facilities critical to the growth of the university, including the Visual Communications Building, Animal Resources Center, and Plant Growth Center. In 2007, the ARC was renamed Tietz Hall.

Following graduation and after earning a doctorate in physiology and pathology in 1961 from Purdue University, Dr. Tietz joined the veterinary faculty at Purdue as an assistant professor of veterinary physiology. In 1964, he moved to Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences as an associate professor of radiobiology and physiology. Dr. Tietz went on to serve as chair of the college's former Department of Physiology and Biophysics, was associate director of the CSU Agricultural Experiment Station, and served as CSU's vice president for student-university relations. In 1971, he was named dean of the veterinary college, serving in that capacity until 1977.

Active in organized veterinary medicine, Dr. Tietz was a past president of the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, served on the Council of Presidents of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, was a life member of the Conference of Research Workers in Animal Diseases, and was a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and of the Colorado and Larimer County VMAs. He was also a past chair of the board of directors of the Montana State University Energy Research Institute and served on the board of directors of the Greater Montana Foundation. In 1977, Dr. Tietz received the CVMA Service Award.

He was a veteran of the Navy. Dr. Tietz is survived by his wife, Gwen; three daughters and a son; and six grandchildren.

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