Veterinary professionals looking to pick up some extra continuing education credit now have more options.
The most popular CE sessions from AVMA events, including AVMA Virtual Convention 2021, are becoming available on AVMA Axon at axon.avma.org. These include the 2021 convention's two keynote sessions, “Cowboys and Pit Crews” by Atul Gawande, MD, and “Princess Found: You Are More Than Your Title” by Princess Sarah Culberson, that each offer one hour of CE credit; these are available for free and open to all. About 10 other CE sessions will be available by early December at member and nonmember pricing and also offer one hour of CE credit each.
Axon users who have questions about which type of CE best meets their needs should check their veterinary state licensing board's website or CE criteria.
USDA AIMS TO KEEP SALMONELLA CONTAMINATION OUT OF POULTRY SLAUGHTER, PROCESSING FACILITIES
U.S. Department of Agriculture officials plan to study how to further reduce Salmonella contamination in poultry products.
Salmonella bacteria cause more than 1 million illnesses annually, and USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service officials noted in an Oct. 19 announcement that an estimated 23% of those illnesses are connected with consumption of chicken or turkey. They also noted that progress in reducing poultry-related illnesses could help achieve a Healthy People 2030 goal of reducing salmonellosis by 25%.
FSIS officials plan to seek stakeholder feedback on specific strategies to measure and control Salmonella contamination in poultry slaughter and processing establishments. Those strategies include pilot projects that could help identify better approaches to reducing salmonellosis, the announcement states.
“A key component of this approach is encouraging preharvest controls to reduce Salmonella contamination coming into the slaughterhouse,” the announcement states.
The plan announced Oct. 19 includes collaboration with the USDA's Research, Education, and Economics mission on the topics of data collection and laboratory methods as well as the National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods on ways the FSIS could improve its approach to Salmonella control, the announcement states. And FSIS officials plan to examine how they could identify not only the presence of Salmonella bacteria but also the quantity of bacteria present.
MORRIS ANIMAL FOUNDATION, CEO RECEIVE AWARDS HONORING WOMEN IN BUSINESS
Morris Animal Foundation and the organization's CEO have both been honored by the Stevie Awards for Women in Business.
The foundation received a Gold Stevie for Achievement in Science or Technology for work to advance the health of companion animals and wildlife. The nomination focused on the foundation's Australian Wildlife Fund and Golden Retriever Lifetime Study, both of which expanded under female leadership to develop and add technology that lets the organization share data with researchers internationally, according to an announcement from the Morris Animal Foundation.
Tiffany Grunert, the foundation's president and CEO, also received a Silver Stevie in the category of Female Executive of the Year at a government or nonprofit organization with between 11 and 2,500 employees.
Though the award winners have been announced, the award celebration will occur in a virtual ceremony on Jan. 13, 2022.
Through the Australian Wildlife Fund, the Morris Animal Foundation funded $1 million in research toward helping animals rehabilitate, recover, and return to the wild following bush fires. The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study is a prospective study started in 2012 to identify risk factors for cancer and other diseases of dogs.
Getting to the root of overworked and burned-out veterinary practices
AVMA economic forum makes sense of workforce woes
By R. Scott Nolen
Veterinary professionals are struggling
For many, the dream job of caring for animals is feeling less and less dreamlike. Many veterinarians feel they are working more hours than ever before, meeting increased demand from their current clients, in workplaces with low morale and high staff turnover. Practices struggle to hire associates and veterinary technicians—roles essential to keeping the practice running.
“Practices and veterinary care teams are very busy, and burnout and stress are real issues that many people are going through,” said AVMA Chief Economist Matthew J. Salois, PhD. “We are in a very tight labor market, and it is very hard to recruit and retain talent right now—and no doubt contributing to a sense of burnout.”
Dr. Salois opened the AVMA Veterinary Business and Economic Forum, held virtually Oct. 14-16, by discussing the root causes behind the busyness and burnout assailing veterinary practices these days. His overall message is that there is a complex series of factors that must be understood if the profession is to effectively address the very real problems practices and veterinary professionals are experiencing.
“A very common story being told in our industry goes something like this: Demand for pets soared during the pandemic with epic levels of pet adoptions. Concurrently, veterinary practice has experienced a skyrocketing demand for services resulting in a crisis for the workforce as the supply of veterinarians and veterinary services was unable to meet demand.”
And while there's “quite a bit of truth” in this view, Dr. Salois said, it is an oversimplification.
The reality, as Dr. Salois explained, is the so-called pandemic “pet adoption boom” is a bit of an exaggeration. While new clients are partly contributing to increased business, it is actually increased spending coupled with pent-up demand from current clients that makes up the bulk of growth in revenue and visits. This was confirmed in a later presentation by VetSuccess. And finally, inefficiencies and staff turnover, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, have escalated problems of packed schedules and staff burnout (see page 1245).
“We have a very challenging workforce dilemma,” Dr. Salois said, “one that has significant ramifications to well-being and staff turnover.” And practices are feeling it.
DIGGING DEEPER INTO THE DATA
A review of transactional data collected by 24PetWatch and Best Friends Animal Society indicates the total number of pets adopted from shelters in 2020 was the lowest in five years.
Shelters made a concerted effort to move animals out of the shelter and into foster care. Adoption processes were longer during the pandemic. Shifting adoption visits to virtual appointments and, later, to only allowing a limited number of physical visits meant that fewer pet adopters could be handled in a given week. And successful spay and neuter programs have also proven effective in keeping populations down.
“Simply put, fewer animals in the shelter meant fewer animals to adopt,” Dr. Salois explained.
Pet adoptions in 2021 so far look a lot like 2020, Dr. Salois added. Tracking data indicate adoptions are 1.6% below 2020, with cat adoptions outpacing dog adoptions. Compared with 2019, current adoptions are almost 20% lower. While shelters are not the only source of new pets, they remain a leading source in addition to pet stores and breeders (see page 1243).
WHY SO BUSY?
Monthly clinical appointments per practice grew by 4.5% in 2020 on average and in 2021 are currently tracking 6.5% ahead of last year, which of course is positive news, Dr. Salois said, adding that it raises important questions: Is growth of 4.5% to 6.5% epic? This growth is healthy—and maybe even unprecedented—but is it enough in itself to send practices and staff into a tailspin? Is that alone enough to send our workforce into a state of crisis? Or are there additional factors at play?
Such queries aren't intended to dismiss the reality of busy practices and exhausted veterinary professionals, Dr. Salois emphasized. Rather, it's an acknowledgment of the real and tangible challenges veterinary practice teams are experiencing and—importantly—a way to better understand the root causes of these challenges so that the profession can implement strategies that will successfully alleviate the stress.
Dr. Salois explained that the spike in business isn't a result of new patients. In fact, the average annual share of total appointments that are new patients has been declining the last few years, from 17.1% in 2019 to about 15.8% in 2021. What's happening is practices are catching up with the backlog of appointments canceled or rescheduled as a consequence of the pandemic, along with current clients and pet owners paying more attention to veterinary care.
In addition, many problems can be traced to declining veterinary practice productivity and inefficiencies in practice operations, made worse during the coronavirus pandemic, Dr. Salois said. One measure of veterinary productivity is to look at the average number of patients seen per hour by a veterinarian. In 2020, U.S. veterinary practices saw a 25% decline in the average number of patients a veterinarian could see per hour.
With a 4.5% increase in appointments and a 25% decrease in the number of patients a veterinarian can see in an hour, those feelings of being overworked start to make sense, Dr. Salois said.
“Let me be very clear. This does not mean you are doing less work. It means the efficiency in which you are working has been hampered,” he explained. “It's like running a mile on a treadmill versus running a mile on the beach. The distance is the same, but obviously one takes a lot more effort and maybe even more time. That means in order to see the same number of patients you did before COVID-19, now you have to work a lot harder, exert more effort, and maybe even work longer hours.”
Making matters worse is that a sizable and growing number of veterinarians actually would prefer to work fewer hours and would do so for a lower level of compensation (see page 1247). There are also high rates of staff turnover. As Dr. Salois explained, the average veterinarian turnover rate is about 15-17%, which is twice that of a physician working in private practice, and the average veterinary technician turnover rate is over 25%, which is among the highest in a comparison of different health professions.
“Staff turnover is costly, time-consuming, and it further negatively impacts productivity,” Dr. Salois explained. “From an economist's perspective, high turnover is a symptom of a larger issue.” Specifically, Dr. Salois expanded, it is a warning sign that veterinary professionals are feeling overworked and overstressed, which is one of the factors that can also affect the productivity of any organization.
Dr. Salois stressed throughout his presentation that an oversimplification of a problem can lead to oversimplified solutions.
It's not enough to increase the size of the veterinary workforce by graduating more veterinarians or creating a new class of veterinary practitioner, what some have referred to as a midlevel practitioner or midlevel extender. Neither address the productivity gaps, nor do they remedy the high turnover rate.
“We don't need a five-year plan, we need a right-now plan,” Dr. Salois said. “Like a patient who is bleeding out, you need blood, but the first priority has to be to stop the bleeding.”
There are several solution-oriented strategies that can help in the short-term, Dr. Salois explained, such as telemedicine and other technological innovations, better utilization of veterinary technicians, and creating a sense of purpose and belonging for all members of the animal care team.
“Taking action to leverage technology, empower talent, and engage the team are all things we can do right now,” Dr. Salois said.
The AVMA 2021 Economic State of the Veterinary Profession is now available. This latest report examines major trends in veterinary education, veterinary employment, and veterinary services. Visit jav.ma/2021econreport for more information.
Increase in veterinarians’ starting salaries long overdue, economist says
Graduates with more debt seek jobs with higher incomes, often provided by corporate practices
By Malinda Larkin
The debt-to-income ratio for 2021 U.S. veterinary graduates securing full-time employment is 1.67:1, a drop from 2.09:1 last year and the lowest since 2008.
Compared with last year, more graduates had a DIR between 0.01:1 and 1.99:1—which is considered a safe ratio—and there was a jump from $90,722 to $99,593 in the mean weighted starting salary, in 2020 dollars, for veterinary graduates entering full-time employment. Both factors helped contribute to the overall decrease in the DIR, said Bridgette Bain, PhD, associate director of analytics at the AVMA.
Drawing on data from the 2021 AVMA Senior Survey, Dr. Bain spoke on “Supply and Demand in the Market for Veterinary Education” at the annual AVMA Veterinary Business and Economic Forum, held virtually Oct. 14-16.
The DIR hit its peak at 2.26:1 in 2018. This year, the mean debt of all 2021 graduates from U.S. veterinary colleges, including those without debt, was $147,394 in 2020 dollars. And 18% of veterinary graduates had no debt—down from 19% in 2020.
Meanwhile, Dr. Bain said, the mean starting salary is the closest it has come to reaching the trend line from before the Great Recession of late 2007 to mid-2009. From 2010-14, there was a decrease in starting salaries, after adjusting for inflation. In 2020 dollars, starting salaries were around $65,000 in 2001 and grew to around $80,000 in 2010.
“This is a market correction 12 years overdue. We haven't returned to pre-recessionary trends, but we’re close,” Dr. Bain said, adding that inflation-adjusted debt grows at 3.5% each year, while inflation-adjusted salaries grow at 1.9% each year.
Dr. Bain encouraged employers to consider personalizing compensation to attract new graduates, whether through relocation bonuses, more time off, or larger signing bonuses. She also recommended communication across institutions, including veterinary colleges, to identify successful strategies for debt management.
Looking at data for 15,815 new graduates from 2017-21, 49% joined companion animal practices, while a third went into internships, residencies, or another type of advanced education. Dr. Bain drew attention to the correlation between the strength of the economy and the area that recent graduates choose by comparing 2013—not long after the Great Recession—with 2021.
Eight years ago, 37% of graduates were going into companion animal practice, while 38% were going into advanced education. At that time, only 80% of graduates had reported receiving an offer for full-time employment or advanced education. Meanwhile, this year, 53% of graduates went into companion animal practice and 25% into advanced education; 96% of graduates had received at least one offer for full-time employment or advanced education.
Dr. Bain noted that new graduates with higher debt seem to seek out jobs with higher incomes. At the same time, practices owned by corporations or consolidators, on average, pay new hires more than independent private practices, as well as give larger signing bonuses and relocation allowances.
Between 2020 and 2021, the percentage of new graduates hired by corporate practices increased from 35% to 39%, among 2021 veterinary graduates securing full-time employment in clinical practice, while the percentage of those going into independent private practices correspondingly decreased from 65% to 61%.
In 2021, the mean starting salary was $106,053 for new graduates going into corporate practice and $93,894 for those going into independent private practice. The mean educational debt for those going into corporate practice was $165,569, compared with $152,941 for those going into independent private practice.
In addition, 66% of the corporate offers included a signing bonus that averaged $11,738, while only 31% of new graduates going into independent private practice were offered a signing bonus, which averaged $6,596. Plus, 41% of corporate practices offered a moving allowance that averaged $4,879; 18% of independent private practices did so, and the mean offer was $3,207.
Over the past two decades, educational debt held by veterinary graduates increased by a mean of 5.5% annually, but there is wide variation in the mean annual increase among veterinary colleges.
The lowest growth in debt from 2001-21 was an annual mean of 0.4% at the University of California-Davis. Total tuition for 2021 veterinary graduates from UC-Davis was $132,100 for in-state students and $181,080 for out-of-state students. Tuskegee University had the highest growth in debt from 2001-21, with an annual mean of 9.7%. Total tuition for 2021 veterinary graduates from Tuskegee was $187,129 for in-state and out-of-state students.
Differences in debt accrued and how that debt is paid also varied by race and ethnicity. Recent graduates who are Black accrued the highest debt, at a mean of $249,000 in 2020 and $229,000 in 2021. They were followed by Hispanic or Latino recent graduates, at $196,000 in 2020 and $185,000 in 2021. Recent graduates who are white averaged $151,000 in debt in 2020 and $153,000 in 2021. Asian graduates averaged the same amount of debt in 2020 as white graduates, but that figure decreased to $132,000 in 2021.
At the same time, Black graduates in 2021 reported getting a mean of 11% of financial support for tuition, fees, and living expenses coming from family, versus 40% for Asian graduates, 26% for white graduates, and 24% for Hispanic or Latino graduates. Black graduates covered 68% of their tuition, fees, and living expenses with educational loans, compared with 62% of Hispanic or Latino graduates, 57% of white graduates, and 46% of Asian graduates.
Overall, 18% of veterinary graduates this year had 76%-100% of their tuition, fees, and living expenses covered by family, which Dr. Bain said correlates with those who had zero debt, while 43% had no support from family. Many of those individuals likely were part of the 48% who reported covering 76%-100% of their costs with educational loans. Notably, 58% of new graduates said they did not use personal savings to cover any costs, and 43% of new graduates said scholarships did not cover any costs.
Finally, Dr. Bain pointed out a correlation between the number of animals that veterinary students own and their educational debt. For each additional animal that a veterinary student owns, debt increases by $7,500.
Pet population still on the rise, with fewer pets per household
Survey on pet ownership also indicates that pet owners value veterinarians’ expertise
By Malinda Larkin
Both dog and cat populations have increased in recent years, as well as the percentages of households owning dogs or cats, but there are fewer pets per household. Animal shelters are a key source of new pet acquisition—accounting for 40% of cats and 38% of dogs in 2020.
Rosemary Radich, principal data scientist in the AVMA Veterinary Economics Division, laid out preliminary results from a recent AVMA survey of over 2,000 pet owners during the session “The Market for Pet Owners” at the annual AVMA Veterinary Business and Economic Forum, held virtually Oct. 14-16.
The survey, fielded in February and March 2021, asked pet owners about their experiences in 2020. Comparisons were made with the 2017-18 edition of the AVMA Pet Ownership and Demographics Sourcebook, which drew on data from 2016.
“Pet populations and ownership have increased, creating opportunities to improve profitability,” at veterinary practices, Radich said. “Understanding pet owners can help improve satisfaction and loyalty so veterinarians can continue to provide quality care.”
PET POPULATIONS AND ADOPTION
In 2020, 45% of households owned dogs, up from 38% at year-end 2016. The population of pet dogs was estimated to be between 83.7 million and 88.9 million last year, up 9%-16% from year-end 2016. In 2020, 26% of households owned cats, up from 25% at year-end 2016, and the population of pet cats was estimated to be between 60 million and 61.9 million last year, compared with 58.4 million five years ago.
While more people owned pets in 2020, they were also more likely to own a smaller number of pets. For example, 65% of dog-owning households owned just one dog in 2020, while 60% did at year-end 2016. And 56% of cat-owning households in 2020 had just one cat, compared with 53% five years earlier.
While animal rescues and shelters are a key source of new pet acquisition, 42% of dog owners in 2020 said they got their dog from a store, as did 43% of cat owners. However, stores are increasingly providing pets from shelters and rescues, which explains why 24% of pet owners indicated they got a pet from both a store and a shelter.
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic were slightly evident in the results. People who work remotely were eight times as likely to get a new pet in 2020. Other people likely to get a new pet this past year were homeowners with a household income over $100,000, those who were financially the same or better off since the pandemic began, and those under 45 who were married with children.
Having more time was a reason that about two-thirds of married and never-married respondents cited for their new ownership of a pet, while companionship was a reason for 55% of respondents who were divorced, separated, or widowed.
Radich noted that new pet ownership and reasons for ownership vary by a combination of marital status, economics, and labor markets, and recent changes may not be sustained in the long term. For example, as COVID-19 restrictions loosen and participation in remote work changes, she said, it's important for veterinarians to remain flexible because previous increases in demand may be temporary and cyclical.
VETERINARY VISITS AND EXPENDITURES
Much has been made about the busyness of veterinary practices during the pandemic. Contributing to the sense of busyness has been not only the uptick in veterinary appointments but also the irregular flow of patients and clients from the height of the pandemic to now, combined with the disruption of COVID-19 to practice operations, declining productivity, and higher turnover.
While many pet owners have seen an increase in wait times, particularly at emergency clinics, only 3% of pet owners reported having to wait four weeks or longer to book an appointment at clinics overall last year. In fact, 66% of cat owners and 62% of dog owners said they were able to book an appointment less than one week out in 2020. And at their appointment, over 85% of owners waited less than 30 minutes. These figures were not broken down by practice type, Radich noted. Also, the survey took place in early 2021 and asked respondents about their last visit, which was most likely to have occurred in 2020.
Of those owners who did not visit a veterinarian in the preceding two years, 28% said the primary reason was that their pet did not get sick or injured, 26% said their pet did not need vaccines, 18% responded that they gave vaccines or care themselves, and 9% said they did not have the money.
When asked their reasons for choosing a medication provider, 59% of respondents said they relied on their veterinarian when it comes to expertise, but 68% cited availability as a reason for choosing a pet supply store. Meanwhile, price was highly cited at 54% as a reason for choosing an online provider or any type of store.
“Practices offer a continuum of care, and when veterinarians offer medication, they (pet owners) can see that as an extension of expertise,” Radich said.
She added that medication can be a key revenue stream because pet owners spend a significant percent of their budget on veterinary care, with medications being a large percentage of care costs.
The AVMA will make more information from the recent survey available in 2022, including information on pet owner satisfaction and loyalty.
Information for AVMA members on how to best communicate with clients is available in a new e-book, “Language That Works: Changing the Way We Talk About Veterinary Care,” which can be viewed at avma.org/LanguageOfCare and downloaded for offline use by the whole team
Practice inefficiencies compound veterinary stress
Data show some veterinarians may leave profession before retirement
By R. Scott Nolen
As children, many veterinarians dreamed of growing up and becoming an animal doctor. Yet an alarmingly high number of veterinarians are saying they are giving serious thought to leaving their dream job for reasons unrelated to retirement.
It was a much-discussed topic during the AVMA Veterinary Business and Economic Forum, held virtually Oct. 14-16, where the AVMA's Frederic Ouedraogo, PhD, described the trend during his presentation on the U.S. market for veterinary services.
“You grew up eager to help animals, and you entered veterinary college—sometimes making big sacrifices—and then you embraced the veterinary career. And this is where things can get a little bit complicated,” said Dr. Ouedraogo, an assistant director in the AVMA Veterinary Economics Division.
Citing the 2021 AVMA Veterinarian and Practice Owners Survey, Dr. Ouedraogo said an estimated 44% of private veterinary practitioners reported they are thinking of exiting veterinary medicine before retirement. The proportion of disaffected veterinarians varies by type of practice, Dr. Ouedraogo added, with equine veterinarians at the top (49%) and mixed animal veterinarians at the bottom (32%).
Disaffection among veterinarians varies by generation. For example, 43% of baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) say they are considering leaving the veterinary profession, compared with 47% of Generation Xers (born between 1965 and 1980) and 43% of millennials (born between 1981 and 1995).
“The most intriguing fact,” Dr. Ouedraogo observed, “is that over 40% of practitioners who graduated during the last 10 years are thinking of leaving the profession. They cited mental health (33%) and work-life balance (27%) as their top reasons.”
Dr. Ouedraogo identified three additional trends that require a “reimagining” of the veterinary profession to meet the economic and social expectations of its members.
First, millennials have overtaken Gen Xers as the largest generation of the veterinary workforce. Women account for 78% of the U.S. veterinary population. Among women, 72% are under 52 years old, meaning they could still have child-rearing obligations.
“This is equivalent to 46% of the entire workforce,” Dr. Ouedraogo said. “Obviously, looking at these statistics, something must be done to accommodate the need of these specific groups.”
In a second trend, well-being remains a serious issue for veterinary professionals. Some studies have identified animal health care providers as having a high prevalence of burnout, depression, and secondary traumatic stress disorders, according to Dr. Ouedraogo.
“In a study that we conducted here at the AVMA,” he said, “we found that associate veterinarians were twice as likely to develop feelings of reduced job satisfaction relative to practice owners. We also found that associate veterinarians are more likely to experience higher burnout compared to practice owners.
“When we factor in the declining rate of ownership, one could argue that this situation could affect the professional quality of life at the industry level. In fact, the rate of practice ownership has declined from 45% in 2013 to 36% in 2020.”
In a third trend, practice performance has not followed the expected expansion curve. As Dr. Ouedraogo explained, in 2007, when the typical practice employed 1.7 full-time–equivalent veterinarians, hiring an additional veterinarian increased practice revenue by $410,000. Fast forward to 2020, when the typical practice employed 2.4 FTE veterinarians. Hiring an additional veterinarian led to an additional revenue contribution of $530,000.
When considering the revenue contribution of hiring one additional credentialed veterinary technician per veterinarian in a practice, the contribution was $120,000 in 2007 and $122,000 in 2020.
“Clearly the revenue contribution of credentialed veterinary technicians has barely moved. The problem is that the number of veterinarians per practice has increased, but the number of credentialed veterinary technicians per veterinarian did not increase enough to allow for an expansion in productivity,” Dr. Ouedraogo said.
This gets at the underlying problem of chronic inefficiencies with the delivery of veterinary services. Efficiency, Dr. Ouedraogo explained, refers to how well resources are used, and should not to be confused with productivity, which measures the output per unit of input.
He cited a 2021 efficiency study of companion animal–exclusive practices. Highly inefficient practices scored 0, while highly efficient practices scored 1. Just 1% received a score of 1; 34% scored 0.3 or less; 59% had an efficiency score of 0.4 or less; and 73% received a score of 0.5 or less. Between 2017 and 2021, at least 60% of surveyed practices were found to have severe inefficiency problems.
Dr. Ouedraogo described the differences between an efficient practice and an average practice: An efficient practice has an average of 4,500 active clients a year, compared with 4,300 at an average practice. An efficient practice can process eight patients per hour, while an average practice can process five. An efficient practice can handle 4.7 patients per veterinarian per hour, an average practice 2.2. In terms of value of production and productivity, an efficient practice grosses on average $1.4 million a year; an average practice grosses $1.2 million. An efficient practice could reach $1 million per veterinarian per year and over $400,000 per employee per year, while an average practice only makes $580,000 per veterinarian and $130,000 per employee per year.
“We can see that there is a high cost associated with being inefficient,” Dr. Ouedraogo said. “If we fail to address the issue of well-being in our profession, if we do not address the problem of low efficiency and low productivity in our practices, we could see more veterinarians leaving the animal health care sector, and we could witness an increase in production and service costs. We can face challenges in making veterinary health care affordable and accessible—the most common reasons why pet owners in the U.S. do not visit veterinary clinics, according to our own pet owners survey.”
The AVMA provides a number of practice financial tools to make running a practice easier and more efficient. To learn more about the AVMA's economic resources, visit AVMA.org/VeterinaryEconomics
Fierce competition over veterinary labor
Practices compete over veterinarians inclined to work fewer hours
By R. Scott Nolen
Veterinary medicine is in the midst of a tight labor market for a highly sought-after workforce for which striking a work-life balance is of supreme importance.
This and other nuggets about the U.S. market for veterinarians were presented by Charlotte Hansen, AVMA assistant director for statistical analysis, during the AVMA Veterinary Business and Economic Forum, held virtually Oct. 14-16.
Although most male and female veterinarians currently work in companion animal practice, the AVMA Census of Veterinarians and other sources show that the field attracts slightly more women (70%) than men (61%). The continued concentration of veterinary services in a single sector is understandable, Hansen said, but ultimately it deprives the nation of needed animal care.
“Our profession struggles with getting the necessary veterinarians out to rural America,” she said, “and the increasing share going into companion animal medicine makes it difficult for these other areas to retain veterinarians. Chasing higher salaries to address debt is a reason that this is happening. It is important to diversify and specialize in other areas. However, it is difficult to compete on wages and quality of life.
“What we will most likely see is that when there isn't a role in providing veterinary services that the public needs, the government steps in, like what we see with the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program.”
Hansen said the U.S. veterinary profession has a score of 0.26 on the Simpsons Diversity Index. The index measures the number of racial and ethnic groups represented and their distribution across the profession. As Hansen explained, a score of 0 on the index equals complete lack of diversity, while a score of 1 signifies infinite diversity. For comparison, MD residents (0.61), physicians (0.53), pharmacists (0.51), and dentists (0.47) scored higher than veterinary medicine.
The U.S. population has a score of 0.60. While the veterinary profession is making strides to achieve a higher number on the diversity index, Hansen said, the profession must not overlook creating an environment that is inclusive, equitable, and safe for all.
Veterinary unemployment climbed to 1.8% in 2021, up from 0.7% in 2020, according to the AVMA census. This means that 1.8% of veterinarians are looking for employment or enrollment in an internship or residency or working outside of veterinary medicine.
This does not include those who are sitting out of the workforce. “In fact, 63% of those unemployed veterinarians said they were not seeking employment or enrollment. About 46% of unemployed who are seeking employment or enrollment are currently not working in another job. So, we have a labor force that is there, but just not working,” Hansen said.
Regarding job listings on the AVMA Veterinary Career Center and other job sites, 70% come from corporate or consolidated practices, and 30% percent from independently owned practices, according to Hansen. Relatedly, about 35% of veterinary associates are employed by corporate practices, while the remainder work for independently owned single or group practices.
Professionwide, mean income for veterinarians was approximately $120,000 in 2021. Mean incomes were highest for companion animal–predominant and–exclusive practice and in industry and commercial organizations.
Hansen also touched on the growing discontent among veterinarians, calling on leadership to step in and address the problem. For instance, 44% of veterinarians have considered leaving the veterinary profession, up from 38% last year. Moreover, 39% of veterinarians said they have considered leaving the veterinary profession within the last five years; 23% said they have considered leaving within the last year, and about a quarter are serious.
“The way we measure seriousness here is on a scale of one to a hundred, asking ‘How serious are you?’ Responses over 50, we mark as being serious, so that is 25% of the veterinarians,” Hansen said.
Approximately 26% of veterinarians in 2021 indicated they want to work fewer hours, citing such reasons as better work-life balance and mental health issues including stress, anxiety, and burnout, followed by feelings of being overworked and issues relating to child care and childbearing.
The AVMA Census of Veterinarians also shows that 40% of practice owners are planning on selling their practice within five years, the most cited reason being retirement (70%). Approximately 36% of associates expressed interest in purchasing or co-owning a practice. Reasons for low interest in practice ownership include educational debt and risks but also work-life balance and low interest in practice management.
“The consolidation of veterinary medicine is happening, good or bad,” Hansen said. “When we think of sustainability, of leaving veterinary practices to the next generation, if fewer veterinarians are interested, when owners retire and associates don't buy, the practice will go to a consolidator,” Hansen said. “If you are someone who stands by the need for independent practices, start instilling the importance of leadership and management in our associates.”
HUMAN ACTIVITY LIKELY CAUSED DEADLY INFECTIONS IN MARINE MAMMALS
By Greg Cima
Fungal infections that have killed porpoises and dolphins in the Pacific Northwest may be linked to nearby human activities such as construction and deforestation.
A research team, led by a scientist at the University of California-Davis, examined stranding reports and necropsy reports from 42 marine mammals that died of confirmed or likely infections with Cryptococcus gattii from 1997-2016 in or near the Salish Sea, which runs between British Columbia and Washington state. In a scientific article published Oct. 22 in Diseases of Aquatic Organisms, the authors also noted the timing of those deaths in comparison with hundreds of confirmed infections in humans, pets, and wild terrestrial animals from 1999 to 2013 as well as land-based air samples that were identified as positive for the pathogen beginning in the early 2000s.
The marine mammal deaths examined in the study occurred among 26 harbor porpoises, 14 Dall's porpoises, and two Pacific white-sided dolphins. A related announcement from UC-Davis indicates those deaths occurred near “terrestrial hot spots” for C gattii, which suggests they inhaled spores that originated on nearby land and settled on the water surface.
C gattii infections can cause diseases in mammals’ respiratory and central nervous systems. In humans, the symptoms can include coughing, shortness of breath, chest pain, fever, headache, confusion, changes in behavior, neck pain, nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The fungal pathogen lives in decaying material in soil or trees, spreads through airborne basidiospores or yeasts, and historically had been associated with tropical and subtropical regions, the article states. The pathogenic fungus likely spread to the soil and trees of the Pacific Northwest during the early 1990s, though the source is unknown, the UC-Davis announcement states.
The article's lead author, Sarah J. Teman, who is a research assistant at the SeaDoc Society program within the UC-Davis Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center, said in the announcement that, “As we change the environment in unprecedented ways, we could see more diseases that affect people and wildlife.”
EDUCATION DEPARTMENT OVERHAULS PUBLIC SERVICE LOAN FORGIVENESS PROGRAM
An overhaul of the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program will provide billions of dollars in immediate forgiveness of educational debt.
U.S. Department of Education officials expect immediate benefits for tens of thousands of borrowers through program changes that will, overall, help more than a half-million borrowers progress more quickly toward loan forgiveness. Department officials also plan to work with state, local, and tribal government agencies; school districts; labor unions; and other stakeholders to simplify the process to apply for forgiveness.
DOE officials said in an Oct. 6 announcement that the changes were intended to “make the program live up to its promise.”
The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program forgives the remaining balance of educational loans for borrowers, including veterinarians, who make 120 qualifying monthly payments during their work in public service or work for certain tax-exempt nonprofit organizations.
A fact sheet published with October's announcement indicates too few borrowers receive loan forgiveness through the program because of complicated rules related to which loan payments count toward that 120-payment total as well as servicing errors and other technicalities. The document notes that department officials plan to review all denied PSLF applications and PSLF processing practices to identify and address errors.
The overhaul during the next year expands which loan types and payment plans are eligible for forgiveness, and department officials plan to not only automate eligibility for some of the benefits but also give borrowers ways to correct errors and receive credit toward forgiveness during military service. As part of the overhaul, DOE officials plan to implement a limited waiver that will allow those who borrowed to pay for their education to count toward forgiveness all payments made on loans through the Federal Family Education Loan Program or Perkins Loan Program. Officials also plan to waive certain restrictions on the types of repayment plans and the requirements that payments be made for the full amount and on time.
“The Department estimates that the limited waiver alone will help over 550,000 borrowers who had previously consolidated their loans see their progress toward PSLF grow automatically, with the average borrower receiving 23 additional payments,” the DOE fact sheet states. “This includes approximately 22,000 borrowers who will be immediately eligible to have their federal student loans discharged without further action on their part, totaling $1.74 billion in forgiveness.
“Another 27,000 borrowers could potentially qualify for $2.82 billion in forgiveness if they certify additional periods of employment.”
About 16,000 borrowers have received loan forgiveness through the PSLF. The program was established in 2007, and monthly payments made after Oct. 1 of that year may be considered toward the 120-payment total.
Are you a veterinarian working in government or the nonprofit sector who has been counting on the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program? Are you a veterinary student who wants to enter a career in public service and is counting on loan forgiveness to follow your career path? The AVMA provides information about how to make the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program work for you at jav.ma/PSLF.
Zoos vaccinate animals against SARS-CoV-2
Big cats, other mammals at zoos around the world have contracted the virus
By Katie Burns
Big cats, nonhuman primates, otters, and hyenas at zoos around the world have contracted the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Although most have recovered, zoos have been vaccinating some of their animals with an experimental vaccine from Zoetis.
Vaccination at the San Diego Zoo and infections in big cats at zoos globally were the subjects of two sessions on Oct. 4 during the 2021 virtual conference of the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians and European Association of Zoo and Wildlife Veterinarians, which ran weekly from early October through early November.
VACCINATING ZOO ANIMALS
Back in July, Zoetis announced that it was donating more than 11,000 doses of an experimental vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 to help protect over 100 mammalian species living at nearly 70 zoos and more than a dozen conservatories, sanctuaries, academic institutions, and government organizations located in 27 states.
The initial development work and studies for the vaccine were completed on dogs and cats. In these preliminary studies, the vaccine was demonstrated to be safe and to have a reasonable expectation of efficacy, according to Zoetis.
Development work on the same vaccine then shifted to mink as the incidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection in that species increased. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and state veterinarians authorized the vaccine for experimental use on a case-by-case basis. The vaccine has been used on some mink farms to generate data on safety and efficacy necessary for conditional approval by the USDA.
The July donation of vaccine to zoos followed Zoetis’ donation of vaccine in January in response to a request from the San Diego Zoo after gorillas at the Safari Park tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 virus. During the zoo veterinarians’ conference, Dr. Ben Nevitt of the San Diego Zoo spoke about how the zoo has vaccinated animals.
With the early supply of vaccine, Dr. Nevitt said, the zoo vaccinated four orangutans, eight bonobos, and five gorillas. Minimal adverse effects were observed, with one orangutan holding her head and then the vaccine site and her daughter holding the vaccine site.
For the later supply of vaccine, the zoo performed a risk assessment of the mammal population, focusing on species at a higher risk because of their cellular virus receptors and their proximity to the public and the staff. The main zoo received 36 bottles of vaccine, and the Safari Park received 18. The bottles were 10-dose vials with a 24-hour shelf life after being punctured. Zoo staff members were able to get 11 doses if they were careful.
The animals were combined in groups of 10 or 11. The highest vaccine total was 54 animals in one day. Zoo personnel had to repeat everything 21 days later for the second dose. In total, the zoo vaccinated 171 animals—great apes, Old World primates, lemurs, felids, some canids, and certain other mammals. Minimal adverse effects were observed overall. Preliminary titer data suggested a higher antibody response in felids and canids than in primates, and the zoo might consider boosters for the great apes.
On Oct. 27, the San Diego Zoo released a statement saying that three tigers vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2 had tested positive for the virus. The tigers were not showing any concerning signs of illness other than intermittent cough, fatigue, and occasionally decreased appetite.
INFECTIONS IN BIG CATS
The first case of SARS-CoV-2 virus detected in any animal in North America was in a tiger in March 2020 at the Bronx Zoo in New York City. Four other tigers and three lions at the zoo also tested positive for the virus.
During the conference, Dr. Susan L. Bartlett of the Bronx Zoo presented “Global Retrospective Review of SARS-CoV-2 Infections in Non-Domestic Felids.” She said transmission events have continued to occur from humans to exotic cats.
From March 2020 to February 2021, there were confirmed cases in the Bronx, South Africa, Tennessee, Spain, Kentucky, Minnesota, Sweden, Indiana, and the Czech Republic, comprising 16 tigers, 14 lions, two cougars, three snow leopards, and one Amur leopard. Minnesota had an additional 12 tigers, four lions, and eight cougars with clinical signs suspected to be caused by SARS-CoV-2.
About half of the animals received treatment, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or antimicrobials, and most of the animals made a full recovery. Clinical signs lasted from one to 18 days, with a mean of eight days. The clinical signs were generally respiratory and less commonly gastrointestinal, with some lethargy and inappetance. An older tiger in Sweden, age 17, had to be euthanized.
Shortly after Dr. Bartlett's presentation, the Great Plains Zoo in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, announced that a 2-year-old snow leopard infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus died on Oct. 7 after experiencing a rapid decline of respiratory function. At press time, a necropsy was being performed to investigate the cause of death.
For the cases from March 2020 to February 2021, Dr. Bartlett said.SARS-CoV-2 infection was confirmed by a variety of diagnostic tests. Viral shedding in feces lasted longer than clinical signs. The source of infection for most cases was confirmed or presumed to be the zookeepers. For other cases, the source of infection was unknown, and there also was possible viral transmission between felids.
Before infection, prevention measures by zoo personnel generally consisted of cloth masks; gloves, especially for food preparation; and some social distancing. Afterward, protective measures consisted of Tyvek coveralls, mostly N95 or FFP3 masks, gloves, often face shields or goggles, shoe covers or dedicated boots, foot baths, and limited personnel.
Advising clients on pets’ winter weight gain
Pet food industry veterinarian sees opportunities to talk with clients
Interview by Greg Cima
Pets, like people, can pack on winter weight as their eating and exercise habits change.
Dr. Leslie Hancock-Monroe, a veterinarian who is vice chair of the Pet Food Institute's Nutrition Subcommittee, thinks veterinarians can help clients manage their pets’ diets and set fitness goals.
The PFI, which is an organization of pet food manufacturers, is developing reference materials that could help veterinarians communicate with clients about nutrition and develop nutrition plans for their pets, said Dr. Hancock-Monroe, who is also senior research fellow with the J.M. Smucker Co. And she noted that veterinarians can already find useful dietary information through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which provides a nutrient database.
Dr. Hancock-Monroe talked with JAVMA News about winter weight gain and what veterinarians can do. The following has been edited for length and clarity.
Q. WHY DO YOU THINK WINTER AND THE HOLIDAYS ARE PARTICULARLY CONCERNING TIMES WHEN IT COMES TO FEEDING PETS?
A. We understand that winter months, especially during the holidays, have a measurable impact on people's body weights. Research in dogs has largely focused on the working dog or outdoor dog, but, if you look at feeding patterns, activity, and weight gain, it's not too difficult to draw a connecting line for pets.
Another area that I think we should be cognizant of is, as we go through Thanksgiving and then the winter holidays, there does tend to be an increase in visits to emergency veterinary clinics, whether that's related to dietary indiscretion, garbage gut, or other coincidental health impacts. In the past year and a half, we’ve seen higher burden and reduced efficiency in animal hospitals and media reports of animal clinics being understaffed, overcommitted, and shifting patients between hospitals.
Emergency visits because of dietary indiscretion are preventable. If we can start communicating with our pet owners now, then we can take that burden off the veterinary business and have them focus on the truly acute, critical care patients that have otherwise unpreventable types of diseases.
Q. WHAT CAN VETERINARIANS DO ABOUT WINTER WEIGHT GAIN IN PETS?
A. I think the holidays are a great time to start thinking about mitigating obesity. I become hyperfocused on what I’m eating and what I’m feeding my pets, and it's actually my time of year to trim down.
That's just my personal look at it, but it's an awesome opportunity to talk to pet parents. “Hey, are you measuring how much you’re feeding your dog every day? Are you using a measuring cup? Is your dog a stable weight?”
There are a few different body condition score charts available; they all basically say the same thing. You want that nice hourglass figure. You want to be able to feel the last three ribs. You don't want to see belly fat. Those body condition score charts can help clients understand where their animal is now.
What I like to do is understand what calories an animal needs to maintain their body weight and take 10% away to create a treat allowance. Our friends at the behavior societies and veterinary behavior college have done a great job providing us the research to say that with food-motivated animals, the best way to modify their behavior is through high-value, high-reward treating. And it doesn't do any good if we don't already understand how many calories a day can be allocated to treats without negatively impacting their waistline, which has a multitude of other metabolic consequences.
So, it's all about planning, communication, and developing a strategy of what are the right amount of calories, what's the right food, and carving out an appropriate treat allowance—and then talking about what are good treats for your animal.
Q. WHAT MESSAGES DO YOU THINK WOULD BE EFFECTIVE?
A. I think there are some ways that we could reach out to clients. Do you send out a mailer? Do you have an email list? Do you have a social media account? And what are some quick tips that you could give them to start preparing for the holidays? Do you provide in-clinic consultations? Do you have a veterinary technician handling nutrition appointments?
Do you have telemedicine—that's a great opportunity to reach more clients—or even have a webinar where you can reach out to clients who would be interested in talking about this?
Whatever tools that we can bring to the table either through industry or through the veterinary medical associations—whether it's pamphlets, web pages that you can reference, or social media pages—we have to reach the clients where they are.
The AVMA offers nutrition resources at jav.ma/AVMAfoods. The Agricultural Research Service at the U.S. Department of Agriculture also provides nutritional information through FoodData Central at fdc.nal.usda.gov.
AVMA JOURNALS WEBSITE REVAMPED
Online readers of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association and American Journal of Veterinary Research will see a new look for the journals’ website, avmajournals.avma.org, which has added features to make the site more practical, easier to access, and simpler to use.
The new website has the following improvements:
A single sign-in link that simultaneously provides access to journal content and avma.org.
Navigation that is more user-friendly.
A great mobile experience.
Enhanced search that lets readers find and filter content by topic or author.
“We are committed to providing readers with peer-reviewed, scientific journal articles and news in an easy-to-access online format,” said Dr. Lisa Fortier, editor-in-chief of JAVMA and AJVR. “This transformation will position both journals to provide the groundbreaking, high-quality content that AVMA members and journal subscribers have come to expect from the nation's leading association for veterinary medicine.”
The website redesign is just one of the many ways that the AVMA journals are evolving to support veterinary medicine's ongoing needs and deliver even more diverse content that is accessible and relevant. Inspired by ideas from readers, JAVMA and AJVR will implement wide-ranging changes throughout 2022, including changes in scheduling to get leading research into readers’ hands faster; real-time, digital-first reporting of news for the profession; and articles and special reports focused on clinical applications.
PROJECT AIMS TO IDENTIFY VIRUSES WITH PANDEMIC POTENTIAL
The U.S. Agency for International Development is working with Washington State University on a global, multimillion-dollar project to identify unknown zoonotic viruses with pandemic potential.
Discovery & Exploration of Emerging Pathogens—Viral Zoonoses is a five-year, approximately $125 million project aimed at strengthening global capacity to detect and understand the risks of viral spillover from wildlife to humans that could cause another pandemic, the USAID announced Oct. 5.
The WSU College of Veterinary Medicine's Paul G. Allen School for Global Health will oversee the USAID project, which entails partnering with up to a dozen countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America to conduct large-scale animal surveillance within their borders using their own laboratory facilities.
“To make sure the world is better prepared for these infectious disease events, which are likely to happen more frequently as wild areas become increasingly fragmented, we need to be ready,” said Dr. Felix Lankester, lead principal investigator for DEEP VZN and associate professor with the Allen School, in a statement. “We will work to not only detect viruses but also build capacity in other countries, so the United States can collaborate with them in carrying out this important work.”
The DEEP VZN project will focus on finding previously unknown pathogens within three viral families with high pandemic potential: coronaviruses, filoviruses, and paramyxoviruses. The goal is to collect over 800,000 samples during the five years of the project—most of which will come from wildlife—then determine whether viruses from the target families are present in the samples.
The expectation is that between 8,000 to 12,000 novel viruses will be discovered this way. Researchers will then screen and sequence the genomes of the viruses that pose the most risk to animal and human health.
To meet these goals, WSU will work with a consortium of partners, including virologists with the University of Washington and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, as well as public health nonprofits PATH and FHI 360.
WSU will also draw on the strengths of its veterinary college and on-the-ground expertise from the Allen School for Global Health, which has done extensive work on infectious disease transmission globally.
“Our approach is to collaborate with in-country partners, working side-by-side with their scientists and institutions,” said Tom Kawula, PhD, director of WSU's Allen School, in a statement. “Our consortium partners help extend our reach and have the same philosophy of working with the people as well as existing structures and expertise in each country.”
Since 2009, USAID's Global Health Security Program has supported work to safely discover and understand new viruses from animals at high-risk locations. The vast majority, more than 70%, of outbreaks in people originate from animals. USAID created the Predict program, which lasted until 2020 and identified 1,100 unique viruses, provided aid to 60 disease-detection laboratories, and trained 6,200 people in 30 countries. That project, led by the University of California-Davis One Health Institute, was part of the USAID Emerging Pandemic Threats program.
USAID will share information it gathers from DEEP VZN with host-country and global partners to develop and implement interventions in communities to reduce the risks of virus spillover and therefore potential outbreaks.
“Data and information gathered by DEEP VZN will also play a critical role in developing diagnostics, medicines, and vaccines for new viruses,” the agency said in a statement. “Developing these tools now is essential for being better prepared for the future when new viruses spillover and stopping them from causing outbreaks that could become pandemics.”
TWO VETERINARIANS ELECTED TO NATIONAL ACADEMY OF MEDICINE
Two veterinarians—Drs. Christine Kreuder Johnson and Wondwossen Abebe Gebreyes—are among the 100 new members recently elected to the National Academy of Medicine.
Dr. Johnson (Pennsylvania ’94) is a professor of epidemiology and ecosystem health and director of the EpiCenter for Disease Dynamics at the One Health Institute at the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. She was elected to the National Academy of Medicine for work as a pioneering investigator in global health, data science and technology, and interdisciplinary disease investigations. Dr. Johnson also was recognized for identifying and predicting impacts of environmental change on animal and human health and for creating novel worldwide outbreak preparedness strategies and paradigm-shifting synergies for environmental stewardship to protect people, animals, and ecosystems.
Dr. Wondwossen Abebe Gebreyes, a 1990 veterinary graduate of Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia, is a professor in the Department of Veterinary Preventive Medicine at The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine and executive director of the university's Global One Health Initiative. He was elected to the National Academy of Medicine for leadership in molecular epidemiology and global health and for fundamental insight into how animal agricultural and environmental systems influence public health, community development, and livelihoods worldwide.
NEW LISTINGS IN AVMA ANIMAL HEALTH STUDIES DATABASE
Below are some of the new listings of veterinary clinical studies in the AVMA Animal Health Studies Database. Information about participating in the studies is available at avma.org/findvetstudies.
AAHSD005348: “Identifying potential genetic variants and oral microbiome characteristics associated with feline chronic kidney disease,” Basepaws, Torrance, California, recruiting nationwide.
AAHSD005349: “Rapamycin treatment in preclinical canine dilated cardiomyopathy (the REPAIR study),” Texas A&M University.
AAHSD005350: “Atopic dermatitis clinical study,” VCA Aurora Animal Hospital, Aurora, Illinois, and VCA Advanced Veterinary Care Center, Lawndale, California.
AAHSD005351: “Modulating the tumor microenvironment in metastatic osteosarcoma: Palladia/losartan/ladarixin combination therapy,” Colorado State University.
AAHSD005354: “The effect of extracorporeal shockwave therapy on lower back pain in dogs—a pilot study,” The Ohio State University.
AAHSD005355” “Enhanced imaging for surgical margins of skin and gastrointestinal tumors in dogs,” The Ohio State University.
AAHSD005362: “Modulating the tumor microenvironment in osteosarcoma: adjuvant immunotherapy combination with losartan/toceranib/ladarixin,” Colorado State University and Tufts University.
AAHSD005367: “Personalized, bioreplaceable endoprosthesis to perform limb sparing in dogs,” Colorado State University.
AAHSD005372: “Safety and efficacy testing of a novel and targeted delivery system for chemotherapeutics in transitional cell carcinoma in dogs,” Iowa State University.
AAHSD005376: “AIM: ablative immune modification with nanopulse stimulation prior to treatment with doxorubicin in dogs with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma,” Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine.
AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF BOVINE PRACTITIONERS
54th annual conference, Oct. 7-9, Salt Lake City
The conference drew 747 attendees in person and 341 virtual attendees. Dr. Carrie Jurney, president of Not One More Vet, presented the keynote address on the issues of depression and suicide in the veterinary profession. Continuing education included sessions on beef cattle, dairy cattle, clinical skills, and practice management; student sessions; and sessions from the American Association of Small Ruminant Practitioners. Also on offer was a trade show available to both in-person and virtual attendees. Student members who received $247,000 total in scholarships this year from the AABP were recognized at the conference.
Boehringer Ingelheim Bovine Practitioner of the Year
Dr. Kelly Barratt (Ontario ’05), Listowel, Ontario. Dr. Barratt is a co-owner of Heartland Animal Hospital and Veterinary Services in Listowel. She also serves as a consultant on quality assurance for the Dairy Farmers of Ontario. Dr. Barratt is a past president of the Ontario Association of Bovine Practitioners and has served on the board of directors of the Canadian Association of Bovine Veterinarians.
James A. Jarrett Award for Young Leaders
Dr. Elizabeth Homerosky (Ohio State ’12), Crossfield, Alberta. Dr. Homerosky is a partner at Veterinary Agri-Health Services in Crossfield. Earlier in her career, she was in beef cattle practice in western Iowa. A diplomate of the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners, Dr. Homerosky has a special interest in cow-calf and feedlot production medicine, consulting, and applied research.
Boehringer Ingelheim Excellence in Preventive Medicine Award—Beef
Dr. Christine Navarre (Louisiana State ‘90), Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Dr. Navarre is a professor at Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine, where she also serves as extension veterinarian. Earlier, she was a member of the veterinary faculty at Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Navarre is a past president of the AABP and has served on the association's Beef Health Management Committee.
Boehringer Ingelheim Excellence in Preventive Medicine Award—Dairy
Dr. James Bennett (Minnesota ’81), Plainview, Minnesota. Dr. Bennett is a partner at Northern Valley Livestock Services and serves as a consultant with Northern Valley Dairy Production Medicine Center in Plainview. He has also served as a consultant with Merck Animal Health in China and for Dairyworks, providing management information through seminars and farm visits.
Zoetis Distinguished Service Award
Dr. Dale Moore (California-Davis ’83), Moscow, Idaho. Dr. Moore is a professor emeritus at Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine. During her tenure, she also served as director of veterinary extension and continuing veterinary education. Dr. Moore is a member of the Field Disease Investigation Unit in the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences at the veterinary college. A diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Preventive Medicine, she is active with the Academy of Dairy Veterinary Consultants and is a member of the AABP Lameness Committee.
Merck Animal Health Mentor of the Year Award
Dr. W. Mark Hilton (Purdue ’83), West Lafayette, Indiana. Dr. Hilton is a senior beef technical consultant with Elanco Animal Health in West Lafayette. Earlier in his career, he was a partner at DeWitt Veterinary Clinic in DeWitt, Iowa, and served as a clinical professor of beef production medicine at Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Hilton is a diplomate of the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners and a past president of the WVC Annual Conference.
AABP Award of Excellence
Dr. Nigel Cook, Waunakee, Wisconsin. A 1992 veterinary graduate of the University of Bristol in England, Dr. Cook is a professor and chair of the Department of Medical Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine. He is a past president of the AABP and a current member of the AABP Lameness Committee. Dr. Cook is known for his expertise in lameness prevention, management of heat stress, cow comfort, assessment of transition cows, maintenance of milk quality, and general cow well-being.
Dr. Dee Griffin (Oklahoma ’75), Lincoln, Nebraska. Prior to retirement, Dr. Griffin held a joint appointment between Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, where he served as a clinical professor, and the Paul Engler College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences at West Texas A&M University in Canyon, where he served as director of the Texas Veterinary Medical Center. He is a past director of the Veterinary Education, Research, & Outreach program at the Texas A&M veterinary college and is a past president of the Academy of Veterinary Consultants.
Honorary Life Membership
Dickson Lewis, Orono, Minnesota, a businessman, received honorary life membership for his longtime contributions to the AABP through serving as a consultant to the Veterinary Practice Sustainability Committee and helping apply for grants and being an instructor for workshops on practice management funded by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Drs. Pat Gorden, Ames, Iowa, president; Sandra Godden, St. Paul, Minnesota, president-elect; Michael Capel, Geneseo, New York, vice president; Brian Reed, Lititz, Pennsylvania, treasurer; Richard Wallace, McFarland, Wisconsin, parliamentarian; and Carie Telgen, Greenwich, New York, immediate past president
The Alabama VMA installed the following new officials in July: Drs. Steven T. Murphree, Cullman, president; Frances P. Kendrick, Selma, president-elect; Bradley Harris, Dothan, vice president; Susan Parsons, McCalla, treasurer; Randall B. Davis, Tuscumbia, immediate past president; and member at large—Dr. Babette D. Authement, Fairhope.
The Massachusetts VMA held a celebration, postponed a year because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, on Oct. 3 in Rutland to honor the recipient of its 2020 Distinguished Service Award. Dr. Cindy Fuhs (Tufts ’03), Bolton, won this award, given in recognition of her contributions and accomplishments. A past president of the Massachusetts VMA, Dr. Fuhs owned an equine and farm animal ambulatory practice in central Massachusetts until 2019, retiring in 2020. She has served as a mentor to veterinarians and participated in COVID-19 emergency response with several local medical reserve corps.
AMERICAN ANIMAL HOSPITAL ASSOCIATION
Connexity 2021, Sept. 22-25, Scottsdale, Arizona
The meeting offered topical sessions, including “What Should I Feed My Dog?,” “Putting the 2021 AAHA Nutrition and Weight Management Guidelines to Work,” and “Where Did All Our Veterinary Staff Go? Ways of Building Your Team.” Also on offer was the interactive workshop “Anesthesia Simulation.”
AAHA-Accredited Practice of the Year
ZimmVet in Zimmerman, Minnesota, won this award, which recognizes the outstanding achievements of teams at AAHA-accredited veterinary practices and celebrates ongoing advancements in veterinary medicine. ZimmVet is dedicated to providing quality care for patients while working to build a strong culture of excellence within the team.
Dr. Adam Hechko, North Royalton, Ohio, president; Dr. Margot K. Vahrenwald, Denver, president-elect; Dr. Mark Thompson, Eden, Wisconsin, vice president; Dr. Dermot Jevens, Greenville, South Carolina, secretary-treasurer; Dr. Pamela Nichols, West Bountiful, Utah, immediate past president; Garth Jordan, Lakewood, Colorado, chief executive officer; and directors—practice manager Cheryl Smith, Galway, New York; Dr. Scott Driever, Sugar Land, Texas; and Dr. Will Draper, Atlanta.
AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF ZOO VETERINARIANS
Virtual annual meeting, Oct. 4
AAZV Lifetime Achievement Award
Dr. Tom Meehan (Missouri ’77), Chicago. Dr. Meehan is vice president of veterinary services for the Chicago Zoological Society and the society's Brookfield Zoo in Brookfield, Illinois, outside Chicago. He also serves on the veterinary advisory team for the Gorilla Species Survival Plan. Dr. Meehan is a past president of the AAZV.
Emil Dolensek Award
Dr. Paul Calle (Pennsylvania ’83), New York City. Dr. Calle serves as vice president of health programs for the Wildlife Conservation Society and chief veterinarian and director of zoological health for the society's four zoos and aquariums. He is a diplomate of the American College of Zoological Medicine and European College of Zoological Medicine.
Drs. Jessica Siegal-Willott, Washington, D.C., president; Michelle Davis, Atlanta, president-elect; Allison Tuttle, Mystic, Connecticut, vice president; Sharon Deem, St. Louis, secretary; Lauren Howard, Escondido, California, treasurer; and Leigh Clayton, Boston, immediate past president
Obituaries: AVMA MEMBER | AVMA HONOR ROLL MEMBER | NONMEMBER
Dr. Babineau (Purdue ’97), 51, Newport, Vermont, died Sept. 9, 2021. A small animal veterinarian, she owned Newport Animal Hospital for more than 20 years. In 2020, Dr. Babineau received the Newport Daily Express’ Best of the Best Award, honoring her as the best veterinarian in the area. She is survived by her mother, three brothers, and a sister.
ROGER S. BOUGHTON
Dr. Boughton (Texas A&M ’65), 81, New Iberia, Louisiana, died July 15, 2021. Following graduation, he served four years in the Army during the Vietnam War. Dr. Boughton then became a partner in a mixed animal practice in New Iberia, where he worked until retirement. His wife, Judy; a son, a daughter, and a stepdaughter; three grandchildren and a stepgrandchild; four great-grandchildren; and a sister survive him. Memorials may be made to the Houston Methodist Hospital Foundation, P.O. Box 4384, Houston, TX 77210; Highland Baptist Church, 607 Victory Drive, New Iberia, LA 70563; or Bethlehem Baptist Church, 1838 Highway 132, Mangham, LA 71259.
ROBERT M. CARR
Dr. Carr (Cornell ’63), 83, Canandaigua, New York, died Aug. 8, 2021. Following graduation, he moved to upstate New York and established an equine practice at Finger Lakes Gaming and Racetrack. Dr. Carr was a past president of the New York Veterinary Medical Society and served on the board of directors of the American Association of Equine Practitioners for several years. He also served on the board of directors of the Finger Lakes Thoroughbred Adoption Program. Dr. Carr is survived by his wife, Marilyn; two sons and two daughters; 14 grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; and a brother. Memorials may be made to St. Mary's School, 16 Gibson St., Canandaigua, NY 14424, or Finger Lakes Thoroughbred Adoption Program, 5757 Route 96, Farmington, NY 14425.
PAUL J. CORWIN
Dr. Corwin (Cornell ’57), 89, East Atlantic Beach, New York, died May 11, 2021. Following graduation, he joined his father, Dr. Louis A. Corwin in practice at Corwin Animal Hospital in Richmond Hill, New York. Dr. Corwin also served as supervising veterinarian for the New York State Gaming Commission. He was an Air Force veteran, attaining the rank of first lieutenant. Dr. Corwin is survived by five children, four grandchildren, and a brother. Memorials may be made to Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, 602 Tower Road, Ithaca, NY 14853.
Lyle J. Hanson
Dr. Hanson (Minnesota ’52), 95, Golden, Colorado, died July 31, 2021. He began his career at Cottonwood Veterinary Clinic, a mixed animal practice in Windom, Minnesota. In the early 1960s, Dr. Hanson also began to farm, eventually establishing a cattle feedlot. In 1973, he moved to New Jersey, working as a scientist for F. Hoffman-La Roche. During that time, Dr. Hanson managed the Roche research farm for large animal health in Colts Neck while also overseeing the building of an advanced research farm in Wrightstown. He later served as an advisory staff scientist for Roche in Nutley, New Jersey, retiring in 1987.
In retirement, Dr. Hanson became a certified parapaleontologist and volunteered as a dinosaur excavator for the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. He was a veteran of the Naval Air Corps. Dr. Hanson is survived by three daughters, two sons, 11 grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren.
JEANINE S. KOESTER
Dr. Koester (Colorado State ’96), 66, Henderson, Nevada, died April 26, 2021. During her career, she practiced small animal medicine in Nevada, also serving as a relief veterinarian. Dr. Koester is survived by her husband, Dick Rush.
RICHARD C. LUCAS
Dr. Lucas (Tuskegee ’69), 92, Flagstaff, Arizona, died Aug. 3, 2021. Following graduation, he joined Safford Animal Hospital, a mixed animal practice in Safford, Arizona. Dr. Lucas took ownership of the practice in 1987. He also farmed and served as a racetrack veterinarian in southeastern Arizona.
Dr. Lucas was a member of the Arizona VMA. He was also a charter member and a past president of the Gila Valley Rotary Club. He was a veteran of the Army. His two sons, a daughter, two grandchildren, and a great-grandchild survive him. Memorials may be made to the Gila Valley Rotary Club, P.O. Box 1484, Thatcher, AZ 85552.
HERBERT C. MUELLER
Dr. Mueller (Cornell ’51), 93, Walden, New York, died March 26, 2021. He owned Orange County Veterinary Hospital, a mixed animal practice in Goshen, New York, for several years. Dr. Mueller also served as veterinarian for the Goshen Historic Track and Monticello Raceway. He was a past president of the Hudson Valley Veterinary Medical Society and a member of the Masonic Lodge. Dr. Mueller served in the Army from 1946-47. His wife, Eileen; a son and a daughter; and two grandchildren survive him. Memorials may be made to the Hospice of Orange and Sullivan Counties, 800 Stony Brook Court, Newburgh, NY 12550, or the Wounded Warrior Project, P.O. Box 758516, Topeka, KS 66675, woundedwarriorproject.org.
MARTIN H. PLONE
Dr. Plone (Washington State ’67), 81, Livermore, California, died July 8, 2021. Following graduation, he served two years in the Air Force in Japan. Dr. Plone subsequently worked in California at Berkeley and Livermore. In the early 1970s, he established his own practice in Livermore. In 1979, Dr. Plone founded Del Valle Pet Hospital in Livermore, where he practiced small animal medicine until retirement in 2000.
Active in his community, he was a member and a past president of the Rotary Club of Livermore and was instrumental in establishing the Rotarian Foundation of Livermore. Working with the Del Valle Dog Club, Dr. Plone helped found the first dog park in Livermore. In retirement, he developed an interest in legal matters and began promoting criminal restitution laws, also working with the state's attorney general's office to develop and review bills about victim rights.
Dr. Plone is survived by his sister. Memorials may be made to the Rotarian Foundation of Livermore, P.O. Box 2181, Livermore, CA 94551.
JAMES W. POOL
Dr. Pool (Colorado State ’59), 91, Milton, Florida, died June 23, 2021. A small animal veterinarian, he worked in Miami for 10 years following graduation. In 1970, Dr. Pool established Beach Boulevard Animal Hospital in Hollywood, Florida, where he practiced until retirement in 2000. He is survived by a son and seven grandchildren.
CHARLES R. ROSSI
Dr. Rossi (Illinois ’56), 91, Auburn, Alabama, died June 20, 2021. He served as a professor of immunology and virology at Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine for 23 years, retiring as a professor emeritus. In 1985, Dr. Rossi was honored with the Beecham Award for Research Excellence. His four daughters, a son, and eight grandchildren survive him.
JEANNE M. SCAROLA
Dr. Scarola (Tufts ’95), 51, Hatfield, Pennsylvania, died June 25, 2021. She practiced small animal medicine at Colmar Veterinary Hospital in Colmar, Pennsylvania. Following graduation, Dr. Scarola served as an emergency clinician at Veterinary Specialty Center of Delaware in New Castle, Delaware. She subsequently worked as an associate veterinarian at Kona Veterinary Service in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. Dr. Scarola later served as medical director at ABE Animal Hospital in Allentown, Pennsylvania. She is survived by her husband, Matthew; two daughters; and a sister and a brother. Memorials may be made to the ALS Association, Greater Philadelphia Chapter, 321 Norristown Road, Suite 260, Ambler, PA 19002, or Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy, c/o CURE Epilepsy, P.O. Box 10572, Chicago, IL 60610, cureepilepsy.org.
LARRY L. SINN
Dr. Sinn (Colorado State ’64), 85, Springfield, Missouri, died Aug. 15, 2021. Following graduation, he practiced in Valentine, Nebraska, and Casper, Wyoming, for several years. Dr. Sinn subsequently taught veterinary technology in Curtis, Nebraska, and Waseca, Minnesota. He later joined Grand Labs/Novartis and worked in veterinary pharmaceutical sales until retirement. Dr. Sinn was a veteran of the Army National Guard. His wife, Margaret; two sons and a daughter; three grandchildren; and a brother survive him.
GARY L. SMITH
Dr. Smith (Colorado State ’93), 61, Goodland, Kansas, died Aug. 9, 2021. A mixed animal veterinarian, he owned what is now known as The Animal House in Goodland, Kansas, for more than 20 years. Dr. Smith's four sons, three grandchildren, mother, and three brothers survive him. Memorials, toward a scholarship for veterinary students, may be made to the Dr. Gary Smith Memorial, Western State Bank, Attn: Steve West, 815 Center, Goodland, KS 67735, or to the Valley Memorial Funeral Chapel, P.O. Box 950, Lamar, CO 81052.
LORETTA A. WALKER
Dr. Walker (Oklahoma State ’91), 56, Columbia, Maryland, died Aug. 11, 2021. She was a veterinary medical officer with the Food and Drug Administration's Center for Veterinary Medicine for more than 20 years. During that time, Dr. Walker was active with the FDA Advisory Committee for Employees with Disabilities for several years. Earlier, she served in the Naval Corps via the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Walker is survived by her mother and a sister. Memorials, with the memo line of the check notated to the Loretta Antoinette Walker DVM Memorial Fund, may be made to the OSU Foundation, Attn: Ashley Hesser, 400 S. Monroe, Stillwater, OK 74074.