1. Why do you want to be on the AVMA Board of Directors?
I have been involved with organized veterinary medicine at the local, state or national level for most of the 40 plus years since I graduated from Iowa State. I have found that it is something that I really enjoy and find very rewarding. Being a volunteer leader has been a way that I feel like I have been able to help a profession that has been very good to me. It has also been a great learning experience. It has given me the opportunity to learn about the issues faced by veterinarians in other types of practice, to be involved in the legislative and regulatory processes, and to see first-hand what does and doesn’t work when trying to have a successful organization. Having the opportunity to serve on the Board of Directors of the AVMA would allow me to continue to use the experience and skills I have acquired to help tackle the wide range of issues the AVMA faces, while continuing to be involved in something I love doing. Serving on the Board of the AVMA is a major time commitment, and at this point in my career I am going to have the time available to fully commit to serving the members of District 7.
2. What do you see as important topics for the AVMA Board of Directors to address in the next few years?
I think the overarching issue for AVMA will be how to continue to stay relevant to the current and future members and provide real value for the dues dollars we all pay. This will involve continuing to provide services that the members need, better than anyone else can.
I think the board will need to continue to do everything possible to work on the student debt issue. This is a major threat to the profession. The issue of non-veterinarians wanting to perform services that are part of the practice of veterinary medicine seems to be becoming more and more widespread. I think AVMA is the best organization to support animal agriculture, and especially the critical role veterinarians play in animal health and food safety. The increase in the number of corporate owned veterinary clinics is going to have major impacts on both the practice of veterinary medicine, and veterinary associations.
3. What do you think the AVMA can do to help reduce the burden of student debt for veterinary students?
There are two components to the student debt issue – the amount of debt and the amount of income available to pay back the debt. AVMA is limited on how much effect they can have on the amount of debt, other than allowing some flexibility in education requirements and encouraging ongoing student financial education. The colleges and state governments are going to have the most control of that side of the issue and AVMA should continue to do what it can to push those entities in the right direction. Primarily, the AVMA’s best opportunity to help directly is on the income side, by supporting efforts to increase salaries for all veterinarians and improving the economics of veterinary practice.
4. What do you think can be done to encourage more veterinarians in rural Iowa? Especially, how can we help young veterinarians purchase clinics from retiring veterinarians in these areas? The disturbing question of what can the “baby boomer” vets in small towns and rural practices, do about selling their unwanted practices?
I think the Veterinary Loan Repayment Program is a great thing, and it has helped to motivate a few recent graduates to stay in rural Iowa, but it is limited in how much of an impact it can have. I think the biggest issue is the demographics of the people applying to vet school. Very few people from St. Louis, or the Twin Cities, or even Des Moines, think they would want to live in a smaller community in rural Iowa. I would guess at least 75% of the people in my class at ISU grew up on a farm or in a small town, and I think that was the life most of them were picturing after they graduated. The only long-term solution I see to this issue is to have initiatives put in place, and existing ones expanded, to really encourage “farm kids” to become veterinarians. It may take changing admission procedures and curricula to make it happen.
4. How can the One Health initiative help both human and animal health? How would you promote One Health?
Although the “One Health” initiative is relatively new, I think we all have recognized the concept for a long time, it just didn’t have a name. Encouraging the “One Health” concept is a benefit to both veterinary medicine and human medicine. It should allow greater resources to go veterinary research and allow greater participation by veterinarians in decision making related to both human and animal health issues. It would provide human medicine with a broader knowledge base and perspective.
I think the AVMA needs to continue to support the One Health initiative both financially and by ensuring veterinary participation in national and international health related entities, like the World Health Organization.