AVMA chooses Donlin as executive VP

Called “a skilled strategist” and member-focused, Janet Donlin will succeed Ron DeHaven

The head of the AVMA Professional Liability Insurance Trust (AVMA PLIT) has been hired as the day-to-day leader of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Janet Donlin, DVM, CAE, will replace Ron DeHaven, DVM, MBA, as executive vice president and CEO of the 88,000-member organization Sept. 12. Dr. DeHaven is retiring after nine years in the post.

The decision, announced today, came days after the AVMA House of Delegates amended a bylaw so the position of executive vice president or assistant executive vice president may be filled someday by a non-veterinarian. The change was proposed by the North Carolina Veterinary Medical Association with the intent of opening the door to the most qualified candidates available.

Tom Meyer, DVM, who was installed as AVMA president during the convention in San Antonio, called Dr. Donlin “one of the true champions of veterinary medicine and all it stands for.”

“She has an outstanding record of success in both the veterinary association arena and in the animal health industry,” Dr. Meyer said. “She is a skilled strategist with a proven background of diverse AVMA experience and a known reputation for working with leaders from all segments of the veterinary profession, key stakeholders and staff members to drive innovation, growth and success.”

Donlin has experience on AVMA’s executive level. She started with the organization in 1991 as assistant director of the Scientific Activities Division and later served as assistant executive vice president as well as interim division director and associate executive vice president.

She also was interim CEO of the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues and for nearly six years was employed as a chief veterinary officer at Hill’s Pet Nutrition.

As CEO of AVMA PLIT for just over three years, Donlin managed the business operations of a trust that sells insurance products to veterinarians, students and practices.

“My time at the AVMA and my experiences across the profession have reinforced for me time and again that our membership is very diverse, our needs are constantly evolving and our profession continues to face new challenges and opportunities,” Donlin said.

“I’m passionate about member service, and I am honored and humbled to be entrusted with what I consider to be one of the most important positions in veterinary medicine.”

DeHaven echoed Donlin’s views about serving member veterinarians.

“She is exactly the right person to continue what we are doing to meet member needs and to take us to the next level,” he said.

Donlin, a graduate of the University of Minnesota, is the first veterinarian to earn the Certified Association Executive (CAE) credential from the American Society of Association Executives, according to AVMA.

The next person hired as AVMA’s executive vice president—likely years from now—may not necessarily be a veterinarian. The House of Delegates heard about 30 minutes of comment before narrowly approving the bylaw amendment.

The measure, which required a two-thirds vote for passage, received 71 percent support.

Gatz Riddell, DVM, an alternate delegate representing the American Association of Bovine Practitioners, argued against the change.

“Over the last 11 years,” he said, “I have interacted with many of the same stakeholders that Dr. DeHaven has—from FDA to USDA to FSIS—and I really believe, on those occasions, not having a veterinarian there to be the face and the first point of contact for those stakeholders would be detrimental.”

California delegate Dick Sullivan, DVM, said the amendment gave the AVMA board of directors “the most flexibility in choosing the best executive vice president.”

“State [associations] that have executive directors that are not veterinarians have experienced very excellent results,” he said. “They see the profession from a different perspective than some of us do. When they have a need to have a veterinarian there, they reach out to the members, especially the president.”

The North Carolina VMA, in its proposal, stated that continuing to require the top two executives to be veterinarians “may prove to be too restrictive” and that search committees should be able to choose non-veterinarians who are “experienced, effective and exceptional.”

In other news:

  • The House of Delegates revised AVMA’s policy on free-roaming, owned cats to acknowledge their potential impact on wildlife and ecosystems. The new wording states that free-roaming cats may have reduced life spans because of the risk of injury and disease and that their natural hunting behavior “may have a negative effect on native wildlife populations.” The policy also states that keeping cats confined “can minimize the risks to the cat, wildlife, humans and the environment.”
  • Michael Topper, DVM, Ph.D., director of clinical pathology and immunology at Merck Research Laboratories, was elected as AVMA’s 2017-18 president. He is a former colonel in the U.S. Army Veterinary Corps and immediate past chairman of the House Advisory Committee.
  • Stacy Pritt, DVM, MS, MBA, who oversees regulatory compliance at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, began a two-year term as vice president.
  • Former president Joe Kinnarney, DVM, became immediate past president upon Meyer’s promotion.
  • Nebraska delegate David Ylander, DVM, was named chairman of the House Advisory Committee. The vice chairman is Wisconsin delegate Doug Kratt, DVM.
  • The AVMA Lifetime Excellence in Research Award went to Susan M. Stover, DVM, Ph.D., Dipl. ACVS.
  • Roger O. McClellan, DVM, MMS, Dipl. ABT, Dipl. ABVT, received the AVMA Meritorious Service Award.
  • The AVMF/Winn Feline Foundation Research Award was presented to Andrea J. Fascetti, VMD, Ph.D., Dipl. ACVIM, Dipl. ACVN.
  • Craig N. Carter, DVM, MS Ph.D., Dipl. ACVPM, accepted the AVMA XII International Veterinary Congress Prize.
  • The AVMA Public Service Award went to David L. Suarez, DVM, Ph.D., Dipl. ACVM.
  • U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi collected the AVMA Advocacy Award.
  • The AVMA President’s Award was bestowed upon U.S. Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, former assistant executive vice president Arthur V. Tennyson, VMD, and the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges.
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