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AVMA May Overhaul How It Does Business

In an effort to streamline their structure, the AVMA may eliminate the House of Delegates among other bodies under their jurisdiction.

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The American Veterinary Medical Association, looking to become more transparent and more responsive to the needs of its 84,000 members, may eliminate the House of Delegates and other bodies in favor of a streamlined governance structure.

An 11-person task force that studied the subject for more than a year concluded that the current set-up—the House of Delegates, an executive board, councils, committees and task forces—fosters a policymaking process that is "too slow, cumbersome, political and, at times, inefficient.”

The task force’s recommendations were to be discussed in July at the AVMA’s annual convention. Another team, comprising AVMA leaders and members, will solicit feedback and submit a final proposal to the executive board.

When the executive board, which meets at least six times a year, may approve reorganization is unknown.

AVMA has adapted to change over its 150-year history, said the organization’s president, Douglas G. Aspros, DVM.

"Now we face another pivotal fork in the road where we must decide whether to embrace a new governance structure, one that can evolve with society and the changing face and needs of our members,” Dr. Aspros said.

Task force chairman Ralph Johnson, executive director of the Colorado Veterinary Medical Association, echoed Aspros.

"[The] proposed governance model builds on the foundation laid by previous leaders and visionaries, who established and grew the AVMA into the prestigious organization it is today,” Johnson said.

The task force noted that AVMA enjoys a high membership rate compared with many other professional organizations, but the report found reasons to be cautious.

"Respected associations, such as the American Medical Association and American Bar Association, are struggling with declining membership and increasing divisions in their ranks,” according to the task force report. "Interestingly, these associations have similar governance structures to AVMA.”

A restructuring is necessary "to steer the AVMA from loss of influence and membership down the road,” the task force added.

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A shift in demographics in the veterinary profession is further evidence that AVMA needs to change, the task force stated. About 43 percent of AVMA members graduated from veterinary school less than 15 years ago.

"They are members of a new era with high-speed technology communication and they want involvement in their association now, not years from now,” the report emphasized. "As younger veterinarians continue in their careers, we risk losing them as AVMA members if they perceive the association as irrelevant or out of touch.”

The new governance structure would consist of:
* A 19-member board of directors, led by a president and other officers, that would oversee AVMA management and policymaking. Eleven members would be elected to three-year terms by geographic district and two others would be elected at-large.
* Advisory Councils in six core areas: economics and practice; animal welfare and ethics; education; governmental and external relations; scientific activities; and membership and governance.
* A Volunteer Resources Committee, which would identify and recruit candidates for volunteer leadership positions.
* A Veterinary Issues Forum, which would work closely with state and allied veterinary associations and identify strategic issues.

Two powerful groups—the 18-member executive board and the 136-member House of Delegates, which draws from dozens of organizations, ranging from the California Veterinary Medical Association to the Society for Theriogenology—would be eliminated. The executive board focuses on AVMA policy, while the House of Delegates is chiefly responsible for setting policy for the profession.

AVMA dates to 1863, when 40 delegates representing seven states—New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maine, Ohio and Delaware—met at a national convention in New York. The fledgling United States Veterinary Medical Association was renamed the American Veterinary Medical Association in 1898.

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