Ron DeHaven, DVM, administrator of the USDA’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service, was recently named the new executive vice president of the American Veterinary Medical Assn. Veterinary Practice News talked to Dr. DeHaven in June about his priorities. Here are excerpts of that conversation.
Q: What will your priorities be as executive vice president?
A: One of the things that attracted me to the position is the strategic planning that the AVMA has done. They’re recognizing issues that are up and coming, and in fact some of them are upon us. They want to direct the association’s energies in the areas of food supply veterinary medicine, the intersection between animal health and public health and animal welfare, and certainly from where I sit, I’m seeing an increased emphasis on the welfare of production farm animals. [AVMA’s priorities] are very much consistent with what I see are the major issues facing the veterinary profession, so those are areas where I will be focusing a lot of my time and attention.
Q: You have more than 20 years’ experience with USDA’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service. How will that help and influence you in your new role?
A: I think if you were to look at the job description of what I’m operating under now and look at the job description for the executive vice president of AVMA, they are both very similar. Both involve managing and providing leadership for large organizations. Part of that is setting a vision or identifying a vision and strategically leading an organization to accomplish that. I have worked with a broad diversity of organizations and interests. That is consistent with the AVMA; they are responsive to a broad diversity of organizations and interests.
I think the management and leadership skills and contacts that I’ve been able to establish as administrator of APHIS, and for that matter throughout my career with APHIS, will serve me very well in the AVMA executive vice president position.
Q: You have said that the veterinary profession is at a crossroads. Where does the profession currently stand?
A: I think the crossroads is recognizing that [the profession] is largely [consisting] of companion animal veterinary medicine. That’s important, and I don’t want to do anything that would detract from that, but nor can we continue down a path where we are not meeting societal needs with regard to food supply veterinary medicine and with regard to this intersection of animal health and public health. We are at a critical point where we need to start focusing energies, resources, programs, activities, toward those areas, not at the expense of companion animal practice but in addition to. That’s where societal needs are becoming increasingly important, in the arena of emerging zoonotic diseases and the shortage of food supply veterinarians.
Q: AVMA President Dr. Roger Mahr has said that your global perspective concerning the convergence of animal, human and ecosystem health makes you unique. What is your perspective and how do you see it proceeding in future years?
A: We are in fact a global economy and that’s something that I have seen, experienced and worked in first hand within APHIS. The secretary of agriculture is quick to point out that 95 percent of the world’s consumers live outside the boundaries of the United States.
If we are looking at future growth in animal agriculture, we need to be looking internationally. At the same time, we need to be thinking internationally in terms of veterinary curricula. The emerging and re-emerging disease threats are not threats to the United States, they are global threats. We need to be thinking about the international implications of those activities and also recognize that perhaps one of the best ways that the United States can benefit is by improving animal care, animal health infrastructure systems and animal health internationally or globally. At the same time [we] are reducing the threats to the United States.
Q: Would that relate to the current pet food recall?
A: I think so. We need to be thinking about what systems are in place, or not, in regards to products and animals we may be bringing into the United States. We can’t have strictly a domestic focus. Even though we may be producing processed foods and other products domestically, if there are components that go into that product that come from other countries, then as they say, the system is no stronger than the weakest link. We have found that out very clearly with the melamine situation.
Q: What will AVMA focus on at this year’s conference?
A: I think there will be a lot of focus this year on the “one world, one health, one medicine,” or as it is becoming known, the One Health Initiative. It is the major focus and initiative for AVMA President Roger Mahr, DVM. I think it’s very appropriate and I would anticipate that some of the effort and activity that he has initiated will continue on in future years.