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Aja sets goals for AAHA presidency


Baltimore — Recognizing veterinary technicians and specialists is one of Dr. Daniel Aja's goals as he takes the reins as the American Animal Hospital Association's (AAHA) 69th president at the annual conference in Baltimore.

BALTIMORE — Recognizing veterinary technicians and specialists is one of Dr. Daniel Aja's goals as he takes the reins as the American Animal Hospital Association's (AAHA) 69th president at the annual conference in Baltimore.

Dr. Daniel Aja

The conference yielded its highest attendance ever with approximately 2,600 veterinary-care providers present. The conference offered 475 hours of continuing education.

"There were nearly 700 veterinary technicians in attendance at the conference," Aja says. "Our annual committee meeting members actually have a work group of technicians that help plan CE for (technician) segments."

Aja says he wants to speak to technicians as a group whenever possible to encourage them to continue their work because they are an integral part of daily practice.

Dr. Lila Miller

"Too often we lose technicians from the profession due to lack of monetary reward and recognition," Aja adds. "We believe the best medicine is delivered when generalists and specialist work together."

Nurturing collaboration is a main goal for Aja as he guides the association.

"I want members to feel that they can contact me and ask me questions when they need to," Aja says. "I am a general practitioner, too. I am not making decisions in a vacuum; I'm making them for all practitioners."

The 1982 graduate of the Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine completed an internship in small animal medicine/surgery at Louisiana State University before becoming an associate at Hollywood Animal Hospital in Hollywood, Fla.

Aja says he wants to bring something new to the table as president.

"I really want to connect with a different segment of the profession; technicians are the frontline for everything we do as veterinarians," Aja says.

Changes in the profession also have spurred Aja to consider how veterinarians should react and their role in the changes within the profession.

"Veterinarians are not confrontational in nature, but they should be spokesmen for the profession. If they are concerned about animal welfare, they need to stand up for what they believe. Veterinarians need to be the first outlet when questions about animals are addressed, not legislators, not HSUS."

Aja says his mission as president is not only to help practitioners provide the best medicine, but take a lead on animal welfare issues.

"A topic that must be addressed is that of legal status of pets," Aja says. "I hope to educate my fellow practitioners on this issue and make sure we do not simply stand by and let the chips fall where they may. Veterinarians must be proactive and not reactive."

Aja plans to continue to improve and expand AAHA's accreditation program, stating that it is the backbone of the organization.

"The first couple of months of the presidency I expect will be quiet, dealing largely with budget plans. I plan on traveling to Washington state to participate in team-building exercises for veterinary students. I also plan to travel to Mexico City in May to visit the veterinary school," Aja adds.

AAHA future

AAHA has been working on creating diagnostic codes that can be used universally to make tracking diseases easier for practitioners.

"This has been attempted many times before," Aja says. "Standardizing a listing of diagnostics in one unified list would make compliance issues easier, and it would be free of charge."

The organization has been compiling a list of about 10,000 diagnoses that cover the top 90 percent of diseases commonly found in veterinary practices. The list would be made available to pet insurance companies, computer manufacturers and members.

"The list is slated for distribution sometime this year," Aja says.

Dr. Lila Miller received the Hill's Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award at AAHA's conference, solidifying her position as an individual who has advanced animal welfare through extraordinary service.

Miller has worked at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) where she is the senior director of animal science and veterinary advisor. Miller established a course on shelter medicine at Cornell, her alma mater. She also directs a shelter medicine externship for veterinary students through ASPCA.

"I feel very passionate about the care animals are given. AAHA has been an organization that has spoken out on issues regarding ear cropping and tail docking," Miller says. "I am honored to receive the award."

As co-founder of the Association of Shelter Veterinarians, she travels nationally to give advice on healthcare and disease transmission in addition to identifying and documenting animal abuse.

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