Sacramento, Calif. - The California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) wants to rid its national counterpart of the vice presidency - an office that critics claim generates more election politics than student interest in the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).
SACRAMENTO, CALIF. — The California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) wants to rid its national counterpart of the vice presidency — an office that critics claim generates more election politics than student interest in the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).
The AVMA House of Delegates will debate two California resolutions, submitted last month, during the group's annual July meeting in New Orleans. While one seeks to terminate the entrenched elected office, the other calls for using vice-presidential funds to establish a Student Affairs Division dedicated to veterinary student issues and concerns.
The House, AVMA's policy-making body, has authority to change the group's governance structure. According to the post's description, AVMA vice presidents serve two-year terms as the association's official liaison to veterinary medical students. The job entails voicing student concerns to AVMA leaders and recruiting future graduates by promoting the association's merits.
And there's the rub. CVMA officials and others insist that relying on typically untrained, politically motivated and older male veterinarians to relate to a largely young, female student body is a crapshoot. It's especially risky, critics contend, now that the Humane Society of the United States draws from the same student pool to populate its new group, the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association.
"HSUS is out there recruiting and will soon have an insurance program for new graduates, which was the hook that got us all involved in AVMA," says Dr. Richard Sullivan, alternate delegate from California. "Four or five years out, those same graduates may start to question whether they need an AVMA membership when they're paying off high student debt."
That's where the proposed Student Affairs Division would come into play. Proponents are calling for $42,600 in vice presidential resources to fuel the department. AVMA division budgets range from $620,000 to $6,189,000, and this year's approved expenditures on student activities totaled $28,682, just 0.11 percent of the group's 2008 budget, the resolution states.
The idea has legs, admits Dr. Jack Walther, 2002 AVMA vice president and former president.
"I can see the upside of this," he says. "I believe that what we're trying to accomplish by working with students probably is best done by people trained specifically to do the job — not by someone who visits half the colleges one year and half the next."
Officials at AVMA headquarters in Schaumburg, Ill., did not react to the resolution, but the group's Executive Board plans to weigh its merits during a June board meeting. At press time, the seven-member House Advisory Committee, which guides the full House, voted to disapprove both measures.
Office supporters contend that work outlined in the proposed Student Affairs Division already is performed by Dr. Kevin Dajka, a 2003 graduate who now travels to veterinary colleges as assistant director of AVMA's Membership and Field Services Division. Last year, 97.2 percent of all U.S. graduates joined AVMA — a statistic former two-term Vice President Dr. Rene Carlson attributes, in part, to face-to-face contact with a high-ranking elected official.
"I think there's a certain prestige that students really value in having a personal relationship with an AVMA officer; it's a valuable asset and tremendous role model for leadership. The vice president has a vote on the Executive Board, representing students, and I don't think we should lose it," she explains.
That doesn't mean there's no room for change, says California delegate Dr. George Bishop. The vice presidential vote, for example, could be shifted to the president of the Student American Veterinary Medical Association.
"Considering the recruitment changes that are happening with other groups now trying to attract graduates, we feel AVMA needs to have a more permanent, professional presence in the schools," he says. "The vice presidency is a politically motivated post. I think it's time to start taking some of the politics out of this association."