Off the beaten path

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Schaumburg, Ill. - He was the media's go-to guy during the mad-cow outbreak of 2003, starred in half a dozen Senate committee hearings and enjoyed regular contact with senior White House executives.

SCHAUMBURG, ILL. — He was the media's go-to guy during the mad-cow outbreak of 2003, starred in half a dozen Senate committee hearings and enjoyed regular contact with senior White House executives.

Nowadays, the former Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) head spends his time learning 140 staff names within the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Dr. Ron DeHaven, by his own admission, is struggling to keep his feet on the ground. But days into his Aug. 13 start as AVMA executive vice president, the seasoned administrator already is working on a list of directives.

No. 1 is personal. The career bureaucrat once entrenched in food-animal issues is planning a crash course on AVMA's largest demographic — small-animal veterinarians.

"I haven't had that much contact with that other side of the profession," he says.

Consensus builder

DeHaven admits there might be a learning curve in that arena. Unlike his predecessor, Dr. Bruce Little, who led AVMA for a decade, DeHaven has never been a private practitioner.

But spending nearly four years creating policy and steering public-safety directives in an organization boasting 8,300 employees, a $1.9 billion budget and a load of congressional oversight might afford DeHaven some flexibility.

It's at least assured he's not a micro-manager.

Onlookers expect DeHaven will navigate veterinary medicine's political landscape with ease. When asked about the tug-of-war between small-and large-animal practitioners regarding agriculture welfare trends, DeHaven promotes respect, compromise and, most important, negotiation.

"I'm aware that tension exists between food-animal and companion-animal veterinarians," he says. "It's part of my job to bridge partnerships and identify and capitalize on where we can all come together."

Positioning AVMA

But those struggles might take a back seat to DeHaven's new responsibility to push initiatives recently outlined by Executive Board members as the association's highest priorities.

The directives include identifying and fixing critical shortages in the nation's veterinary workforce infrastructure; cementing the association's accreditation program as the premier global standard; strengthening the profession's economic viability among all sectors; and fortifying AVMA as the leading advocate, authority and science-based resource on animal welfare.

It's a lofty undertaking, but DeHaven insists he's experienced in executing extensive, long-term programs.

Reserved leadership: A hands-off management style affords staff the space they need to advance the American Veterinary Medical Association's agenda, Dr. Ron DeHaven says.

"I see my role here as providing vision and strategic leadership as opposed to day-to-day management of this operation," he says. "I'm here to focus and enhance the goals of AVMA."

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