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Delegates push to create proactive policy


House members explore their significance in AVMA's governance structure

SCHAUMBURG, ILL. — The first annual Winter Session of the House of Delegate (HOD) held last month contained no resolutions, position statements or controversial reports for the American Veterinary Medical Association body's consideration.

That left some of the group's 136 voting members questioning their significance within AVMA's governance system.

"If you're not going to be relevant and serve a purpose, than you shouldn't be here," New Jersey delegate Dr. Bob Gordon says. "All we've been doing is rubber-stamping reports from councils and committees. Considering the great expense of bringing everyone together, was it worth it?"

AVMA officials did not reveal costs of the meeting, held near association headquarters in Schaumburg, Ill. But other delegates are considering Gordon's question. Dr. Mark Helfat, chairman of the House Advisory Committee, expressed disappointment in the meeting's lean agenda.

Ideally, the House should consider 20 to 30 resolutions at each of the group's two annual meetings, he says. In contrast to a recent rewrite of the body's bylaws and manual, Helfat says delegates seek more than a housekeeping agenda.

"Resolutions are our meat and potatoes," he says. "We should be looking at issues like pain management and local government's moving in on the practice of veterinary medicine."

Quiet power struggle

That's tough, considering the AVMA Executive Board already developed policy on the latter issue. In November, the 13-member group adopted a strategy designed to steer local municipalities away from regulating veterinary procedures. The policy addresses a West Hollywood, Calif., ordinance that makes it a criminal misdemeanor for veterinarians to perform non-therapeutic cat declaws within city limits (see DVM Newsmagazine's January issue).

Delegates and board members can make policy, AVMA rules suggest. But the Executive Board's decision to tackle the topic reflects reality laid out two years ago by AVMA legal consultant Jed Mandel, who admitted, following an association audit, that the body could legally and efficiently run the group's operations without a delegation.

That prompted House members' 2006 vote to hold two formal sessions instead of just one annual meeting, which runs alongside the AVMA annual summer convention. At the time, Helfat asked: "Why isn't the House just as powerful" as the Executive Board? We could easily have two formal meetings a year."

The House is important, Massachusetts delegate Dr. John De Jong insists, because it reflects the voice of members. "We're a more representative sampling of the AVMA membership, so we need to be more engaged in policy making."

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