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Wednesday, July 16, 2014
AVMA Presidents of the 21st Century
Donald F. Smith, Cornell University
Posted July 16, 2014
The AVMA convention is almost upon us, and with it, the selection of the president-elect who will assume the presidency for 2015-16.1 The decision will be made by the House of Delegates (HOD) immediately prior to the convention.
The typical profile of the fifteen 21st century presidents is a 60-something male small animal practice owner who graduated from veterinary college 35-40 years before their installation. Only one president was elected from a career outside of private clinical practice (Bonnie Beaver, academia), and her specialty is behavior, a subset of medicine.2 Though a few of the recent presidents have had experience in mixed animal practice, none came from a primarily or exclusively food animal or equine practice.
The breadth of educational background of our 21st century presidents has been remarkable. They are graduates of 11 different veterinary colleges. What is even more impressive is that the states in which they reside have been equally distributed from the five regions of the country, with three each from the West, Midwest, Southwest, Southeast, and Northeast.
In a previous article, I mentioned this aspect of our diversity and contrasted it to some branches of our government.3 Consider the justices on the current Supreme Court, for example, where eight of the nine are graduates of just two law schools.4 Or what about the four most recent US presidents whom are all Ivy League graduates, with two5 having obtained law degrees from the same colleges as the Supreme Court justices.
In terms of AVMA leadership experience before election to the presidency, most have arisen from the Executive Board (EB), with many serving as chair or vice chair. (Drs James Brandt and Joe Howell served as chair of the EB following their presidencies). Several presidents also served on the HOD for a number of years before ascending to the Board. In 2002, Dr. Jack Walther became the first person in many decades to be elected president-elect from the position of vice president, a position which is primarily dedicated to student interactions.6
I acknowledge the desirability to have experienced and well-prepared veterinarians in the office of the president. However, I sometimes wonder if we could find a way to elect qualified AVMA presidents with fewer than 30 years experience―the average length since 2000 is 36.8 years―since receiving their veterinary degrees. I recognize there are financial, professional development, and work-life balance issues, but perhaps we could develop creative organizational strategies that open the process to a larger pool of potential candidates.
Regardless of how we strive to optimally represent the entirety of our profession, let’s make sure we do not lose some of the desirable features of our current situation. Geographic and educational diversity are two positive components of our presidential profile. I, for one, think those are important items of note and that they could, in a quiet way, even serve as an exemplar for our judicial and executive branches of government.
Following is a list of the first 15 AVMA presidents of the 21st Century.
AVMA Presidents from 2000-01 to 2014-15, including their college and year of DVM graduation. Under AVMA leadership experience, I restricted those responsibilities cited to Executive Board (EB) including Chair (CH) and Vice Chair (VC), Vice President (VP), House of Delegates (HOD), and Council on Education (COE).
Though many of our presidents-elect are selected without a challenger, we will once again this year have a contested election for the person to serve as president in 2015-16. The two candidates are Dr. Larry Dee (Florida) and Dr. Joe Kinnarney (North Carolina).12
Dr. Smith invites comments at firstname.lastname@example.org
1 The president-elect and also the vice president will be selected by the House of Delegates immediately preceding the AVMA annual convention in Denver on July 25, 2014. 2 Dr. Henry Childers, president 2005-06, was appointed as assistant clinical professor in the School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, however his primary professional focus was clinical practice. 3 Smith, Donald F. The Changing Face of AVMA Presidents Through the Years.Perspectives in Veterinary Medicine. May 21, 2013. 4 Harvard and Yale. Justice Ginsberg is a graduate of Columbia Law School. Six of the current nine justices also have undergraduate degrees from Ivy League universities. 5 Presidents Obama and Clinton. 6 More recently (2010), Dr. Rene Carlson, who had served as vice president, was elected to president-elect. 7 EB = Executive Board; CH = Chair; VC = Vice chair; HOD = House of Delegates; COE = Council on Education. 8 During the same meeting in which Dr. Beaver was elected chair of the Executive Board in a contested race, another woman, Dr. Joan Samuels, was elected vice-chair. That race was uncontested. 9 Dr. Howell became chair of the Executive Board following his presidency. 10 Dr. Brandt also became chair of the Executive Board following his presidency. 11 The author acknowledges the assistance of several former AVMA presidents in preparation of this table. 12 Smith, Donald F. AVMA Presidential Candidates Discuss Governance, Future Scope of the Profession, and Advocacy.Perspectives in Veterinary Medicine, July 7, 2014.