March 2015

“50 and Forward” Celebration Launches During March 2015 Conference

The AAVMC’s 50th Anniversary celebration gets underway during a ceremony scheduled for opening day of the 2015 Annual Conference. The year-long observation is designed to commemorate 50 years of creating excellence in academic veterinary medicine and lead to future, greater levels of success. The theme of the AAVMC’s 50th anniversary celebration is “Fifty and Forward.”

“We’re proud of all that has been accomplished, but the purpose of the AAVMC’s 50th Anniversary Celebration is much more than an effort to commemorate this very important milestone in the history of the organization,” said Dr. Ralph Richardson, dean of the Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine and chair of a 12-member 50th Anniversary Planning Committee that has been working for more than a year to develop the project. “What we hope to do with this celebration is illuminate the critical role that academic veterinary medicine is playing in the modern world and build greater awareness and support for what we do.”

The committee decided to mount a year-long celebration of academic veterinary medicine that kicks off at the March 2015 annual conference and wraps up at the March 2016 annual AAVMC Conference – the 50th year of service (1966-2016). The concluding event will be a gala celebration featuring distinguished guests from throughout the profession, federal government agency and Congressional leaders, and executives from major corporations working in animal and human health.

That gala will feature the announcement of the 50th Anniversary Grand Initiative, a transformational project conceived to help our colleges and the profession create momentum and progress.

During the opening ceremony, AAVMC and committee officials will highlight some of the major special events and communication programs that have been developed as part of the celebration. A six-minute video profile of the AAVMC and a 30-second television public service announcement (PSA) will be presented. A painting commissioned as part of the celebration will also be formally unveiled.

That painting will be featured on the cover of two special publications that will be created as part of the anniversary celebration. A special 50th anniversary edition of the Journal of Veterinary Medical Education in Fall 2015 will examine the AAVMC’s 50-year body of work from a more scholarly perspective. And noted veterinary medical historian and former Cornell Dean Dr. Don Smith will author a history book to be published in early 2016. The website home page will be refreshed and a 50th anniversary section has been constructed.

AAVMC communications and government relations staff will be working from Washington to develop awareness and appreciation among national media, the veterinary trade press, Congress and executive agencies throughout the year.

But a key part of the success of the anniversary celebration will be to elicit grassroots engagement from member institutions, according to AAVMC Senior Communications Consultant Jeff Douglas, who serves as staff liaison to the 50th Anniversary Committee.

“This national anniversary of organized academic veterinary medicine provides a wonderful opportunity for our member institutions to leverage the celebration to their advantage at the local level,” said Douglas. “By embracing the celebration in their service region, our colleges and schools can refresh relationships with key stakeholder groups and build broader recognition for the many contributions they routinely make in their own service areas.”

The AAVMC has developed a series of communication products and special events designed to help member institutions embrace the celebration at the grassroots level and build public awareness and support in their regions. The AAVMC hosted a webinar on February 11 that detailed the overall grassroots strategy for college communications officers and other officials.

Throughout the anniversary year, deans are being asked to present the 50th anniversary video and profile their institutions for state VMA’s, agricultural commodity and companion animal organizations, university and community audiences and other groups. The PSA has been produced in a manner that enables individual institutions to customize it for their school, Douglas said, and communication officers are urged to place the PSA with statewide television stations.

“This is a program we’re really excited about,” said Douglas. “It’s not easy these days to earn PSA time on commercial TV. But people have an innate love for animals and appreciation for veterinary medicine. Couple that with the quality of the PSA and the talents of our college communication officers and we’ve got an opportunity to have our message shared throughout the year in major television markets around the nation.”

A portfolio of promotional ads for the anniversary suitable for use in digital and print publications has been created for use by member institutions and stakeholders. A sample resolution has been developed for members to use as a template at the state level to garner formal resolutions of recognition and support from state legislatures, state veterinary medical associations and other organizations.

A social media strategy has also been developed. As deans make presentations about their schools and the anniversary, resolutions of support and recognition are passed and presented, and other anniversary activities take place, communication officers are urged to post the news on a variety of platforms under development for the anniversary celebration.

For more information about the AAVMC’s 50th Anniversary Celebration, please contact Jeff Douglas at

Why Do Applicants Apply Abroad? The Answers May Surprise You

Although the number of first-year seats among colleges of veterinary medicine in the U.S. has increased by nearly 20 percent over the last 10 years, a steady stream of applicants continue to apply to international institutions.

Historically, many have assumed this group of “would-be” veterinary students are repeat applicants who were unable to secure admission to a first-choice American institution. Concerns have also been expressed about the financial implications of attending school internationally when domestic student loan debt for new veterinary school graduates continues to escalate rapidly.

In the fall of 2014, AAVMC staff conducted a qualitative study of veterinary school applicants applying to AAVMC international member institutions.  A single open-ended question was sent to approximately 1,200 applicants who each applied to at least one international institution; 186 applicants responded by writing their personal reasons for applying to an international veterinary school.

Applicants described a strong desire to have a study abroad experience (41.9 percent). Many respondents were unable to complete a study-abroad experience during their undergraduate years because of the rigors of preparing to apply to veterinary college. As one applicant stated, “I wanted to study abroad in undergraduate, but could not meet veterinary prerequisites and graduate in four years if I did so.” Others noted that attending graduate school internationally would provide more than a cultural exchange learning opportunity; it might also open professional opportunities later.

Applicants also described other reasons for applying outside of the US; 30 percent of respondents felt that international institutions used holistic admissions practices that were forgiving of lower, but still competitive grades. Applicants also hold international colleges in high regard (25.3 percent) and find their curricular offerings appealing (19.4 percent). One in five applicants felt that the cost of attending an international institution is cost neutral or even less expensive than attending a veterinary school in the United States.  

Finally, 20 percent of applicants applied to veterinary programs outside of the US because they wanted to increase their chances of being admitted to a program somewhere. Applicants cited concerns about the availability of first-year seats in the US and the competition for those seats as a rationale for applying abroad.

The AAVMC plans to repeat this study after the completion of the next application cycle in order to develop greater insight about the perspectives and motivations of veterinary school applicants.

Senators Submit Letter to President in Support of One Health

On Feb. 12, U.S. Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.) submitted a letter to President Obama that calls upon him to develop a national One Health framework that will instill a culture of collaboration between human, animal, and environmental health agencies.

Sen. Franken’s office developed the letter with the assistance of Dr. Chase Crawford, a veterinarian who is serving as an American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Congressional Fellow.

The letter pointed out that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, animal-to-human (zoonotic) diseases account for approximately 75 percent of all recently emerging infectious diseases. In response, the letter urged the formal development of a multidisciplinary, One Health approach that recognizes the interconnectedness of human and animal health and works to combat the public health threat of zoonotic diseases.

“A culture change is needed within our domestic and international public health agencies to heed these warnings and prevent diseases from entering human populations,” Franken wrote, as he called upon the president to take decisive action.

The letter also asked the President to press the United Nations to develop an inter-agency One Health framework to address the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) animal and environmental health information gaps, as identified during the recent Ebola virus outbreak.

“With the necessary support, a National One Health Framework and a UN Inter-Agency One Health Framework could mitigate future outbreaks by providing the multidisciplinary, multi-sectorial approach required to minimize the risk of spillover of diseases from animals into human populations,” Franken wrote.

Senators Christopher Coons  (D-Del.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Michael Bennet  (D-Colo.) Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) also signed the letter.

Meetings with NIH Cover Human-Animal Bond, Opportunities for Veterinarians

On Feb. 12, three AAVMC member representatives and three staff members met with representatives of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), including the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) the Division of Comparative Medicine, and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).

The meetings are part of an ongoing outreach effort to share the AAVMC’s story and educate high-level NIH officials about research activity and capacity at member institutions and the importance of continued funding and collaboration.

The meetings with NICHD included Deputy Director Cathy Spong, Acting Associate Director for Extramural Research Caroline Signore, Program Director of Child Development and Behavior Layla Esposito, and Office of Legislation and Public Policy Director Lisa Kaeser.

Much of the meeting focused on work being done by the Institute and AAVMC member institutions on the human-animal bond, a growing field of study that extends beyond the emotional bonds that people have with their pets to encompass the science of animal-assisted therapy and other areas.

Human-animal bond studies, known by the NIH as human-animal interaction or “HAI research,” are an emerging area where AAVMC member institution faculty-members may serve as primary investigators. During the meetings, NICHD representatives indicated that they are particularly interested in animal assisted interventions in special populations, such as veterans and those with physical and mental disabilities.  

Research criteria require the involvement of multidisciplinary teams that include experts in psychology and animal behavior. To date, studies have focused on the general benefits of human-animal interactions, but the focus is now shifting to specific populations and interventions, such as the benefits of service animals for veterans with Post-Traumatic-Stress Syndrome.

The NICHD invites AAVMC members to attend relevant workshops, identify reviewers, and respond to Requests for Applications (RFAs). Learn more.

Another major NICHD initiative is the $80 million, five-year Human Placenta Project to understand the structure and function of the placenta. The goal is for multi-disciplinary teams to develop new technologies to study the placenta using animal models, with DVMs playing a large role. Learn more.

At a meeting with Division of Comparative Medicine Director Stephanie Murphy, AAVMC representatives learned about the development of a strategic plan for the Office of Research Infrastructure Programs and a planned workshop on "One Health: Integrating the Veterinarian Scientist into the Biomedical Research Enterprise." The workshop will be held April 7-8 in building 38 A, Lister Hill Auditorium at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. Organizers expect the workshop to further increase awareness about the important role that veterinarians play at the intersection of human, animal and environmental health. Registration details will be forthcoming.

The meeting with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases included Deputy Director Hugh Auchincloss and Senior Advisor to the Deputy Director Carole Hudgings. NIAID is currently focused on vaccine development for HIV, tuberculosis, malaria and universal flu and therapeutics testing, which requires prioritization to determine which to move to small, non-human primate trials. During the meeting, Auchincloss emphasized the importance of investing in basic research and animal models to facilitate the transition to translational research.  

IOM to Offer Workshop on the Future of Health Professional Education

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academies will present a free, two-day workshop on “Envisioning the Future of Health Professional Education,” April 23-24 in Washington DC.

The workshop is offered by the Global Forum on Innovation in Health Professional Education, which is sponsored by the AAVMC.

The workshop will explore recent shifts in the health care industry and their implications for health professional education and workforce learning, with topics such as:
  • Opportunities for new communication and learning platforms
  • Health workforce continuous education
  • Global health professional education, training, practice, and the role of culture in perceptions and approaches to health and disease
Representing the AAVMC on the IOM Global Forum on Innovation in Health Professional Education are Dr. Christopher Olsen, planning committee co-chair and acting director of the Global Health Institute at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine, and Dr. James Fox, director of the Division of Comparative Medicine and professor in the Department of Biological Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The workshop, which will be webcast, is open to the public. Registration is required.

Learn more.

President Obama’s FY2016 Budget Contains $1.2 Billion to Combat AMR

President Obama’s proposed FY 2016 budget contains provisions for about $1.2 billion in funding–about double existing levels--to confront the growing public health threat posed by antimicrobial resistance.

Dr. Lonnie King, chair of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU)/ Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) Task Force on Antibiotic Resistance in Production Agriculture, described the administration’s request as “decisive and necessary.”

“The $1.2 billion in funding included in the President’s budget represents a strong commitment to address a global public health challenge,” said King, dean of The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine. “This funding will help us develop an integrated approach to understanding the nature and long term implications of this multifaceted problem.”

The President’s proposed budget will support a broad range of research, surveillance and engagement. It includes more than $650 million for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority; more than $280 million at the Centers for Disease Control; and substantial funding for other agencies like the USDA and the Department of Defense.

Advocating for the funding package is a top priority of the AAVMC’s government relations agenda for the 114th Congress.

APLU and AAVMC formed the Task Force on Antibiotic Resistance in Production Agriculture to examine the role of antibiotic use in agricultural animals in response to the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) report entitled “Combating Antibiotic Resistance.”

The group met with officials from the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) during its first meeting in early January and outlined its operational approach.

The task force consists of representatives from agriculture colleges and veterinary medical colleges at land grant universities as well as key representatives from the animal agriculture community and the pharmaceutical industry.

The task force will advise the federal government on a research agenda, including educational and outreach recommendations, and will assist with disseminating information on agricultural initiatives to combat antimicrobial resistance. Officials from key federal agencies will serve as observers to the task force and leaders from public universities in Mexico and Canada are serving as ex officio members.

Every year, at least two million illnesses and 23,000 deaths are caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Antibiotic resistant infections account for at least $20 billion in excess direct health care costs and up to $35 billion in lost productivity due to hospitalization and sick days every year.

Academic Veterinary Medicine in the News

UF Researchers Work on Brucella Vaccine
Veterinary Practice News

Foal Disorder Linked to Autism in People; New Veterinary Treatment May Hold Clues

Prion Studies Shed Light on Neurological Illness
Bovine Veterinarian

St. George’s University Forms Partnership with Canadian College
Veterinary Practice News

Auburn Veterinary Medicine uses Crowdsourcing to Fund GM1 Research

Tuskegee Joins VMCAS Clearinghouse
Veterinary Practice News

Vet Researchers Identify Effective Treatment for Niemann Pick Type C
Medical Xpress

Antibiotic Resistance, Better Vaccines Change Livestock Practices
Capital Ag Press

Hundreds Gather for Dedication of New UGA Veterinary Campus
Online Athens

Unwanted Impact of Antibiotics Broader, More Complex than Previously Known

MSU Prof Lands $1.8M Grant to Work on Flu Vaccine
The Clarion-Ledger

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