2019 AAVMC Annual Conference and Iverson Bell Symposium Focused on Diversity, Team-Building

Washington, D.C., March 25, 2019  ­– A record 389 educators from around the world registered for the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges’ (AAVMC) 2019 Annual Conference and Iverson Bell Symposium in Washington, D.C. March 8-10. Themed “The Science of Building Effective Teams,” the meeting focused on strategies for building diverse and inclusive teams in work environments.

Registrants from all over the world explored the subject through dozens of expert presentations, workshops and other gatherings. They heard from colleagues at other AAVMC institutions that have pioneered effective strategies and programs. They also heard from respected experts like social scientist and author Dr. Scott E. Page, NIH scientist Dr. Kara L. Hall and Inside Higher Ed Editor Scott Jascik.

Page challenged the group to “see diversity as improving the profession… and then act to make it so” during in his presentation. The acclaimed University of Michigan professor cited evidence which demonstrates that diversity in groups improves performance in addressing complex tasks because diverse group members think differently and think “harder.” Smaller teams “disrupt,” in the sense of creative and inventive change, and larger teams develop change, he said.

Hall, who is considered a leading expert in the science of “Team Science,” said building and sustaining diverse scientific teams is a necessary step toward solving complex problems. She stressed the importance of coordination in managing and facilitating collaboration, which is complicated by interpersonal, intersectional, technological, organizational and societal/political factors. One impediment to true collaboration in the higher educational environment, she noted, is that promotion and tenure systems still reward individual effort.

Jascik noted the decades long retreat of public support for higher education and said there is mounting pressure on Land-grant institutions, where many U.S. colleges of veterinary medicine are based, to focus on things other than their traditional mission of engagement. He discussed the implications of the woefully low enrollment of underrepresented minorities in colleges of veterinary medicine and suggested the need for role models and STEM programs for youth. He also warned about the potentially negative consequences of a possible ruling on an upcoming court case involving Harvard and affirmative action programs.

Registrants also had an opportunity to examine diversity and inclusiveness programs as described on 17 posters sessions, and the meeting included fertile opportunities for networking during meals and receptions.

During the two days prior to the annual conference, the AAVMC held numerous meetings for standing committees and working groups. The board of directors met on Wednesday, March 6, and the AAVMC Leadership Academy completed its third of three annual workshops. Major meetings were held for the Academic Affairs Committee, the Research Committee, different components of the Admissions and Recruitment Committee, the Diversity Committee, the Council for International Veterinary Medical Education (CIVME), the Veterinary Mental Health Practitioners, the Journal for Veterinary Medical Education editorial board and other groups.

On the AAVMC’s annual Advocacy Day, 84 educators representing 27 states and all AAVMC U.S. based institutions, spent the day discussing key issues in academic veterinary medicine with policy-makers on Capitol Hill. They visited 107 offices in the House of Representatives and 58 offices in the U.S. Senate, where they met with staffers and 33 different Members.

The 2019 AAVMC Assembly was also convened and new officers were installed, annual reports were shared by AAVMC executives and guests, and changes in policies affecting affiliate AAMVC member institutions were ratified.

Dr. Michael Lairmore, dean of the University of California – Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, became President of the AAVMC, and Dr. Mark Markel, dean of the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine, was voted in as President-elect. Dr. Calvin Johnson, dean of the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine transitioned into the role of Past-President.

Dr. Ruby Perry, dean of the Tuskegee University College of Veterinary Medicine was elected Secretary on the Board of Directors, and Dr. Mark Stetter, dean of the Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, was elected Treasurer.

Both Johnson and Chief Executive Officer Dr. Andrew T. Maccabe shared reports on organizational initiatives and issues in academic veterinary medicine during the Assembly.

The group also heard presentations from three guests during the Assembly. Those included presentations on the Human-Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI), the Veterinary Career Advisor Network (VetCAN), and the Veterinary Entrepreneurship Academy.

The Assembly also approved changes to the structure of the AAVMC affiliate institution program. New categories have been created to better define the nature and aspirations of affiliate members.

“Affiliate Member” now refers to affiliate members that include departments of comparative medicine and departments of veterinary science. “Provisional Member” refers to those colleges and schools of veterinary medicine which grant the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree or equivalent and are not yet accredited by or have not gained “reasonable assurance” from the Council for Education (COE). “Collaborative Member” refers to any college or school of veterinary medicine outside the U.S. and Canada which is recognized by its government as a professional school of veterinary medicine and is not seeking COE accreditation. 

The assembly also approved petitions for membership from four new affiliate candidates. Those will be announced upon the completion of their formal applications as well as routine administrative procedures.

The AAVMC is a nonprofit membership organization working to protect and improve the health and welfare of animals, people and the environment around the world by advancing academic veterinary medicine. Members include 49 accredited veterinary medical colleges in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean Basin, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Mexico.

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Photo Captions: Please click on the captions below to download photos.

AAVMC CEO Dr. Andrew T. Maccabe visits with social scientist and author Scott Page prior to his keynote address.

AAVMC officers elected during the assembly include, from left, Dr. Calvin Johnson, dean, Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine, Past-President; Dr. Ruby Perry, dean, Tuskegee University College of Veterinary Medicine, Secretary; Dr. Michael Lairmore, dean, University of California- Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, President. Not pictured, Dr. Mark Stetter, dean, Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Treasurer.