AVMA president: Unity will mend fractures in the House

Growing philosophical divide can weaken profession's stand on critical regulatory issues
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Sep 01, 2010

ATLANTA — For the second year, the incoming AVMA president called for unity among veterinarians.

In a speech before the American Veterinary Medical Association's (AVMA) House of Delegates to outline his goals for the next year, incoming president Dr. Larry Kornegay, says, "I sense potential fractures in our unity. Yes, we are stronger than we have ever been in terms of our influence, our authority as scientists and the respect we enjoy. However, as new challenges and opportunities arise, we have never needed each other more than we do today... My concern is that while we have never been stronger, we also have potentially never been so divided."

Kornegay contends disunity can have "far-reaching, negative impacts on our profession."

While Kornegay says that debate on certain issues is important, "we all need to pull on the same end of the rope if we are going to stay relevant and continue to make progress in an ever-changing world.

"Now, I'm not naive enough to believe that we will all agree on everything all of the time. One of the beautiful aspect of veterinary medicine is the colorful prism of personalities, ideas, philosophies and backgrounds that constitute our profession," Kornegay says. Splintering into factions places the association's effectiveness at risk.

Of course, Kornegay is referring to philosophical splits that have emerged between rural and urban practitioners — from antibiotic resistance to animal welfare and everything in between.

"As veterinarians, we share a common bond, and I will work this coming year to strengthen this bond," Kornegay adds.

In addition, Kornegay called on veterinarians to get involved in policy debates. "The problem is we do not hear from you often enough, and we need your input."

Another goal for the new president is to "foster the process of inclusivity.

"As we add more voices to the choir, our messages will be stronger, reaching ears of those who have a profound impact on our profession. I am talking about legislators on both the state and national level," Kornegay says.

With more than 50 percent of the association comprised of female veterinarians, the old boy network is changing. So is the cultural and ethnicity of America's neighborhoods. "I see the change where I live and where I work," Kornegay says.

"Just a few years ago, most of our clients looked like me and my wife, Chris. They spoke like us. And they grew up where we grew up. Today, our clients have changed, and because of this change, we have diversified our staff; we have hired bilingual employees, and we have taken other steps to better serve our wonderfully diverse clientele." And the work has never been more rewarding personally and financially, he says.

In closing, Kornegay told attendees to work together to stay in front of an evolving world and profession.

"Once again, let us all work together to help make our noble profession even better — today, tomorrow and for years to come."