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2016 AVMA Economic Summit

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The AVMA Veterinary Economic Strategy Committee and the Economics Division hosted the 4th annual Economic Summit in Schaumburg on October 24 – 25. A few dozen participants attended the first Summit in 2013, over 200 representatives of private practice, academia, allied organizations and industry participated in this year's event, legitimizing the AVMA Executive Board's 2009 vision to develop strategies addressing the profession's economic issues.

I'm most gratified, as an inaugural committee member and recent committee chair, to report the progress made in understanding our profession's finance and economics is nothing short of amazing. Twenty-four presentations on wide varieties of financial and economic topics place this meeting at the top of the attendance list for veterinarians seriously interested in fine tuning their practice's financial performance.

A few high highlights-

• Dr. Michael Dicks encourages practice owners to monitor The Conference Board Index of Leading Economic Indicators (LEI). This index displays the United States business cycle revealing clues regarding timing of economic downturns, allowing you to position your practice to weather the storm. Don't rely on the media's interpretation, judge for yourself.

The Conference Board Leading Economic Index® (LEI) for the U.S. increased in September
Source: The Conference Board

Conference Board LEI

• Dr. Lisa Greenhill reports our profession continues to attract robust applicant pools; 7,000 applicants for 4,200 seats at U.S. veterinary medical colleges for the class of 2021, with GPA's remaining consistent at 3.5.
• New graduate income increases continue, according to Dr. Bridgette Bain; the 2016 class mean annual income approximates $73,000.
• SAVMA President, Matt Holland's compelling presentation regarding the profession's wellness guides the Economics Division to quantify compassion fatigue's financial impact on the profession.
• Veterinary CPA Terry O'Neil's presentation includes a plethora of financial strategies and statistics from over 300 of the nation's most profitable veterinary practices. What do they know the average veterinary practice doesn't?

I proudly report the veterinary medical profession leads the way in economic data collection and analysis. No other allied health profession, including the American Medical Association and the American Dental Association, support an Economics Division. Other health professions are noticing the veterinary profession's cutting edge efforts, the AVMA is truly raising the bar to new standards.

As 2016 draws to a close, consider opportunities to improve your practice's financial performance. Practice owners have responsibility to manage practices with high degrees of business acumen, the profession's profitability must increase to the profession's financial benefit.

• March 25 – 26, the WVMA partners with AVMA to present the highly touted Practice Profitability Workshop which debuted at the 2016 AVMA San Antonio convention.
• The Practice Profitability Workshop repeats at the July AVMA Convention in nearby Indianapolis. In addition to presenting the original level 1 workshop, the first level 2 workshop will be available to previous attendees, continue to hone your business management skills.
• Attend the 5th annual AVMA Economic Summit in Schaumburg on October 23 -24, 2017 and learn the current data and research regarding issues impacting the financial health of the veterinary medical profession and its markets.

Why chart this course? You must chart this course because good medicine is good business, and good business financially supports good medicine. Make 2017 the best year yet for your practice, for your profession!

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Presidents Message

Never Say Never

It was Tuesday, November 23, 1982 and I was an intern at the Caine Veterinary Teaching Center in Caldwell, Idaho. The Teaching Center had a faculty of six besides me, and we met after each two-week rotation of senior students from Washington and Oregon State veterinary medical schools to review the students and get updates on state veterinary issues. Among the issues presented by our director, Dr. Stuart Lincoln, was his appreciation for all the cold weather we had just experienced. unbeknownst to me, there was an outbreak of Vesicular Stomatitis in eastern Idaho. Dr. Lincoln was sure we’d be spared in our southwestern corner of the state because mosquitoes, the vectors that transmit the disease, should have died and transmission would stop. That was the conventional wisdom of the day and regulatory veterinarians were reporting that the spread of Vesicular Stomatitis had subsided. Moments later, Delores, one of the Center’s receptionists, quietly slipped into the conference room and handed me a note. The note said one of the dairies we serviced had noticed a few large blisters on the teats of some incoming heifers and they wanted me to come out to take a look. So began the saga of an outbreak of Vesicular Stomatatis, a disease clinically indistinguishable from Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD). Despite the recent twenty-four “vector killing” frosts in Idaho, the event Dr.
Lincoln had just assured us wouldn’t happen… happened!

This turned out to be quite the experience for a young, enthusiastic veterinarian. All of a sudden, I was on the frontline of a new presentation of a disease outbreak. The disease continued to spread within the herd until December 16, despite the fact that there was many more below-freezing days. I observed oral, feet, and teat lesions on the 332 cows that I examined. Nearly two thirds of the cows had lesions, many of them with lesions at multiple sites. Oral lesions were the most common, which resulted in excessive amounts of saliva contamination in the waterers. We were able to isolate the virus from one of the water samples. Animal-to-animal transmission was the means to the spread the virus in this outbreak.

There was a flurry of educational meetings to update practitioners in Idaho about the latest developments with our epizootic of Vesicular Stomatitis. Because I was the primary attending veterinarian of this herd, and had the most experience with the disease, the University of Idaho flew me, with other supporting faculty, to two different locations to meet with practitioners. It was an exciting and memorable time. But there was one “deer in the headlight” moment for me. During one of the question and answer sessions, a practitioner asked e the difference between a Vesicular Stomatitis foot lesion and foot rot. I instantly realized I was in the dubious position of having experienced more Vesicular Stomatitis feet than foot rot. I didn’t have an answer. Thankfully, I was rescued by one of the faculty veterinarians who answered, “foot rot wouldn’t have the vesicle lesions with it.”

This event early in my career came to mind when I noticed the CE event sponsored by the WVMA and the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP): Secure Milk Supply - Planning for the Unimaginable, on June 15 at Glacier Canyon Lodge in Wisconsin Dells.

Secure Milk Supply is a collaborative effort of industry, state, federal and academic representatives funded by USDA-APHIS. This is a new and important program to help mitigate the disruption of food supply and business while still controlling an outbreak of FMD. The voluntary Secure Milk Supply plan is a workable continuity business plan for uninfected farms in a FMD Control Area. One of the components of the plan is an Operation-Specific Enhanced Biosecurity plan, which herd veterinarians will help design, implement and oversee. This is a very important role in which we maintain the responsibility.

I realize it is hard to get excited about low probability events when we are all busy with high probability challenges every day. However, in today’s world with terrorists looking to disrupt our way of life, some sort of deliberate sabotage is a real possibility. The possibility of a FMD outbreak is just as likely as a vector free outbreak of Vesicular Stomatitis was 36 years ago.

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