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President’s Message – May, 2015


Blindside: (verb): To catch or take unawares, especially with harmful or detrimental results.

Indiana takes a sort of curious pride in its ability to be neither the first nor last to do much of anything.  With the possible exception of Sunday alcohol sales, where we await the verdict from the 49 other states that have “experimented” with it, we Hoosiers are a people who survey the passing scene, dwell on it awhile, and then decide to join when the water seems just about right to jump in.  We continue to celebrate learning just which dessert item will be deep fried at our State Fair, we still crown a “Pork Queen” at an annual festival in Tipton County, and sometimes grumble about the work of Congress while being happy that our own Legislature meets for a only a few months each year.  Visitors generally marvel at the warmth they find from Hoosiers when they visit.  Indiana is in a part of the country that is generally considered the “common sense capital of America.” 

Veterinarians certainly know what it is to be blindsided, over a case that responds entirely differently than expected or the client that writes an excoriating online review because the price of ear medication went up $1.75.  For all the hope a leader has about controlling an agenda, the reality of any president’s term (mine included) is that it includes a lot of time responding to unanticipated issues that come up.  Several veterinary groups will be holding major meetings in Indiana in the next few years.  The need to defend Indiana as the friendly place we know it is became a big issue in March, one that blindsided many of us, and some of those groups needed reassurance.  It is not my desire to stir up fresh discussion about an issue that showed us that even Indiana is not immune to the polarization that has gripped the rest of the country.  But it grieved me to see my state turn into an “object lesson” overnight, and to need to reinforce that Hoosier hospitality is alive and well.  Those who visit these national meetings in Indiana will see that.  All I can say is that for me, someone who loves consensus, it was hard to see people in my state so divided.  

Against that backdrop, I have been reminded why I love being a veterinarian and being a part of IVMA.  After the worst had passed of the firestorm, I relished even more the chances to visit a district gathering and attend committee meetings where people enjoy such comradery and share productive ideas of how we can make our profession, and your association, work better.   The review of the 2015 annual meeting, and vision-casting for ways to make Continuing Education opportunities better for Indiana veterinarians, was filled with fresh ideas from veterinarians that have been in practice less than two years and more than forty.  As I looked around at those in attendance, it made me so happy to realize that, in a room where no two of us would begin to agree on all issues political, philosophical, or theological (or even the best place for lunch), we could work together to reach common goals.

The numbers for the annual meeting have been tallied, by the way, and it was a great success on the basis of several metrics.  Attendance for veterinarians, technicians and assistants was the highest in years, financials were solid, and the speakers drew praise for the quality and practicality of their presentations.  The Annual Meeting committee, under Dr. Tony Rumschlag’s diligent leadership, continues to look at ways to make our IVMA meeting an even greater value for our members.

Similarly, in addition to finding excellent, nationally-recognized speakers to fill the program at the annual meeting, the Continuing Education committee, under the leadership of the terrific Dr. Kristi Graham, is exploring new options for delivery of educational resources to veterinarians.  Our members continue to say that quality continuing education is one of the most important things IVMA can provide.  It is true that the landscape has changed for CE in recent years, with numerous opportunities available that didn’t exist a while back.  But the need to have a group like the IVMA provide options that others cannot is still great.  As a state association, we can offer learning opportunities for subjects, give variety, and gather speakers that rival the big national meetings, but in our own backyard and at a lower cost.  One option for members to receive a no-cost CE credit is available on the IVMA website, where our own Dr. Sandi Norman’s module on Rabies is still available.  The committee is also looking at options like “Destination CE” and other good opportunities for the future.

The IVMA Board of Directors met in early March to set strategic plans in place and identified objectives to achieve the goals we have set.  While I will share more about those objectives, and how we are progressing toward completing them, in future messages, I will mention a couple, especially since they relate to issues of our annual meeting and address some of the concerns about new challenges to the business side of veterinary practice.

In one, we have asked the Ethics committee, chaired by Dr. Jerry Rodenbarger, to investigate the ways we can establish strong ethical guidelines for our interactions with veterinary industry groups.  We have long had a great partnership with many of these businesses, and we want to be sure that our public face reflects the ethical nature of those partnerships and eliminates potential conflicts, particularly in our meetings and continuing educational offerings.  Dr. Rodenbarger has led this committee at a high level in the past, and I know he and its members will shepherd this issue likewise.

President-elect James Stepusin will convene a “Brain Trust” (how I love that description!) to investigate the laws associated with practice ownership in Indiana, especially as they relate to those in other states, and offer recommendations if they find that changes may be warranted.  Much of this is based on the changing landscape of veterinary practices in Indiana, their ownership, and federal tax status.  We expect to hear from this group before the end of 2015.

That’s just some of what people are busy doing as I write this message.  I can’t fully express my appreciation for their work.  Springtime is full of promise, with everything in bloom, high school and college (and veterinary school!) graduations, and a sense of all things coming back to life.   Maybe that forms some of my optimism, but I do see a profession where new technologies make life for us and our patients better, and where new graduates and seasoned practitioners collaborate on ways to make the veterinary profession a career that still ranks as a “dream job” for so many.  We will indeed be blindsided by unanticipated events, but I am so thankful that my colleagues in the IVMA, out of diverse experience and opinion, continue to work together so effectively.



Dr. Jerry Risser
IVMA President


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