When members of the AVMA’s House of Delegates meet in Philadelphia this summer at its regular annual session, they will elect Dr. Jennifer Quammen as the 2022-24 AVMA Vice President.
Dr. Quammen, co-founder of a veterinary coaching business, was the only candidate for the position, which is responsible for strengthening AVMA’s ties with veterinary college deans and professors as well as the leadership of veterinary students.
The 2011 Ohio State University veterinary graduate spoke to AVMA News about her reasons for running for AVMA vice president and what she hopes to accomplish during her two-year term. Responses have been edited for length and clarity.
Q: Why did you run for Vice President of the AVMA?
A: First, I want to be a thought leader for the veterinary profession and the AVMA. My job gives me the opportunity to talk with veterinarians, vet techs, and vet students from many backgrounds, practices, and sectors of the animal health industries. I want to bring their stories, comments and opportunities to the AVMA Board of Directors. Our association must be open to feedback, whether positive or negative. Listening to dissenting opinions is not only necessary but also crucial for the vitality and health of our Association.
Second, influence. There is no doubt that the ego drives us all in some way, and I want to influence the next generation of vets. We are a highly educated profession, and I want us to use this training to ensure that we train tomorrow’s workforce effectively and efficiently. Hearing the voices of today’s faculty and students will help us continue to grow and evolve as a profession and as an association.
Third, opportunity. To qualify to run for vice president, among other credentials, one must have been a member of the AVMA for 10 years or more. 2021 was the first time I was a qualified candidate, so I put my name in the hat – or maybe the goblet of fire. (In the Harry Potter novels, the Goblet of Fire chose from among the registered names who would enter the Triwizard Tournament.)
Q: What skills and qualifications do you bring to the office?
A: I have years of experience working with a variety of teams in various settings. I am enthusiastic, I have a clear vision of team engagement and I want to see our profession continue to grow. I have an influential leadership style and drive projects forward while building partnership and collaboration within the team. My main strengths, according to an evaluation, are the activator, the learner, the conviction, the success and the coherence.
My soft skills are what set me apart, and I honed them through action. I pride myself on my ability to understand, relate to and interact with people from different backgrounds. I can easily discuss complex medical conditions with lay people or specialists in the field. I have trained, coached and facilitated emotional intelligence for many years, both formally and informally. I have experience co-developing leadership programs at other organizations, including the Power of Ten leadership program for the Kentucky VMA. I have also participated in several personal development programs for my own growth and encourage others to do the same.
Q: What do you see as the greatest challenges and opportunities facing veterinary education?
A: That’s the big question, isn’t it? Many issues plague our veterinary education, but I would like to focus on two areas as Vice President of the AVMA: Technology and Connected Care, and the Healthy Use of Veterinary Technicians and Student Skills . The two are inextricably linked. The contribution of our academics, administrators and students is essential in finding solutions to these challenges.
Technology, cloud-based solutions and virtual connections of veterinary healthcare teams are not a far off idea; they are happening now. Many practices already use part-time and full-time remote employees and offer work-from-home options. Universities teach students about virtual and connected care, artificial intelligence and remote monitoring. This is a timely opportunity for educators and clinicians to support each other in the most effective uses of technology, which are necessary for our veterinary graduates to meet the needs of animal health care.
Let’s move on to the topic of skill utilization of veterinary technicians and students and highlight a few bits of information from the AVMA Division of Veterinary Economics. The turnover rate of veterinarians is twice that of human doctors. For vet techs and nurses, it’s three times that of physician assistants. I think we can help change those numbers and retain our colleagues. Fair expectations, reasonable limits, and a vision of the whole veterinary health care team for managing patient care are all important to consider. We do not expect vets to be available 24/7/365, nor our students, teachers, or technicians. Dialogue and the management of expectations could greatly promote the team mentality in health care and, therefore, foster collegiality and a healthier learning environment.
This is one area where new ideas about workforce capability are so important. We know that practices across industries and geographies struggle with inefficient workflows and other processes in our day-to-day work. As Vice President of the AVMA, I will be seeking information and guidance from veterinary health care teams, as well as those training the future workforce, to learn what works to improve retention. talents in our workforce. This is a multi-level challenge that will likely require a mix of interventions on several fronts.
Q: How can the AVMA help you?
A: The AVMA must bridge the generation gap, be open to honoring the traditions of an amazing profession while preparing for the future. Not only has the profile of industry professionals changed, but also the makeup of the patients we are responsible for caring for. How do we look forward to where we are going while understanding where we came from? Our industry has changed a great deal over the past 50 to 75 years and will continue to evolve. How do we prepare for success for the next 50 years? I think part of that response is acknowledging that change is coming, it’s inevitable, and change is overall a good thing. We must keep pace with the speed of commerce, communications and the needs of the veterinary health care workers, students and patients we serve.
Q: When you look back on your time as Vice President, what do you hope to have accomplished?
A: I hope to see achievements in the field of technology, both in veterinary education and more broadly in the veterinary profession. Find ways for students and faculty to use safe and secure technology. And to see that we have a plan to train and retain the veterinary care team of tomorrow. I have a lot of opinions around these topics, so meet me at a meeting or send me a message, and let’s talk about it.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to discuss?
A: I would like to encourage readers to think about how you can make your voice heard in the profession and in our Association. Check out volunteer opportunities with AVMA or other organizations. Not only can you influence this organization, but the colleagues you connect with can also become a pervasive network for you.