Veterinary economics commission loses support


The National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues is regrouping after a loss of support from the American Animal Hospital Association, one of the commission's founding organizations, and difficulties attracting new corporate sponsors in the current economic climate.

At press time, the NCVEI board was considering how to reframe the commission's bylaws and prioritize projects for 2011.

"I don't think there's any question at this stage whether we will continue," said Dr. Michael P. Andrews, NCVEI board chair. "It's a question of what we will be able to accomplish, given the budget."

The AVMA, AAHA, and Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges created the commission in 2000 for its mission "to improve the economic base of the veterinary profession, ensuring that the delivery of veterinary care and service meets the needs of society." Each founding organization holds four of the 12 seats on the NCVEI board.

The commission's most prominent project has been a free, online benchmarking program available at www.ncvei.org that allows veterinary practices to compare their financial data with aggregate figures.

Dr. Karen E. Felsted, NCVEI chief executive officer, said veterinarians' earnings have improved during the past decade. Additional economic issues have emerged, however, including a decline in the frequency of veterinary visits by cats and dogs.

Earlier this year, the NCVEI announced that it was exploring a partnership with the Kansas State University College of Business Administration to establish a Center for Veterinary Economics.

Subsequently, the commission received promises from the AVMA and AAVMC of continued financial support. The AAHA board, however, disapproved further funding and withdrew AAHA from the commission.

"AAHA continued supporting NCVEI long after the original commitment expired because of the importance economic issues play in the veterinary industry," said Dr. Gregg K. Takashima, AAHA president, in a statement to JAVMA News. "AAHA felt that continuing the financial support of NCVEI required substantial changes to the organization's (NCVEI's) business model."

In response, Dr. Felsted noted that the AAHA representatives on the NCVEI board had all voted in favor of the commission's current strategic plan.

The NCVEI has relied primarily on funding from corporate sponsors and the founding organizations, Dr. Felsted continued. Attracting new corporate sponsors has been difficult because of the recession as well as recent consolidations in the animal health industry. The NCVEI also is seeking other new sources of funding, such as foundations that finance research.

The commission's bylaws require that the commission dissolve following the withdrawal of one of the three founding organizations. Restructuring the board could mean simply retaining the AVMA and AAVMC representatives, Dr. Felsted said, or the NCVEI could add representatives from other organizations.

In the meantime, Dr. Felsted said, the commission has been collaborating with Bayer Animal Health and Brakke Consulting on a project to study the declining frequency of veterinary visits by cats and dogs. Although the establishment of the Center for Veterinary Economics depends on funding, Dr. Andrews said the NCVEI board would discuss how to start collaborating with the Kansas State business college on a smaller scale.

Dr. Andrews said, "It's ironic that in the midst of bad economic times, the commission set up to address issues in veterinary economics is having challenges."
 


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