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Dr. Kasten Goes to Washington: AVMA Convention Highlights

During the first week in August, I traveled to Washington, DC for the 2019 American Veterinary Medical Association’s (AVMA) Annual Convention. Drawing more than 8000 animal health professionals, including over 4000 veterinarians, the convention is one of the largest veterinary meetings on the calendar each year.

To give you a glimpse of the conversations in Washington, here are a few highlights from the convention:

Surgeon General Jerome Adams Addresses Convention – During the opening session, United States Surgeon General Jerome Adams gave an inspiring speech, asking veterinarians to help him fight the opioid abuse epidemic in the United States. He used a story from his own family to highlight the fact that the epidemic does not discriminate based on background or upbringing. He trained the entire audience on how to use naloxone (available to anyone for free at most pharmacies in most states) to save a life in the event of an opioid overdose. His final call-to-action was asking us to share this digital postcard to help educate the public and draw awareness to the problem of opioid misuse.

Technological Innovation is Changing Veterinary Practice – From the immergence and increasing availability of telemedicine to advancements in cage-side diagnostic tests and novel drug delivery systems, technologic innovation was omnipresent at the AVMA Convention. It will be exciting to see how these advancements alter the way veterinary medicine is practiced in future!

Dermatology Draws a Crowd – 6 of the 10 highest attended continuing education lectures covered topics pertaining to skin and ears. Not only are skin issues a problem for pet parents, they can be a challenge, even for the most experienced veterinarian. As we try to engage in antimicrobial stewardship by saving systemic antibiotics for situations that preclude treatment by other means as to help prevent bacteria from developing resistance, topical treatments for skin infections were an important topic of education and conversation. A lecture covering the diagnosis and treatment of pruritus (itchiness) in cats was the highest attended lecture of the hundreds of sessions available at the convention.

Veterinarians Want to Manage Pain Better – Sessions on managing pain in pets, particularly cats, were also very well attended. Speakers highlighted the importance of using a multimodal approach to pain management, regardless of the underlying cause of pain. Several sessions discussed treating pain in pets suffering from orthopedic problems. Multiple speakers emphasized that a combination approach incorporating weight loss, rehabilitation therapy, exercise, joint supplements, and medication for best results. Faced with the challenge of navigating their unique physiology, the pharmacologic management of pain in cats was also a hot topic.

Health and Wellbeing Remains an Imperative for Veterinarians – Veterinarians are tough on themselves. Compassion fatigue and burnout are major challenges in the profession. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), veterinarians are 3.5 times more likely than the general population to die from suicide. Needless to say, finding ways to solve these problems was a critical issue at the AVMA Convention. From booths in the exhibit hall offering health and wellness services to lectures on topics ranging from educational debt management to navigating the myth of being Superwoman and practical tips for giving feedback, the profession showed it is committed tackling these challenges head-on.

Public health, technology, dermatology, pain management, and veterinary wellbeing are critically important topics that impact the lives of animals and the people who care for them. Hopefully the knowledge shared and conversations started at the 2019 AVMA Convention will plant the seeds of progress and help advance animal health!

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