AAEP Commission on Veterinary Sustainability: An Astounding Accomplishment

Here are some of the accomplishments made by the AAEP Commission on Equine Veterinary Sustainability's five subcommittees over the past year.
Happy young female veterinarian with horses
AAEP Commission member, AAEP Commission is working on transforming equine practice.
The five subcommittees of the AAEP Commission for Equine Veterinary Sustainability have made great progress in transforming the profession over the past year. | Getty Images

The AAEP Commission for Equine Veterinary Sustainability was born from discussions at the January 2022 AAEP board meeting. Those discussions led to an Owner Summit in Dallas, Texas, in May 2022. From that meeting, which was populated by members of VMG and Decade One groups and other owners at large, big ideas emerged. At the board meeting in July 2022, those ideas were distilled into the concept of a commission comprised of five subcommittees. Just one month later, the officers populated the subcommittees with volunteers that had reached out with interest in helping with this challenge. The officers and AAEP staff wrote expectations and a charge for each subcommittee, which were reviewed by the board. Each subcommittee was also given an officer liaison, an AAEP staff member, and two co-chairs. 

In September 2022, the subcommittees were organized with listservs and began to formulate ideas for fulfilling their charges. Just three months later at the 68th AAEP Annual Convention, the subcommittees began discussing their action plans with the membership in a special session. Then, over the first six months of 2023, all five subcommittees held in-person meetings and began their action plans.

Compensation Subcommittee

The Compensation Subcommittee contracted an AAEP member survey; data collected from that survey indicated that compensation and benefits were higher than what was indicated in the annual AVMA Senior Survey. The results also pointed out various areas where improvements could be made to increase employee satisfaction. These areas included number of days worked, sharing of emergency fees, hours worked per week, and benefits given. The subcommittee members and AAEP staff produced informational pieces to share the most important messages that were gleaned from the data. In the fall of 2023, the Compensation Subcommittee released the fee survey results of 100 Decade One and VMG to the AAEP membership. The subcommittee plans to repeat the survey with a larger number of respondents. 

Internship Subcommittee

Over the year since formation, the Internship Subcommittee created an entirely new program for internship opportunities, including guidelines to help graduates locate an internship that meets their needs, and guidelines for practice owners to formulate internship programs that fulfill crucial learning criteria while meeting practice goals. Along with these comprehensive documents, the subcommittee members also created new applications, a new website platform, and a new standardized system of review. A printed handbook was available at the 2023 AAEP Convention.

Culture Subcommittee

With perhaps the broadest topic, the Culture Subcommittee had a daunting task and met it head on. After articulating seven pillars of culture, the subcommittee members created a comprehensive and effective toolkit to help practices build a healthy culture. They created videos as well as worksheets. At the 2023 AAEP Convention, printed copies of the toolkit were available at many locations, and their work was showcased in several sessions, including the Opening Session.

Emergency Subcommittee

The Emergency Subcommittee was tasked with helping practitioners find new ways to provide essential emergency coverage in a more sustainable way. Emergency coverage requirements have resulted in many veterinarians leaving equine practice, so this was identified as an area of importance in the sustainability initiative. The subcommittee members identified all the ways that emergency service is currently provided, and they developed a toolkit for alternative ways of providing emergency coverage. Some of these alternatives include starting an emergency coalition, starting an emergency-only practice, and developing boundaries around emergency service. This toolkit was available at the 2023 AAEP Convention, and multiple sessions highlighted this group’s work.

Student Subcommittee

The Student Subcommittee was focused on student programs, and the group determined that more interaction with contented equine practitioners would be beneficial. In response, they created a speakers bureau of equine veterinarians in private practice who were eager to share their perspectives with students. In addition, they aligned with student chapters of the AAEP to provide increased access to basic clinical skills. 

Final Thoughts

The accomplishments of the AAEP Commission for Equine Veterinary Sustainability have been remarkable for such a short time in existence, and the industry is seeing change happening in a tangible way. Equine practice is becoming a sustainable career, but it will continue to take the efforts of many veterinarians to create lasting success. Each and every equine veterinarian can play a part in this transformation by adopting the mantra “I Am Change.”

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