AAEP Commission on Veterinary Sustainability: Subcommittees Get to Work

Here is an update on what the five subcommittees of the AAEP Commission on Veterinary Sustainability are working on this summer.
A young veterinary student, which the AAEP Commission Student Subcommittee is focusing on
The AAEP Student Subcommittee is working to determine the best steps to spread awareness about the many positive aspects of equine practice. Getty Images

The five subcommittees of the AAEP Commission on Equine Veterinary Sustainability have been hard at work gathering data, creating educational material, building tools for members and fleshing out the desired structure of a new transformed model of equine practice that can meet the needs of new and old equine practitioners, as well as ensure the continued care of our nation’s horses. 

The Compensation Subcommittee met in person early in March and developed a series of “small bites” to share with members from the data collected in a survey performed by Comer Research Consultants under the guidance of the subcommittee’s leadership. The survey was emailed to 6,564 active members of the AAEP in September 2022. The 1,378 respondents yielded a participation rate of 21%, considered an excellent response. Determining recent graduate compensation was one of the most important goals of the survey. Salaries were determined by asking respondents for their 2021 annual taxable income from veterinary work as reported on their federal W-2 statement. This was chosen in order to simplify the reporting of the many different forms of compensation within the industry. The 2021 respondents were still students for the first six months, and nearly three-quarters of 2020 respondents were interns for the first six months. Therefore, data from these cohorts were removed, as they did not have a full year as an associate. For those graduating between 2016-2019, the average compensation was $88,973 for 2021.  

The Student Subcommittee will have an in-person meeting in June, where the subcommittee members as well as a cross-section of equine-oriented veterinary students will convene to determine the best steps to spread awareness about the many positive aspects of equine practice. In addition, the subcommittee is creating a Speakers Bureau for SCAAEP groups to draw from. It also has contracted with Comer Research Consultants to survey vet students, particularly those who have turned away from a career in equine medicine, in order to determine the most important reasons for their choices. 

The Culture Subcommittee had a productive in-person meeting in mid-March, when they collaborated to build a rubric based on seven pillars of a healthy practice culture. The seven pillars include 1) safety—physical, psychological and mental; 2) security—which flows from comprehensive benefits, parental leave and leaders modeling a balanced life; 3) connection and community—which includes relationships with colleagues, involvement in organized veterinary medicine and networking opportunities; 4) mattering at work—requiring involvement in decision making, recognition, and alignment of mission, vision and values; 5) professional and personal life—dealing with finding integration and balance, having autonomy over schedule and setting boundaries; 6) communication—both within the team and with clients; and 7) opportunities for growth—including mentorship, onboarding, reviews, engagement measures and effective feedback. The group is now creating resources for each of the pillars. 

The Internship Subcommittee has completed a series of documents aimed at helping students choose externships and internships that are right for their goals, as well as materials to help mentors assess interns’ progress and build an internship program that consistently attracts new veterinarians. They have had several well-attended roundtables and are currently revamping the AAEP Avenues materials. 

The Emergency Subcommittee met in person in May to discuss the multiple models for providing emergency coverage in depth and begin to develop actionable tools for AAEP members. The group had a vigorous discussion on client strategies to decrease practitioner burnout at their AAEP Member Roundtable on April 26. They also explored telehealth companies that provide triage, as well as state license reciprocity to aid relief veterinarians in broadening their scope.  

Overseeing the various subcommittees is the Steering Committee, which is made up of the co-chairs of each subcommittee and the AAEP officers. This group will meet in person in July to coordinate the Commission strategy for the remainder of 2023.  

The dedicated volunteers, assisted by the AAEP staff, are working hard with great enthusiasm and dedication to this effort. The winds of change are blowing!

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