Our ACZM President, Sharon Deem
As I write my last President letter for the ACZM Newsletter, I have been able to carve out a few minutes to step away from a busy 21st century professional (and personal) life to reflect on the College. It is clear that ACZM is experiencing changes. These changes sometimes daunt me, especially as “the one in charge” for a few more months. However, I must confess I can say that I am daunted by the changes occurring in almost all facets of the world today. Maybe I am thinking of these changes too deeply and in a Darwinian theory of evolution by natural selection kind of way since I am writing this from my field site in the Galapagos. A site where I have worked over the past decade and have witnessed incredible, and often challenging, changes.
We as a group of passionate veterinarians that care deeply for the health and welfare and conservation of non-domestic species are facing changes; some good but many that bring challenges to our profession. I think each of us can relate to the idea that we are living in a period of great change with direct impacts on our work whether we work in private practice, academia, zoos/aquariums, NGOs, governmental agencies or …. you get the picture. For the College, some of these challenges are simply a result of our success and the rapid growth in the number of Diplomates. As a member or the Executive Officer Team for the past six years, I have seen how running a College with rapid growth leads to an increase in time commitment to fulfill duties and responsibilities for officers, committee chairs and members. I will share some of these duties here, but wish to first thank all of you that do so much for our College.
Since the last President letter your officers and many committee chairpersons have worked diligently on issues near and dear to most all of us. During the first 6 months of 2017 we have been looking at compliant ACZM residency programs and how to make sure we are doing the right thing for both the residents in these programs and for the College itself. We need to continue to provide the best training programs for the future generations of ACZM College members. As the diversity of our College changes so have compliant ACZM residency programs. I think these changes are exciting and I hope that we as a College will embrace the changes as reflective of the variety of roles that ACZM Diplomates hold. We also have been working hard to evaluate the ACZM examination. To this end, we have a contract with Schroeder Measurement Technologies, Inc. (same group who did the Job Task Analysis for the College) to perform an exam validation. Results of the validation will be available over the next 1 ½ years. As I step into the position of immediate past president, I will work with other officers and the exam committee chairperson, Dr. Jennifer D’Agnostino, to ensure validation recommendations are implemented appropriately.
One area that I feel we have not done as well as I had hoped when I first became secretary in 2012 is in getting the value of ACZM out to the world – think big! We are an impressive group of accomplished veterinarians that have much to contribute to the health care of the planet. We need to get this message out to the heads of the organizations we work for (or better yet become the heads of these organizations as some of us are doing!), but also out to our clients, deans, the media, policy makers and our next-door neighbors. As an example (not to toot my own horn), I received the Trustees Award from the Saint Louis Academy of Science in April this year, the first time ever for a veterinarian. Thrilled and honored to receive the award the Academy said it was because of the work that I was doing to help bridge the human medical, veterinary, and ecological communities locally and globally. In a very human medicine centric city, it was great to have a platform to let our science colleagues know about the kinds of work that ACZM Diplomates are doing and the importance of this work. We each can share our work within these communities and help to get ACZM on the radar.
Every day in our professional capacities, we have a chance to educate and share the value of ACZM and our mission. As I wrap up this summer’s field season in Galapagos I am reminded how important ACZM board certified veterinarians are for advancing health care around the globe. This year, Dr. Samuel Rivera from Zoo Atlanta and I joined forces on an impressive (thanks Sam!) field based endoscopic study for sexing juvenile tortoises as one part of a larger Galapagos Tortoise program. Our combined skillsets helped to move the understanding of tortoise ecology forward. With us was a fourth year University of Illinois veterinary student. Having a few days camping together I was thrilled to hear him say how so many veterinary students think highly of ACZM boarded veterinarians and aspire to be one. We are role models!
Charles Darwin once said, “It is not the strongest or the most intelligent that survive, but the one most able to change”. We are living in changing times and we, as a College, must embrace this change and adapt to be able to transform current challenges into opportunities. I know the 2018 Executive Officers, Drs. Kay Backues as President, Jennifer Langan as Vice-President, Lisa Harrenstien as Treasurer and one of the two great candidates running for Secretary, will ensure that ACZM is well posed to continue to adapt and change with the times.
Sharon L. Deem, DVM, PhD, Dipl ACZM