AVMA Economic Summit: Transitioning from Diagnosis to Treatment

In his opening remarks at the 2018 AVMA Economic Summit, held October 23-24 in Rosemont, Illinois, Matt Salois, PhD and director of the AVMA Veterinary Economics Division, adroitly contrasted components of the economic ecosystem. “On one hand, the economy is growing – and growing at a very healthy rate; on the other hand, the amount of debt in the US is causing concern amongst economists. On one hand, the labor market is hot and in recovery from the 2008 recession; on the other hand, not everyone is benefitting from the growing economy. On one hand, consumer and industry surveys show lots of optimism and the stock market is at record highs; on the other hand, there is a growing consensus among economists that these ‘soft’ survey data are losing relevance and a global trade war could cost American jobs and produce a drag on the US economy.”

Then Dr. Salois posed the question “So, now what?” After noting that evaluating and predicting the economy is both an art and a science, he underscored that the economy has diverse indicators, and one alone will not provide a fair assessment. Then he revealed a sobering perspective that “the next recession is coming by 2021, according to an overwhelming majority of economists.”

During her presentation on The Market for Veterinary Education, Lisa Greenhill, EdD and Senior Director for Institutional Research & Diversity at the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC), shared that the Class of 2023 application pool increased by 7%, and that the Class of 2022 is comprised of 14.8% men (reflecting a continuing decline) and of 15.1% racial/ethnic minorities; 53% of the class have no undergraduate debt “though pre-veterinary program debt is slowly on the rise.” Greenhill noted that applicants have strong, increasingly diverse profiles and “more affluent applicants are dominating the applicant pool.”

Digesting the overwhelming volume of data presented at the Summit is challenging, but summaries are now being published. A November 16 AVMA@Work blog post, under the headline “Economic update: Good news on jobs & salaries” provides a high-level view of key findings presented at the Summit. And the December 15 JAVMAnews item titled “Salaries, debt for new graduates continue to increase” provides an excellent overview, with additional articles on the gender pay gap and the market for veterinarians also available in the December 15 issue of JAVMA.

VMAE member Dr. Peter Weinstein, newly installed as chairman of the AVMA Veterinary Economic Strategy Committee, noted in his concluding remarks that the profession now has a wealth of economic research as a foundation. “Now, as a veterinarian” Weinstein stated, “I look at it as going from diagnosis to treatment. The economic research reports, listening sessions, information gathering, and discussion were all part of the diagnosis. We are moving to treatment. We are taking the research and insights gathered and creating movement in a positive direction to increase practice profitability and professional success.”

Ralph Johnson, CEO | VMAE