At ceremonies held during the recent Oregon Veterinary Conference in Corvallis, Dr. Robert Shimek of Salem became the new OVMA president.
Dr. Shimek was born and raised in Eastern Washington, received his BS in Animal Sciences from Washington State University in 1979 and his Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from Washington State University in 1983. After practicing in Washington for six years, he moved to Oregon in 1989. Dr. Shimek has been a member of the Marion Polk Veterinary Association for 20 years; he served on committees and the executive board, including a term as president. As part of the OVMA, he has served as a district representative to the board for 7 years, and now serves as president of the Association. Dr. Shimek and his wife, Kristey, a pharmacist, have two daughters, ages 18 and 22. He owns and operates a companion animal practice, Hoffman Veterinary Clinic, in Salem, OR.
Following are his remarks:
It is an honor to serve as OVMA president. The veterinary profession has been good to me, so I consider it a privilege to give something back. Had someone told me 20 years ago when I moved to Oregon that I would be standing here today assuming this position, I would have called for the men in the little white coats.
Organized veterinary medicine was not high on my priority list. My priorities were aimed more toward remembering what I was taught in veterinary school, practicing good veterinary medicine, and, oh, by the way, making the mortgage payment.
After some encouragement by my predecessor, Jim Hoffman, I became a member in the local Marion Polk Veterinary Association and my views began to change. I’ve learned over the years both as a veterinarian and as a business owner how important the OVMA is to the practice of veterinary medicine in the state of Oregon.
Our profession, like the medicine we practice, is changing constantly and it is vitally important to have an association that is proactive rather than reactive. This becomes even more important in the current economic problems we are experiencing.
With this in mind, I would like to take a few minutes and outline the areas I feel we as an organization need to focus on during the upcoming year.
In a year when our legislature is in session and the economy is in such disarray, our presence in the political arena has to be a high priority item. The issues that come before the legislature are varied and affect us in numerous ways. This year they vary from numerous animal welfare bills, to pesticide reporting, to student loan repayment programs, not to mention the various ways the legislature will attempt to get into the pockets of all businesses, including veterinarians. The pace so far has been frenzied, so it will be a challenge to stay ahead of the curve.
As the keynote speaker at the recent AVMA Leadership Conference, Dr. Michael Dunn, said, “When it comes to our competitive political system, you’re either a player or a victim.” It is imperative that OVMA remain vigilant to ensure we don’t become someone else’s victim.
A second area of importance that needs our attention is the ongoing need for certified veterinary technicians. Technicians play a vital role in our ability to provide quality care for our patients and their owners.
With the upcoming deadline to eliminate on-the-job trained technicians, this problem of educating future technicians must be addressed now. I would like to see the OVMA help in any way they can in the development of new programs for educating more technicians. The recently suggested idea of developing a program in conjunction with the College of Veterinary Medicine could be part of the solution. There are similar programs at other veterinary schools and I think this is a worthwhile endeavor for the OVMA to pursue.
Finally, a third area of emphasis has to do with the age and gender of our membership. As anyone who has not been asleep the last 20 years has noticed, the gender distribution of new graduates has changed significantly. Yet when you look at the participation on committees and boards at the state level, the shift has not been as evident.
While we are beginning to get some participation by recent graduates, we need to do more as an association to foster their participation. I have noticed in my local MPVA a significant change in the last few years and it’s had a very positive impact on our association.
The current generation Y, as they are referred to, has very different needs and expectations when it comes to organized veterinary medicine and the profession in general. It is imperative that OVMA do all it can to engage the Gen Ys to contribute and participate so that we can remain a vital organization. The “Good Old Boys Club” needs to fade into the sunset and give rise to a new “club” that more accurately addresses our current membership and at the same time attracts new members.
While none of the topics I mentioned are particularly earth-shattering, they are, nonetheless, goals the OVMA can, and should, pursue in the next year. As with any organization or association, results require more than lip service. The more individual involvement we can get, the easier and better the results will be. With this in mind, I appeal to each and every veterinarian in the state of Oregon to support the OVMA, not only with their dues, but also with a small amount of their time and expertise.
I especially appeal to all recent graduates to become involved in your state organization. As a former non-participating skeptic, I can assure you, you will receive far more in return that what you contribute.
While the upcoming year will no doubt have its moments, with the help of the rest of the board and our ever-present Executive Director, Glenn Kolb, I look forward to the challenge.