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The roots of AAVDM go back to 1982, when Dr. Robert Shomer, delegate from the New Jersey Veterinary Medical Association, presented a resolution to the American Veterinary Medical Association reference committee #7 regarding veterinarians "Coping in a Major Disaster". These early initiatives grew out of the anti-nuclear movement and the perceived need to endorse federal programs such as "Ground Zero" and "Freeze". This reference committee did not adopt the resolution; however, it was adopted by the AVMA House of Delegates a few years later.

In 1983 several veterinarians from North America attended the convention of "Physicians for Social Responsibility" in Brighton, England. Enthused by their experience, they decided to establish the American Veterinary Academy on Disaster Medicine (AVADM). The first annual meeting of the ACADEMY was held in 1984 in New Orleans. The first officers were Dr. Robert Shomer (President), Dr. Robert Linnabary (Vice president) and Dr. Ole Stalheim (Secretary/Treasurer). The initial purpose of the ACADEMY included the following: "To provide a forum for the collection and dissemination of information dealing with biological, chemical and nuclear disasters as they affect animals and the ecosystem. To provide public information that will be useful in minimizing the dangers and to provide information on treatment whenever possible. To promote such legislation as may be necessary to include the care, treatment or evacuation of animals not considered in present programs. To actively encourage the teaching of disaster medicine as a discipline in the schools. To encourage all state and local veterinary associations to coordinate their efforts with AVMA guidelines."

To promote these objectives the ACADEMY has held continuing education workshops in disaster medicine nearly every year in conjunction with the AVMA conventions. Speakers have included representatives from the federal and state Emergency Management Agencies, Association of Search and Rescue, the American Red Cross and the National Animal Poison Control Center. Other speakers reported on field experiences and what they had learned about preparedness and response to disasters. As a result of these efforts the membership of the ACADEMY grew and now includes many professionals who have hands on experiences in disasters.

In 1987, Dr. Linnabary from the University of Tennessee became President, and Dr. Craig Carter (Texas A&M) became Vice president. The Constitution and Bylaws were adopted that year. In 1989, Dr. Carter became President, Dr. Jim Steele Vice-president, and Dr. William Buck (National Animal Poison Control Center) Secretary/Treasurer. The ACADEMY membership directory was created and initiatives were taken to collaborate with the Humane Society of the United States to compile a global database of consultants in veterinary disaster medicine. During the early 1990's the ACADEMY grew in prestige with Dr. Roscoe Moore, Chief Veterinary Officer, US Public Health Services as its President, and Dr. Jacob Casper, Veterinary Liaison for the Maryland Emergency Management Agency, as Secretary/Treasurer.

By 1993 the impact of huge scale natural disasters on civilian life of (Hurricanes Hugo, Andrew and Iniki, as well as the Oakland Fire Storms) and the end of the cold war shifted the issues in veterinary disaster management from radiation and nuclear concerns to civilian issues, such as the importance of the human-animal bond during disasters. Veterinary disaster medicine quickly emerged as a field needing resources and research. That year new officers were elected who had first hand experience with current disaster issues. These were Dr. Sebastian Heath, President, who had helped with the recovery of horses following Hurricane Andrew and Dr. Kerri Marshall, Vice president, who created the California VMA Disaster Resource Guide. In 1994 the Academy became incorporated as the American Academy on Veterinary Disaster Medicine, Inc, thus changing the original name.

The ACADEMY is the longest established professional group in veterinary disaster medicine. The strength of the membership in the ACADEMY lies in the network of professionals with experience in veterinary disaster medicine. Examples of this force include the following: the adoption of the resolution proposed by our founder Dr. Robert Shomer, "Coping in a Major Disaster", opened the gates for the AVMA Council on Veterinary Services to draft a document on Emergency Response. The first edition of this document was published in 1994. Other members have facilitated the first integrated state emergency management plans for animals in the United States in Maryland, Ohio and Indiana. Many of the publications in the veterinary literature on veterinary disaster medicine have been written by members of the ACADEMY, and collectively our membership has provided more lectures, workshops and discussion forums on veterinary disaster medicine than any other group in the world. Our focus continues to be educational programs in veterinary disaster medicine for practicing veterinarians, veterinary schools, and emergency management officials.

We have to recognize that the original concept of the ACADEMY was truly visionary. Celebrating 15 years of an organization in 1999 demonstrates the persistent relevance of veterinary disaster medicine to the veterinary profession and other professional animal care providers. The ACADEMY has provided great motivation for its members to help integrate the care of animals and their owners affected by disasters into the official of emergency preparedness. There are many future challenges that lie ahead.

The ACADEMY currently pursues the following goals:

To provide a forum for veterinary health professionals and other concerned persons for the presentation and dissemination of factual information on natural and man-made disasters that threaten the well being of animals and the environment.
To serve as a professional consulting service to citizens and official agencies that are concerned with the welfare of animals and their owners in disasters.
To consult with agencies, owners and care providers of animals before, during and after disasters by recognizing the importance of the Human-Animal Bond and other relevant public health issues.

The AAVDM also accepts sponsorship to support its own projects, which include the integration of the care of animals into official Emergency Operations Plans; public awareness; and research on the care of animals in disasters. The ACADEMY can also help with funds for other grass roots organizations, such as local Emergency Response Groups, Task Forces and funding for preparedness for and recovery from disasters. The ACADEMY actively works with other foundations, such as the American Veterinary Medical Foundation and the Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Society.

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Copyright, 2000.  AAVDM
This page was last updated:  01/08/00