AVMA Veterinary Leadership Conference Report

Every year, the HVMA sponsors one of its members to attend the Veterinary Leadership Conference in Chicago alongside the AVMA House of Delegates Meeting. In 2019, Dr. Jenee Odani represented the HVMA. Read her experience below.

This was my first time attending the AVMA Veterinary Leadership Conference in Chicago (held this year: Jan 10-13, 2019). There were three learning tracks: Rising Leaders, Experienced Leaders, and Presiding Leaders. I could identify with some issues in each track and I was grateful that we could register for sessions in any of the tracks. The sessions I attended included leadership and personal development, veterinary debt initiatives, virtual care, and mentoring. My favorite session was conducted by GetMotiVETed, which taught me tricks on how to be more productive with my time and reinforced my belief that we are in the GREATEST profession of all! I enjoyed conversations with seasoned veterinary leaders as well as students and recent graduates. With new perspective and knowledge, I am more excited about the future of our profession and the rewarding ways that we can contribute to its growth. It was a great experience and I strongly urge anyone interested in learning more about organized veterinary medicine to consider attending next year!

Jenee S. Odani
HVMA Secretary

Honolulu Street Dog Coalition

The Street Dog Coalition is a Colorado-based nonprofit founded by veterinarian Jon Geller whose mission is to provide free veterinary care and related services to pets of people affected by homelessness. Dr. Geller began providing care through street clinics in Ft. Collins in 2015 and has since expanded to mentor and provide supplies to licensed, volunteer veterinarians willing to lead clinics in their communities. The Street Dog Coalition partnered with the AVMA in July for a clinic at the Denver convention in July, read more about it here.

The Honolulu Street Dog Coalition clinics are led by Aleisha Swartz, DVM, and have started providing veterinary care such as vaccinations, parasite control and treatment of minor medical concerns at the new Punawai Rest Stop in Iwilei. The facility was built by the City and County of Honolulu and is a pet-friendly hygiene center where people can do laundry, take showers, receive mail and access social services.

The number of pets belonging to people affected by homelessness is unknown but is estimated to be approximately 10%. For the first time the 2019 Hawaii Homeless Point in Time Count survey asked people if they had pets; this information should be available in the spring.

If you are interested in more information on how to support this effort, volunteering at the Honolulu Clinics, or starting a clinic on a neighbor island, contact Aleisha at honolulu@thestreetdogcoalition.org. Support staff are welcome to volunteer. For more information about The Street Dog Coalition visit their website.

Meet a Board Member: Brenda Smith, Treasurer

Dr Brenda Smith grew up ‘on the mainland’.  Living in Louisville, Kentucky for most of her childhood, she developed a passion for horses and became very involved in Pony Club and dressage and eventing.  The seeds for a career in Veterinary medicine were planted early. Moving to Texas in high school, she remained through school, graduating from Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine in 1995.

The next 11 years were spent in Oregon and Washington, working first at mixed animal and then small animal clinics and the Southwest Washington Humane Society. An interest in alternative medicine led to certification in acupuncture through IVAS in 2001 and several Chinese herbal courses in the following years. She got immersed in volunteer work as well, supporting and serving on the board of the Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon as well as participating in international spay/neuter projects.  Spare time was spent exploring. The hiking and trail-riding and rafting are amazing in the Pacific Northwest.

Dr Smith moved to Maui in 2006, then Oahu in 2010. Moving to Oahu, she began Cherished Pet, a home euthanasia service, as well as doing relief work. Horses and rafts were replaced with surfboards and sailing gear! Volunteer work continued as well, both internationally doing spay/neuter projects and locally with the Polynesian Voyaging Society. Sailing on canoes (Faafaite and Hikianalia) from Auckland to Papeete to Hilo was a huge adventure!

The volunteer work was so rewarding, that in 2013 Dr Smith moved to American Samoa to work on a large scale spay/neuter and dog overpopulation project.  After two years and 5000 surgeries, the island dog population was much healthier. The island is beautiful, both above and underwater. Hiking and diving and outrigger paddling were spare time activities.

Last year, Dr Smith and her partner Tim moved back to Oahu and she resumed doing relief work and home euthanasia. She is currently working at Kailua Animal Clinic at their new Feline Wellness Center, paddling recreationally with Lanikai Canoe Club, and generally enjoying life biking and beach walking around Kailua. Her two cats have moved from Washington to Hawaii to American Samoa and then back. They have now been joined by four entertaining backyard hens.

Meet a Member: Kasey Carter, DVM

Dr. Kasey Carter joined the Hawaiian Humane Society as Chief Veterinarian in June of 2018. In his role as Chief Veterinarian, Kasey has drawn on prior experience to guide Hawaiian Humane in opening the Society’s Community Spay/Neuter Center in October 2018 and is developing programs to strengthen veterinary practices for Hawaiian Humane. Additionally, Kasey is responsible for oversight of two full time staff veterinarians and several part time veterinarians at the Society.

Kasey was born in Tucson, Arizona and was surrounded by all kinds of animals throughout childhood. He attended the University of Arizona for a bachelor’s degree in veterinary science in 2008. He moved to Fort Collins, CO in 2009 to attend Colorado State University and received a master’s degree in biomedical science in 2009 and subsequently a DVM degree in 2013. Throughout vet school, Kasey had a passion for shelter medicine and completed scientific studies in the shelter and academic settings. After graduation in 2013, he worked as a staff veterinarian at Denver Dumb Friends League for about five years prior to moving to Honolulu.

While in Colorado, Kasey was an active member/district representative in CVMA and is a CVMA Power of 10 alumnus. He looks forward to being an active member and working with HVMA. Kasey shares his home with his girlfriend and two dogs Kevin and Frank. When not at work, he enjoys hiking, discovering new music, and laying around with his dogs. Please feel free to reach out and let him know if you are looking for a cat – he knows a couple hundred that are looking for homes!

AVMA Update Jan 2019

American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Winter Session and The Veterinary Leadership Conference (VLC)

Aloha to you all and a belated Happy New Year!

The House of Delegates convened for the Winter Session in combination with the Veterinary Leadership Conference in Chicago, Illinois, January 10-13.  This years theme was Evolution of Leadership – Learn, Grow, Lead, Evolve your Leadership Journey. The purpose of the VLC was to provide veterinary professionals, at all stages of their career, personal and professional leadership that benefits the individual attendee and the Veterinary Profession.  The conference included:

a) AVMA governance meetings

b) Continuing Education Sessions focused on leadership development

c) Network opportunities

At this conference, Rising Leaders are interacting with Experienced Leaders to expand leadership skills and gives everyone the tools to create a roadmap for our leadership journey.

Here is a summary of our AVMA House of Delegates Winter Session:


AVMA membership is strong with the association’s official membership at more than 93,400. AVMA retained a higher percentage of members to start the year. Three out of every four veterinarians are members of the AVMA.

Health Insurance is returning!

Beginning in July, members and their employees in the AVMA LIFE Trust, or a related entity, may be able to offer health insurance as an ‘association of employers.’ This means veterinarians who are employers – including those who are self-employed – might be eligible to purchase group health insurance for themselves, their families, and their employees through the AVMA family. The program is expected to build over time.

For more information and to sign up for the latest updates,  go to: AVMALife.org or call 800-621-6360.

Enhancing the utilization of veterinary technicians

During the House of Delegates business meeting, the HOD’s Veterinary Information Forum was committed to the topic of enhancing the utilization of veterinary technicians. Prior to the forum, AVMA members were asked to provide their input on the topic to their House representatives, and more than 400 comments were received.

The value of veterinary technicians is certain and that efforts need to be made across the profession to increase technician use and boost job satisfaction. Members of the House of Delegate recommends that the AVMA Board of Directors convene a task force to design a plan to improve veterinary technician utilization and that a progress report be shared with the HOD within a year.

Governance: House of Delegate Actions

HOD members also acted on several resolutions and bylaws amendments, including:

  • Model Veterinary Practice Act: Refer to the AVMA Board of Directors
    • Consideration of a revised version that incorporates input from HOD deliberations conducted during the meeting.
  • Membership Dues Increase: Approved
    • A resolution submitted by the AVMA Board of Directors to increase annual membership dues $30 in 2020, and, if necessary, up to $10 in 2021 and 2022 for regular and affiliate memberships. Reduced dues memberships will be made equal to 50% of the annual dues of regular members.
  • Bylaw amendment expanding the composition of the AVMA Council on Veterinary Services to include a credentialed veterinary technician.  Approved.
  • Bylaw amendment changing the name of the AVMA Council on Public Health and Regulatory Veterinary Medicine to the AVMA Council on Public Health. Approved
  • Bylaw amendment removing a statement of responsibility of the AVMA Council on Research. Approved.
  • Bylaw amendment removing a statement of responsibility of the AVMA Council on Biologic and Therapeutic Agents. Approved
  • Bylaw amendment that replaces the AVMA Judicial Council with an ad hoc hearing panel to adjudicate complaints of unethical conduct by AVMA members. Approved
  • Bylaw amendment related to the maintenance of House status for House of Delegates member organizations. Approved
  • Bylaw amendment expanding eligibility of membership on the AVMA Council on Public Health (formerly known as the AVMA Council on Public Health and Regulatory Veterinary Medicine). Approved

Keynote speaker Drew Dudley: Day One Leadership.

Leadership is more than money, power and influence.  Drew’s message is to focus on the “everyday leadership.” We have all changed someone’s life — usually without even realizing it. Let us celebrate leadership as the everyday act of improving each other’s lives.  Create those moments that have powerful impacts and growth and that can be life changing for you and your organization. To learn more about Drew’s message refer to his Ted Talk on Leadership or enjoy his book: This is Day One, A Practical Guide to Leadership That Matters.

Future VLC Meeting

January 9-12, 2020

VLC benefits veterinary professionals at all career stages to take on new challenges and leadership roles that benefit both the individual attendee and the veterinary profession. The benefits of attending the combined VLC and House of Delegates winter session are:

  • Evolve your leadership skills – Gain new insights, expand your personal tool set, and learn from those who’ve come before you.
  • Connect with a diverse network of leaders from across the veterinary profession.
  • Deepen your understanding of how the AVMA works and discover exciting opportunities to get involved!
  • Earn up to 8 hours of continuing education credit.

Please feel free to contact your AVMA Hawaii Alternate Delegate – Carolyn Naun, or myself – Leianne Lee Loy if you would like to learn more about this meeting (avma_delegate@hawaiivetmed.org).

AVMA Convention: A Monumental Experience

Save the date: August 2-6, 2019 in Washington D.C.


Leianne K. Lee Loy

Hawaii Delegate for AVMA

Hawaii Veterinary Emergency Response

HVMA is working with the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (HI-EMA) to support local and state disaster preparedness pertaining to animals. Would you be interested in volunteering in the event of an emergency? Would you be interested in being part of the working group developing a set of guidelines for animal care and treatment and considering the formation of a Veterinary Medical Reserve Corps or Companion Animal Response Team? Please help us gauge member interest by taking our survey below.

Message from the President Jan 2019

Aloha HVMA members,

January is a time to reflect back on the accomplishments of the past and look forward to the goals of the future. Thanks to the hard work of the conference committee we had another highly successful annual meeting in November with internationally recognized speakers in internal medicine, exotics, dentistry, Fear Free practice, disaster planning and more. We are already beginning to plan for next year’s event so please let us know if there are any speakers or topics you would like to see in the future. At our annual meeting we elected new officers to the board and also updated our by-laws. More information on these can be found on the Member Resources page of our website.

As we move into 2019 we look forward to serving members and the community in many ways including disaster planning with HI-EMA, legislative advocacy, keeping you informed on topics of importance to veterinary medicine in addition to opportunities to participate in community outreach. Our website’s About us page has been updated with our purposes as stated in our charter with the state. Please take a moment to read about who we are.

Membership renewal season has begun and we encourage you to renew early. Please see here for all the benefits of membership.

Finally, we want to share our gratitude to Eric Ako for his many years of service to the HVMA as the Executive Vice President. Please be sure to thank him when you see him, as this organization would not be where it is today without his tireless efforts. We are very fortunate that Jill Yoshicedo has agreed to take the reins as EVP, and know she will continue to add value to your membership and advocate on behalf of veterinarians in Hawaii. We also say aloha to Cordell Chang after many years of service as the HVMA representative to the AVMA.

Save the date for the 66th Annual Conference: November 7-10, 2019!

Aloha on behalf of the HVMA board,

Aleisha Swartz

2018-2020 Officer Nomination Slate

HVMA Board
President-Elect: Alfred Mina
Vice Pres: Tim Falls
Secretary: Jenee Odani
Treasurer: Brenda Smith
Executive Vice President: Jill Yoshicedo
Maui County Delegate (1): Leo Murakami

Hawaii County Delegates (2): Jacob Head, open

AVMA House of Delegates

Hawaii Delegate: Leianne Lee Loy

Hawaii Alternate Delegate: Carolyn Naun

We will be holding elections during the annual business meeting on Saturday, November 10 at 12:15pm at the Hilton Waikiki Beach Hotel, 3rd floor, Prince Jonah Room. Installation of officers will be held on Sunday, November 11 at 12:15pm at the same location. You do not need to be a conference attendee to attend these meetings. Please join us!

Meet a Member: Ben Okimoto, DVM

Dr. Ben Okimoto served as the Honolulu Zoo Veterinarian for over 30 years. He graduated from Kansas State College of Veterinary Medicine in 1980. As well as caring for the health of the Zoo’s animals and promoting the Zoo’s mission of educating and inspiring Hawaii’s keiki, he mentored many young aspiring veterinarians along the way. With his permission, we have reprinted his memoir of his time at the Honolulu Zoo, originally published for Honolulu Zoo Society members.

March 24, 1988: My “Start Date” at the Honolulu Zoo 30 years and 3 months ago resulted from my selection as Zoo Veterinarian by Jerry Marr (Zoo Director), Walter Ozawa (Parks Department Director) and Dr. Allen Miyahara (UH Veterinarian). At that time I had no idea it would last for 3 decades.

I remind the zoo keepers that I have worked here longer than many of them have been alive. I am so grateful to all who have worked at the zoo for all their support for all these years. And I mean all the zoo staff, from the vet staff, the animal staff, commissary staff, grounds and maintenance staff, administrative staff, the Honolulu Zoological Society, Service Systems staff, the Front Office/ticket booth staff, and even the Security staff. They have all assisted and supported me in caring for the zoo animals, and I especially appreciate their support for those times when my efforts were insufficient or inadequate.

I was hired as an entry level Zoo Veterinarian to work under the guidance of Dr. Patrick Leadbeater. The City brought in Dr. Amy Shima from the San Diego Zoo for a couple of weeks to train me and to assess our zoo hospital. The City then sent me on an orientation/training trip for two and a half months to mainland zoos. I spent most of my time at the St. Louis Zoo and the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago, but I was also able to visit the zoos in Cincinnati, Lincoln Park in Chicago, Milwaukee, Indianapolis, and the International Crane Trust. Later I spent a couple of weeks with Dr. Shima at the San Diego Zoo. All this exposure was very opportune training for me as I assumed the lead role of Honolulu Zoo Veterinarian in 1989.

Our zoo vet hospital at that time was a quaint small house on zoo grounds that I believe Paul Breese said was built in 1953. At one time that eventual zoo hospital was the home for the zoo curator and later zoo veterinarian. That veterinarian was Dr. Calvin Lum. Many years ago one of Dr. Lum’s son, Jory, was hired as a zoo keeper. Jory visited the clinic and pointed out to me that the surgery room used to be his bedroom. The other identical house built on zoo grounds originally was the home for the Zoo Director. When the curator’s home was converted to the hospital, the director’s home was converted to become the zoo keeper meeting and locker/shower facility. It is currently being used by the staff of Service Systems.

We were very lucky that in 2004 the City and the Zoo Society, along with individual benefactors (Mark Bogart) were able to fund the construction of a new zoo hospital. I based the floor plan on the design of the Miami Metro Zoo’s hospital, and the whole project including the buildings and equipment cost around $4 million. We moved into the new hospital in late 2005.

Since that time we have cared for many of the zoo animals in the new hospital. We have even assisted outside agencies in caring for non-zoo animals: Hawaiian bats, Hawaiian Monk Seals, Yellow Belly Sea Snakes, Brush Tailed Rock Wallabies, and several others.

There have been other non-zoo animals that we did not care for but had to interact with, most notably “Tyke” the elephant. There was also the live Cobra found at the airport, the live Cougar that was confiscated from a home in Hawaii Kai, and the live Fishing Bat found at the wharf, among others.

Thirty years is a long time to care for an animal. Inevitably and sadly it means that you will outlive many of the animals that you care for. This is felt most strongly by the primary zoo keepers who provide daily care for the years that they work at the zoo. But medical care providers can also develop associations, relationships, and even bond with individual zoo animals.

I would like to tell you about some of the zoo animals that I will never forget.

The reptile keepers will have to forgive me for saying that it can be difficult to “bond” with a reptile. But some reptiles have such a strong presence that they had an aura about them. “Goliath” our male alligator was such an animal. He didn’t move much and he often just lay on the grass or floated in the pond. But as you approached him, all he had to do was open his eyes and look at you and you immediately became aware that he wasn’t a floating log, he was a living dinosaur.

Some birds can live for a long time. “Abby” our Abyssinian Ground Hornbill is in his forties. I think “Abby” is intelligent enough to recognize individual people. He will frequently come up to the exhibit fence when people are nearby, but he seems to actually interact with you the more often and the longer you “know” him. Recently he was brought up to the hospital when he was soaked and very disheveled. He was stressed and not very responsive, but after a while he reacted to me when I called him over to stand in front of a heat lamp.

Many years ago we had a female Crested Celebes Macaque named “Gabby”. She was very responsive and friendly, often turning her back up to the fence to have her back scratched. Every year I had to dart her to sedate her for her annual examination. This would stress her in the beginning of the procedure but she would eventually just place her hind end up against the fence, like saying “go ahead, get it over with already”. All the primates recognize me as the person who darts them, but “Gabby” was different. She was the only primate in my 30 years here who would forgive me. Always within a couple of days of darting she would be friendly to me again and would present her back for scratching.

“Pandji” was the greatest tiger I have known. He was our male Sumatran tiger who had a medical condition with his esophagus. One of my veterinary technicians at that time actually helped to hand raise him when he was a cub at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha. His benign disposition was a great help to us when we were treating him here because at one time he was unconscious for over two days. One of my colleagues, the late Dr. Phil Kau, inserted a jugular catheter into his neck vein and we had him on an IV drip continually, until he woke up. We had to quickly remove the catheter and exit his sleeping quarters. Although he was aware of our presence inside his sleeping quarters, “Pandji” made no aggressive moves towards us. Later it became evident that he had developed a severe problem with his esophagus. Dr. Kau and I diagnosed it as a stricture in his esophagus, deep in his chest, at about the level of his heart. There was nothing else that we could do for him. Another colleague, Dr. Jim Scoggin, referred a human Gastroenterologist, Dr. Bill Hartman to assist us. Dr. Hartman brought down all his own equipment, all his staff, and they treated him surgically, as best they could with human equipment. “Pandji” did okay for about a month, and then he got sick again. Dr. Hartman came down and worked on him again, and again, and again, for several months. As he modified his procedure (there were very few references in the literature to treat this condition) “Pandji” lasted longer before he needed treatment again. Eventually Dr. Hartman’s treatment lasted a year and we would only need to call him in whenever we did “Pandji’s” annual exam. Dr. Hartman saved “Pandji’s” life when veterinarians could do no more for him. Throughout this time of multiple immobilizations “Pandji” was compliant, cooperative, and dignified.

“Apollo” was the greatest lion I have known. Where “Pandji” was compliant and quiet, “Apollo” could be feisty, angry, and very dangerous. “Apollo” was the only animal in my 30 years that I was afraid of. There were several other animals who were also dangerous and worthy of great respect, but unlike other animals, “Apollo” was not dangerous because he was afraid or anxious or stressed. He was dangerous because he meant to be. When he needed to be darted for sedation he was not afraid. He wouldn’t try to run away, no, he would charge me. He would jump up on the fence, roar loudly and bite the chain link, crimping the links with his canine teeth like the fence was made out of plastic. When a full grown male lion does that 2 feet away from your face and you are standing there alone, besides putting your faith in the almighty you put your faith in the chain link fence. As “Apollo” got older and slowly came down with big cat old age problems like cataracts and kidney problems, his attitude, persona, and reaction times slowly changed. He became like a feisty old man in a nursing home, diminished from his youth, but still having regal character inside him.

“Kruger” was the greatest rhino I have known. He was also the biggest rhino I have known, albeit that was because he was overweight. But as huge as he was, and with his massive horn, he was still quiet and gentle. As he got older, we determined that he was having kidney problems. We could not reverse his kidney problems and we were limited as to what we could do to treat him. One of the medications we gave him was supplemental IV fluids. We did not have a containment chute big enough to restrain him. But “Kruger” was so calm and gentle that he would allow me to stick large needles into his ear veins to give the IV fluids. And so without any physical restraint he would line up next to a fence, let me insert the needles, and just stand there for the fluids to flow in, so long as someone kept feeding him apples and produce. We did this multiple times. One time we had at least two IV lines flowing and he stood there for a couple of hours to allow several liters of fluid to go in, all the while happily munching away on apples. “Kruger” also liked to get scratched, he had a soft spot at the base of his neck.

“Kihei Iki” and “Kihei Ha ehu ehu” were two of the most unique animals I have ever cared for. They were two Hawaiian Hoary Bats that we were able to keep alive for 3 and 5 years respectively. As federally listed endangered species, no one can keep Hawaiian bats. But if they are found injured and deemed non-releasable then they were turned over to us for care. I have developed a tremendous interest and respect for all bats, but especially for our Hawaiian Hoary Bat (‘Ope’ape’a). At a bat conservation field workshop in Arizona they cautioned us to always handle hoary bats with leather gloves because they will bite hard. But I have found that Hawaiian Hoary bats are much more gentle and calm. They quickly acclimated to captivity and I could daily feed them mealworms with my bare hands. They also liked to be stroked on top of their heads and would doze off after eating. I was pleased to give testimony in support of Senator Sam Slom’s bill to name the ‘Ope’ape’a as the Official State Land Mammal for Hawaii.

As much as these animals have meant to me, and as much as I have come to respect the people that work here, there was something more that kept me working here. That was my belief in the zoo itself. Soon after I started working here I pondered why the zoo continued to exist, what was its justification. I concluded that its purpose was for conservation education for the children of Hawaii. That was the justification, and because of that the zoo existed, and because of that it justified keeping these exotic animals in captivity, and because of that it justified me being here to take care of them.

Meet Your Board: Eric Ako, Executive Vice President

Dr. Eric Ako has served as the HVMA Executive Vice President since 1987. Over the past 30 years, Eric has grown the HVMA annual conference into a wonderful resource attracting well-known speakers and attendees from all over the world. In serving Hawaii’s local VMA chapter, he has advocated for legislation benefiting and strengthening the veterinary profession and our ability to care for Hawaii’s animals and protect human health.

Eric Ako also opened The Pet Doctor veterinary clinic in Kahala in 1987, where he has treated companion animals with a special interest in avian medicine. Seeing the needs of the smaller outer islands, he extended his veterinary services to Lanai, and offers regular veterinary care including spay/neuter surgeries to Lanai residents several times a month. He also serves as the veterinarian for the Lanai Cat Sanctuary.