Keeping Up-To-Date at the North American Veterinary Conference

By Dr. Dave Thompson

Dr. Betsy Thompson, Dr. Jim Earley and I recently attended the North American Veterinary Conference (NAVC) in Orlando, FL, which is a learning experience for veterinarians that has no equal. The NAVC has occurred each year in January since 1984, and Betsy and I have attended almost every year. We were delighted to have Jim with us this year. The purpose of this article is to give you a little insight into this exciting learning opportunity that also gives us the chance to examine and learn about the latest equipment.

The NAVC is the largest veterinary meeting in the world, and this year over 17,000 people from all over the world attended. To accommodate a meeting of this magnitude three convention centers and seven hotels with buses going to each throughout the day are needed. There are approximately 40 speakers on 40 subjects every hour Saturday through Wednesday. Depending on the subject, a lecture may be in a room as big as an acre or it may be in a small room with only 20 veterinarians, giving the lecturer an opportunity to go into great detail on a particular subject and answer questions. Lectures start at 6:30 AM and the last one typically ends at 7:30 PM, so unless we are on the bus changing from one building to another, we aren’t outside the whole time we are in Orlando. Additionally, the Exhibit Hall is filled with approximately 2 acres of the newest and best equipment with the most knowledgeable people in the field available to answer questions.  

Veterinary medical  and surgical knowledge and diagnostic technologies increase every year, so staying current takes great effort. This is why the North American Veterinary Conference is so valuable to us. North Carolina requires that every licensed veterinarian attend 20 hours of continuing education yearly.  At AHNA, we require our doctors to attend a minimum of 50 hours yearly.  Their reading of the many journals that we receive monthly does not count in those 50 hours. AHNA veterinarians each attend a large national meeting each year as the large meetings have the latest information by the best specialists. A meeting of this caliber is where cutting edge information is available with documentation that it is accurate.  Among other notable meetings that at least one of our doctors may attend each year are: the Veterinary Dental Forum, the American Animal Hospital Association, the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine Specialists, the American Association of Feline Practitioners, the American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Specialists, and the Western States Veterinary Conference.

You might think that “going back to school” would be a drag, but we literally get goose bumps with excitement at the prospect of learning. Every lecture and every speaker is an opportunity to learn something new that can help us diagnose and treat a disease, relieve symptoms, or simply give the patient a better or a longer life.  Every speaker provides notes that can be downloaded onto our personal digital tablet so that we can see dosages and charts to an extent that would be impossible to write down during a lecture.

There is also the option to attend day long labs on various topics where you get hands on experience. Jim came back really excited about one he attended  that was taught by a renowned Veterinary Behaviorist and author, Karen Overall,  on how to reduce or eliminate stress in patients receiving care.

Every year, some late evening (8pm to 11pm) entertainment is provided.  One of the late evening presentations we especially enjoyed was provided by Barbara Natterson-Horowitz, MD and journalist Kathryn Bowers who co-authored the New York Times bestseller, Zoobiquity: What Animals Can Teach Us About Health and the Science of Healing. This book is about the commonality of disease processes in humans and the animal kingdom.

Many years ago, Barbara Natterson-Horowitz, MD, who is a  cardiologist, was asked to ultrasound the heart of a chimpanzee. In doing so, she noticed that the chimpanzee had exactly the same heart disease that she sees in people every day… arteriosclerosis.  She went on to say that she instructs her patients to quit smoking, to lose weight, to reduce LDL and increase HDL cholesterol with exercise and/or medications and yet there she was, examining a patient that was not obese, that did not smoke, that exercised and ate all the right foods, but the chimpanzee had severe arteriosclerosis. This caused her to come to the realization that genetics might be much more important than she had realized. The end result is that she is working to have physician experts coordinate with veterinary experts so that they can give each other more depth of understanding into the pathways of diseases that humans and animals share. The presentation was fascinating and thought provoking.

Having been previous Practice of the Year honorees for 2014, this year Betsy and I were again invited to attend the Practice of the Year Award Presentation Dinner black tie event. It was a great evening! It is important to realize that at the NAVC we get up around 5:30 AM to get to class every day and have few breaks during the day, so by the end of the week we are still on a learning high, but we are also exhausted. This year was no exception. Since this conference is always in January, many years our travel is complicated by snow, but thankfully, this year we got home to our beloved pets just before the big snow hit.


As a relatively new client ( June 2015), I am extremely pleased to find out that your clinic attends the NAVC and additionally has such high requirements for your doctors to be abreast of the most up-to-date medical advancements. When I came to Asheville on a visit just before my relocation here, the number one thing on my list was to find a veterinary clinic that met my standards. You do not disappoint. Thank you for all that you do.