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For the past several years, the ACVIM Board of Regents has been struggling to define how well veterinary specialty medicine is valued by the animal-owning public and general veterinary practitioners. In June 2012, the ACVIM Marketing and Communications Committee (MCC) submitted a proposal to the Board of Regents to work with a professional marketing research group for the purpose of composing and conducting a broad survey. The main goals of the project were to assess public awareness and understanding of veterinary specialty medicine; better define the relationship between primary care practitioners and specialty practitioners; and assess the level of satisfaction experienced by ACVIM Diplomates and Candidates with the services that the ACVIM provides. The Board approved funding for this proposal in June 2012, which resulted in the development of six surveys. ACVIM Diplomates and Candidates, primary care veterinary practitioners, readers of the Journal of Veterinary Medicine, the animal owning public, and horse trainers defined the groups that were surveyed. Over a 6-month period, responses were collected using both electronic and conventional means, and a summary report of the results was presented to the ACVIM Board of Regents on April 17th.

The survey results confirmed that the pet-owning public does not have a good understanding of specialty veterinary medicine. The results also supported the need to expand the education mission of the ACVIM to external audiences, and promote our expertise and skills as specialists directly to the public. Both ACVIM Diplomates and Candidates expressed a desire for enhanced exposure to marketing skills and business training, an indication that they too, feel a need to promote veterinary specialty medicine.

Our primary care colleagues indicated that they most commonly refer to an ACVIM specialist because of our access to advanced equipment/facilities. They also indicated that ACVIM Diplomates are knowledgeable, and are effective communicators. Corona Insights has recommended that our college strive to portray the benefit of our expertise and specialty medical knowledge over and above our equipment and facilities when marketing to primary care veterinarians as they themselves will have increasing access to advanced equipment.

The results also revealed that ACVIM members and Candidates view continuing education, research, and certification of new specialists as the cornerstones of our college's education mission. The vast majority of respondents were quite satisfied with both the content of the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine and the scientific program of the ACVIM Forum.

At the June 2013 meeting of the Board of Regents, the MCC presented a proposal that represents the next step in this process. Based on the overwhelming evidence of a need to heighten public awareness of specialty veterinary medicine, the committee offered a plan to develop and implement a marketing strategy. The first part of this plan is currently being executed and we are working with other specialty organizations to see how we can share resources in our joint effort to raise awareness of veterinary specialty medicine.

A short summary of the Corona Insights survey results is now posted on the ACVIM website and a more in depth version is available on the Diplomate web page. In addition, ACVIM Diplomates and other veterinary specialty organizations are welcome to view the complete, 500+ page report upon request. Please submit these requests to ACVIM@ACVIM.org.