In 1963, President John F. Kennedy (shown above) signed a proclamation declaring the week of the American Veterinary Medical Association’s 100th AVMA Convention as Veterinary Medicine Week. The same year, AVMA established the AVMA Foundation as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
In a 1972 synopsis of AVMA Foundation history, Dr. Don H. Spangler, then treasurer, announced the consensus to create an entity that would stimulate graduate study and research in veterinary medicine; seek and maintain funds for furthering scientific, literary, and educational purposes directly associated with veterinary medicine; and possibly operate a loan program for veterinary students.
The new Foundation’s objectives encompassed graduate fellowships, undergraduate scholarships, the Student Loan Fund, continuing education, publications, public education, and field investigations—clinical, preclinical, and economic.
In December 1994, the organization’s name evolved from the AVMA Foundation to the American Veterinary Medical Foundation.
The Animal Disaster Relief and Response Fund was created in 2005 to help alleviate suffering caused by Hurricane Katrina. Through that fund, the Foundation would go on to support animal disaster preparedness and response efforts through grants to organizations for training, medical supplies, and equipment. It provides reimbursement and relief for veterinarians who care for animal victims of disaster and for restoration of veterinary infrastructure affected by disaster.
AVMF also provided substantial support to the AVMA Veterinary Medical Assistance Teams (VMAT). VMAT volunteers served as first responders to ensure that pets, livestock, zoo animals, and wildlife receive high-quality care during times of crisis. VMAT provided operational assistance in emergency response programs to state animal health authorities, and they organized and led preparedness programs to educate animal health authorities, veterinary associations, and other organizations.
VMAT members responded as federal employees to disasters such as the September 11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina. Subsequently, the program became a disaster response resource for states after the federal government developed its own veterinary medical response teams.
The AVMA VMAT program was discontinued in 2016 after states became more self-sufficient and the demand for the services declined. Since that time, AVMF Disaster Relief program has evolved to provide grants to states and individual veterinarians in areas that have been impacted by natural disasters.
In 2014, AVMF answered a call from AVMA member veterinarians to develop a grant program to support the growing need for charitable care. Since its inception, the Veterinary Charitable Care Fund raised $1.7 million. In 2020, AVMF expanded the veterinary charitable care program to meet the needs in all communities nationwide.
Currently, AVMF has 12 scholarship programs, offers grants for Disaster Relief and Reimbursement, provides research grants to improve the quality of life for all animals, and Crisis Support grants, In addition, AVMF offers grants that support charitable veterinary care and supports AVMA continuing education for those in the veterinary profession.
In years prior, the AVMA Research Trust and a Student Loan Fund of the Women’s Auxiliary to the AVMA existed as separate entities. An executive board committee studying the possible expansion of the research trust determined that the trust’s objectives were self-limiting. In addition, the expansion of student loan activities appeared to be in order.