The American Heartworm Society Looks Toward the Future – An Interview with Dr. Christopher Rehm
Christopher J. Rehm, Sr, DVM, is the incoming president of the American Heartworm Society (AHS). Dr. Rehm graduated from Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine in 1982 and started Rehm Animal Clinic a year later in Mobile, Alabama. The clinic has grown into four AAHA-certified hospitals in two Alabama counties, employing 13 veterinarians and more than 70 support staff. With a clinic slogan of Caring for pets and people since 1983, Rehm Animal Clinic (rehmclinics.com) has won numerous Best Clinic and readers’ choice awards from local newspapers. In addition to practicing veterinary medicine, Dr. Rehm has written a syndicated pet column and hosted live public service spots and serves as a speaker at veterinary meetings.
Stay tuned for a review of the 2016 AHS Symposium—featured in the AHS Heartworm Hotline column—in the January/February 2017 issue of Today’s Veterinary Practice!
What should readers know about this year’s American Heartworm Society Symposium?
The 2016 AHS Symposium (heartwormsymposium 2016.com), our 15th Triennial Symposium, takes place September 10 through 13 in New Orleans. The symposium will offer the latest information from great minds hailing from all over the world. Veterinary practitioners, parasitologists, cardiologists, and researchers all have the opportunity to come together and share knowledge about advances in the understanding of heartworm disease. Topics will range from heartworm resistance to new information about adulticide treatment, vector management, heartworm diagnostics, and feline heartworm disease. The program for the meeting is available at heartwormsymposium2016.com/images/2016-Symposium-Program-FINAL.pdf.
How does AHS plan to continue collaborating with veterinarians on their education as well as client education?
The Triennial Symposium is one of a number of important initiatives AHS sponsors to educate the veterinary community, as well as the pet owning public, about heartworm disease.
Our website—heartwormsociety.org—is a hub for veterinary education, housing our heartworm guidelines, online continuing education, incidence maps, articles, and heartworm images. We also provide a number of client education tools, including posters, brochures, infographics, fact sheets, and videos. All these materials can be found under the Veterinary Resources tab on our homepage.
Additionally, we offer updates to practitioners via our Hot Topics and Cool Tools enewsletters (subscribe on the AHS website) and our Heartworm University program. By becoming AHS members, veterinarians can receive our quarterly AHS Bulletin as well as special rates for literature and Triennial Symposium registration.
What type of initiatives will AHS focus on in 2017?
I believe in raising awareness about the difference between infection and disease. I want to stress, as always, that 12-month, year-round heartworm prevention is still nearly 100% protective against this deadly disease.
We will continue to monitor, research, and respond to resistance problems, as well as address the problem of “slow kill” or “soft kill” persistence in our practices. However, compliance is still a huge hurdle for our profession and our organization.
In 2016, we increased our research presence under Dr. Tom Nelson’s direction—he is in charge of the AHS Research Committee—and we will continue to expand in this area in 2017.
Our media “footprint” is expanding through Facebook (facebook.com/heartwormsociety), Twitter (twitter.com/AHS_Think12), and our new CE videos (see AHS CE Videos). By increasing our membership numbers and getting more people actively and intimately involved with our efforts, we can truly live our mission statement: To lead the veterinary profession and the public in the understanding of heartworm disease.
As president, what are your goals for AHS?
My own goals closely follow those of the AHS initiatives—to increase the practitioner’s knowledge of heartworm disease and infection as well as foster a real appreciation of the difference between them. I want the veterinary team to “hear” clients who admit they missed a heartworm prevention dose, or do not have their pets on heartworm prevention, and help them embrace year-round prevention.
Personally, I plan to continue on the path of predecessors whom I greatly respect. That means we will increase our research efforts and membership. It also means AHS will promote veterinary and public awareness of the damage this parasite causes and the relative ease to preventing this damage. We don’t want anyone to be dismissive of this serious problem.
AHS CE Videos
A new AHS initiative has been production of “expert lectures” from the 2016 NAVC Conference AHS Symposium. These 15-minute, RACE-approved CE videos are available for free to AHS members and for a small fee to nonmembers. Check them out at heartwormsociety.org/veterinary-resources/veterinary-education/videos.