Reflections on the 2002 Annual Conference
The 33rd Annual Conference of the AASV came to a close. For me it was bittersweet, as I was greatly relieved that the conference went off without any major glitches, but also sorry to lose the momentum, camaraderie, and daily communications shared with my fabulous program committee.
As I stayed over in Kansas City one more night to fulfill some of my presidential duties, I had time to reflect on the previous few days and see it from a wider perspective. The hotel was not the same when I traveled through its halls not knowing a soul. Just a few hours earlier, it had been difficult to get through the hall because there were so many colleagues and friends to stop and greet.
I reveled in the ability to ride up to the top floor in the elevator without stopping on every other floor first, yet missed the lively elevator conversations, such as whether or not the USDA is as prepared as it should or could be in the case of an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in the United States.
In my room, I practiced my newly learned skill of juggling, thanks to Dr Amass' workshop. I was thrilled with the progress I was making when I was not under pressure. However, as I listened to the rhythm of the balls falling into my hands, they seemed to change from "Left, right, left, right..." to "Circo, circus, circo, circus..." and I wonder which one is more correct and how long it will take our organization to unravel the mystery as it has done in the past with SMEDI, MMA, and mystery swine disease. Mostly, I wonder if we can do it with the level of professionalism our members expect and not with name-calling and personal agendas.
Later that evening, I decided to unwind with a relaxing swim in the pool. I love to swim, and the view of the heated outdoor pool from my room had been taunting me during the whole conference. As I swam my laps and got the endorphin release from good physical exercise, I contemplated whether I am right in defending the gestation stall for sows. After all, they get good, individualized care that way. What about Dr. Blackwell's talk on the popular ethic "Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, and sows gotta stroll..."? How do we explain the evils of anthropomorphism to the general, meat-eating public? How long will it be before we come up with a better solution so we can all sleep better at night? I am certain the better solution is out there, we just haven't found it yet.
As I stepped outside the hotel to find a bite to eat, the doorman politely held the door and wished me a good evening. As the cool evening air hit my face, I grinned and wondered to myself "Would Dr Hill have agreed to auction off a day of servitude at the Foundation auction if he had known a Consortium of Women Veterinarians of AASV would pool their resources to buy it in an effort to poke fun at his not-so-politically-correct litany against women in the profession?" Will it change his behavior? Will he end up bringing in more money for the Foundation than Dr. Rueff? We will have to wait until IPVS to find out.
Finally, before drifting off to sleep, I was thinking of how the 2002 Winter Olympics had its single best moment when Sarah Hughes took the gold in Women's Figure Skating. I decided that the single best moment of the 2002 AASV meeting was the pure sincerity in the words from Dr Larry Rueff as he thanked his two colleagues, Dennis and Matt, while accepting the Swine Practitioner of the Year award. If everyone treated their newest graduates with that much respect and credit, the world would be a better place.
What a great organization we have with AASV! As I mentioned in my welcoming address, we are like family. We certainly have our differences, our black sheep, and our long-standing grudges. Just as I will never forgive my sister Stephanie for stabbing me in the thigh with a bale hook one hot August day, I'm sure some of you will never forgive Dr Dritz for saying that our organization's statistical abilities stink, right there in the general session. But overall, we work things out. If you are not sure, just remind yourself how far we have come with name recognition in the industry since gaining our own identity by moving our office to Perry and bringing Dr Burkgren on full time to give us the continuity we desperately needed. When other organizations need an ally, they often look to AASV first. We've earned that respect.
With organizations such as PETA, Humane Farming Association, MeatStinks, and Water Keepers on our tails, we need to put our differences aside, or at least agree to disagree and get on with our charge. We are here to educate. This is clearly defined in our mission statement. In case you have forgotten it, I will close with it as a reminder.
Mission statement of the American Association of Swine Veterinarians
To increase the knowledge of swine veterinarians by
- Promoting the development and availability of the resources which enhance the effectiveness of professional activities;
- Creating opportunities which inspire personal and professional growth;
- Advocating science-based approaches to industry issues;
- Encouraging personal and professional interaction; and
- Mentoring students, encouraging life-long careers as swine veterinarians.