Can you be someone’s role model?
Livestock have always been an important part of my life. Growing up on a farm in southeastern South Dakota, I was exposed to livestock production very early in my life. My Grandpa taught me how to assist farrowings and calvings (pulling pigs and calves, as Grandpa called it), process piglets, and all of the other important aspects of livestock husbandry. I loved spending time in the barn when sows were farrowing. We handled all of the easy problems (sounds like veterinary practice today), hanging out in the barn when sows were farrowing and nursing their piglets and piglets were racing around their pens. Just the whole pig-production atmosphere was exciting. But what I really looked forward to most was when we had a sow farrowing that was just too tough for the amateurs. Then we had to call “the vet.”
Paul Hohman and Robert Freeman were the veterinarians in Canton, South Dakota, at that time. Dr Freeman was the senior veterinarian. His quiet mannerism, his silver white hair, and his ever-present pipe with an aroma that filled the whole barn seemed to help soothe all of the sows. But I always secretly hoped that Dr Hohman would be on call. I followed Dr Hohman around and hung on every word he said. Not only was he a great veterinarian, but he was everything I wanted to be when I became an adult. It seemed like everyone liked Dr Hohman. He was a great husband and father and an important member of the community. He always had time to explain what he was doing to an enthusiastic kid. All I knew was that someday I wanted to be just like him.
Over the years, I became good friends with all of Dr Hohman’s family, and his son Eric and I attended South Dakota State University together. When I was in veterinary school at Iowa State University, I would try to spend free time helping at the clinic and with special sales at the sale barn. Back then, I was still excited about the thought of aging, bleeding, and pregnancy testing 1000 cows in a couple of days. I worked at Dr Hohman’s clinic on one of my internships, and my wife Nancy and I even stayed at the Hohman residence and watched their younger children while they took a much-deserved vacation. On my internship, I gained valuable experience in veterinary medicine, but I also gained an appreciation for the importance of a balanced life. Work hard, but always take time to hunt for some wild asparagus or Indian arrow heads – these were lessons that I will never forget. Although there have been many other veterinarians since then who have had a profound impact on my veterinary career, I will always look back on the influence that Dr Hohman had on my personal and professional life.
I would expect that most veterinarians have had a role model similar to Dr Hohman in their lives, someone who exemplified the type of veterinarian that you wanted to become, individuals who through their personal and professional lives directly impacted the type of person you are today.
Two issues that I hoped to address during my year as president were insuring that the AASV was doing everything possible to recruit swine veterinarians for the future and helping to address the growing concern of identifying what constitutes ethical behavior in a rapidly changing swine industry. Special recognition needs to be given to the many individuals who have worked diligently to give students exposure to swine medicine and the AASV. Through the efforts of individuals like Bob Morrison, Tom Fangman, Sandy Amass, Larry Firkens, Bob Friendship, and Locke Karriker, students are given more opportunities today to gain exposure to the swine industry and the AASV than ever before. Other veterinarians, such as John Waddell, Larry Rueff, and Joe Connor, constantly welcome students into their practices, providing these students with valuable practical experiences. But the real opportunity lies much earlier in the students’ lives. Like many other veterinarians, I had formed my opinion of what type of person and professional I wanted to be very early in my life. Look back on your life and evaluate how and when you decided to become a veterinarian. Who was the individual who influenced your life in a positive way? Every one of us daily has the opportunity to influence children, young adults, and students to become veterinarians. More importantly, we also have the opportunity to establish how they address what constitutes ethical behavior in our profession. The AASV can establish committees to address ethics and student recruitment, but the greatest effect can happen through the daily actions of every AASV member. If every day, every member of the AASV attempts to influence the next generation of swine veterinarians in a positive way, I believe that any concerns about the future supply and ethical behavior of our profession would be eliminated.
-- Daryl Olsen