Vice-presidential candidate

Karen LeheKaren Lehe

I’m not sure if all nominations for AASV office happen this way, but the phone call I got went something like this…

“Karen, I’m calling from my cell phone and the battery is about to die. I’m going to nominate you for vice president of AASV, is that OK?”

I slowly said “yes” out of respect and admiration for the caller, but it was a day or two later that the reality of running for an office in AASV began to sink in. And, after some days to ruminate on it, I would now respond with much more enthusiasm. I would be honored and excited to serve as an officer of our organization, and I hope that the following paragraphs will explain why, as well as encourage you to get involved, too.

First, here is a little bit about my background. I earned my BS in 1988 and my DVM degree in 1992, both from Virginia Tech, and have been a member of AASV since graduation. After 3 years at Michigan State in residency training, I began private swine practice in Indiana. In 2005, I became a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Preventive Medicine. While I am still in private practice, my job description has evolved quite a bit since I started my own company, Round Grove Veterinary Services, in April 2006. I continue to work directly with pork producers in Indiana and surrounding states, some of whom have been my clients since 1995. As a private consultant, I also provide technical support to Hypor USA, to Camas, Inc, and to Elanco Animal Health, both in the US and globally.

I believe that the theme for the 2008 annual meeting, “Building on our strengths,” could be an excellent theme for the AASV well beyond the first week of March. Our strength as an organization is built upon our strengths as individuals. I have been on our Pig Welfare Committee for 5 years and have served as chair for the last 2 years, and if there is one thing I’ve learned from that experience, it’s that there is a lot of untapped expertise and talent within our organization. In order to keep our work energized with fresh ideas, I think that members should make an effort to serve on only one committee at a time, and that committee rosters should rotate regularly. This will give more members a chance to share their strengths with the organization.

Are we capturing the strengths, enthusiasm, and energy of students and newer members as we should? Having had the privilege of being followed around by a student for the last few years, I know first-hand the benefits of relationships with younger veterinarians. Talk about challenging! Nothing sharpens your thinking like being constantly asked “why.” Our organization can only get better as we involve more of our younger members in committees, in planning, and in leadership roles.

We are the authority on pig welfare, food safety of pork, and swine diseases that could potentially affect human health. We are the front-line defense against the introduction of foreign animal diseases into the US swine herd. Porcine circovirus is likely not the last emerging disease of swine…how will we respond? We will continue to be challenged by marginalization of pork producers within our society and marginalization of ourselves within veterinary medicine. We are faced with some serious challenges right now.

But, even though our individual views, our roles, and our personalities are quite diverse, we have great strength in our commonalities. We are all passionately protective of the industry that we serve and of the animals that we care for. We are all committed to making sound decisions based on science, all the while not forsaking the art of practice. Our connection to producer groups, other veterinary associations, and allied industries adds strength to our organization as a whole. When controversial issues face us, we should be able to draw from our strengths and our common values and make a unified statement to the public. We shouldn’t shy away from taking a stand when we need to, especially on controversial topics like pig welfare, antibiotic use, and ethics.

Considering all of this, I can’t help but get excited about doing more within our organization. Whether that means serving as vice president in 2008 or being ready to take on another committee assignment, I’m excited about giving more of my time to the AASV. I hope that you are, too, because as an organization, we can only be as strong as the individuals who are our members.

If you have questions for me, please don’t hesitate to call or e-mail. Thanks for your consideration, and I hope to see you all in San Diego!

--Karen Lehe