Light at the end of the tunnel
A classmate friend called the other day to check on my pulse and demeanor. It’s an annual thing for one of us to call the other once the hustle and bustle of the holiday season is in the rearview mirror. There is no schedule, but somewhere around mid-January one of us makes the call just to ascertain that all is well, laugh about some old vet school times, and jaw about the coming year. As you might imagine, there was plenty to speculate and pontificate about on this particular confabulation. Even so, it didn’t take us long to get past the doldrums. There is always a bit of relief that follows the winter holidays, and eventually the conversational expectations ran high.
“This will be the year when all goes as planned,” my old friend expounded. He went on to describe his new associate who had the “get-up-and-go” passion that had flowed in his veins in younger days. His parting words: “This is the year that I’m going to slow down and smell the roses.” It left me with a melancholy smile. It wasn’t the first time I’d heard this optimism. Even so, talking to an old friend and listening to his jokes and great attitude added a little jet fuel to my own tanks. Where would we be without positive expectations? Looking back at the past year, I can only say the economic roller-coaster ride couldn’t have gotten much worse – odds are the pendulum will swing and things will certainly improve. Free enterprise makes it so.
Regardless of economics, it is likely that as an association, we will continue to experience a roller-coaster future! Critics of our industry grow stronger, speak louder, and have more influence. There will be times when all will seem bleak – times when we will need a friend or colleague to impart confidence and a positive spin. I am confident that the membership of AASV will find the way. In our industry, change has been perpetual and we have always found sound methods, helping our clients through the hard times. However, a greater expenditure of energy compared to past efforts will be required. It is our time to lead, to take a more active role from the grass roots to Washington, DC. Welfare is our responsibility, as is the antimicrobial-resistance issue. Likewise, many of our old health nemeses still plague us, including PRRS.
During those long sleepless nights when fretting over the future of veterinary medicine, the future of AASV, AVMA, and our membership, I often see light at the end of the tunnel. That light is the endless supply of outstanding students who sincerely desire to enter the greatest of all professions. Exposure to these students is a windfall beyond expectations. You might be surprised, but many are interested in food-supply veterinary medicine, most are open minded, and yes, some already see the pig as their calling.
For the past 3 months, I’ve been heavily involved with students as the admissions chair for the College of Veterinary Medicine here at Iowa State. This has taken a lot of extra, often frustrating time, but like all members of all admissions committees around the country, we take our responsibility seriously, seeking fairness, transparency, and the hope of attracting the best into our programs. Likewise, this is a serious time of year for the candidates. I have had the opportunity to speak to and observe over 300 of them before and after their interviews during this cycle. Many are accompanied by one or both parents who are just as anxious as the applicants, all seeking information about their futures, all, as my dad would wittingly describe it, “putting their best foot forward.” This experience leads me to honestly say that the profession is in no danger. The quality, aptitude, integrity, and work ethic of those who follow us are uncanny.
So what does all this have to do with AASV? First and foremost, plan for the future. All of us have good educational and intellectual foundations. Opportunity usually arises from both planning and, just as importantly, implementation. Without action, good ideas are only dreams. The time is now for us to grapple and subdue those issues that will change our future. “Securing our future” will necessitate taking on a lot more than the “bugs, drugs, and medicine” that always excite us. We must lead at the farm, at the AVMA, and in state and national politics. It is not good enough just to complain. Take action, keep a positive attitude, and be proud of our profession.
--Butch Baker, DVM