With the AASV Annual Meeting upon us, I am both excited and humbled to accept the gavel and begin my year as AASV president. Going into my term, I see a year full of opportunities and untold challenges. Of course, we do know some of our upcoming challenges. Even without a crystal ball, I can predict that we will spend a fair amount of time this year discussing porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED). I’m sure food safety and public health issues will arise, including antimicrobial resistance, residue avoidance, and zoonotic diseases. And of course pig welfare topics, such as piglet processing procedures, euthanasia methods, and gestation housing designs, will receive attention. That seems like a pretty robust list – and I haven’t even gotten to the potential untold challenges!
I take great pride in my duty to maximize the health and well-being of the pigs under my care, but I have to admit that I still have more questions than answers when it comes to PED. It is frustrating to deal with diseases for which we have no “silver bullets.” It seems RNA viruses have plagued us in this category for years. While admitting that is humbling, it is also reassuring to know that we have fought similar battles (think porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome) and have made tremendous progress in our quests for answers. As swine veterinarians, we are all eager to find new solutions to new (and old) problems. It is through our collective knowledge and experience that we will be able to assimilate information that will lead us to the best strategies for controlling or eliminating this novel pathogen. I hold out hope that the presentations and discussions held at the annual meeting will provide a significant contribution to our forward progress down that path.
While our primary role as veterinarians is to protect the health and welfare of our patients, we also took an oath to protect public health. With the lives of humans and animals increasingly intertwined, this role becomes more and more relevant. It is our duty to ensure that we are recommending judicious use of antimicrobials that will provide measurable health benefits to the treated animals without jeopardizing human health. Veterinarians also need to be at the forefront of discussions involving topics such as livestock exhibits at fairs and consumption of raw milk. It is our duty to serve as a resource for the public, who largely lack sound scientific information. Though the primary mission of the AASV is “to increase the knowledge of swine veterinarians,” I think we can also play an important role in educating other veterinarians, legislators, consumers, and the general public.
As the current chair of the AASV Pig Welfare Committee and the AASV representative on the American Veterinary Medical Association Animal Welfare Committee, I already devote a significant portion of my time to animal welfare topics. I predict the amount of time I, and we as an association, spend on these issues will only increase in the future. As the growing population continues to be increasingly removed from their ancestors’ rural roots, we have a growing knowledge gap regarding how food animals are raised and cared for in this country. As veterinarians, it is our responsibility to seek and provide scientifically valid answers to the difficult questions that are asked of us and our clients. As AASV members, we have quick and easy access to more scientifically relevant papers than ever before through JSHAP, Swine Information Library, and the “Get it for me” document retrieval service.
I like to think of challenges and opportunities as synonymous. Consequently, we have a whole lot of potential! With all the opportunities listed above (as well as those not mentioned or yet discovered), it is clear there is a vital need for swine veterinarians. It is also evident that we cannot tackle these issues alone, as they are larger than any of us as individuals. Therein lies the greatest strength of the AASV – its members. Individually, we are but one voice, one idea. Collectively, we are much more. I am likely biased, but I believe we have some of the profession’s brightest, most dedicated veterinarians among our membership. I am proud to have you all at my side as we embrace these swine industry challenges opportunities together.
Michelle Sprague, DVM AASV President-elect