Welcome home again. As our annual conference in Dallas approaches, I am trying to collect my thoughts for what will be my last “president’s message.” In thinking about exactly what message I wanted to leave our members with, I went back and looked at the articles I have written and what was happening in our association at those times. It is astounding how quickly a year can go by and how many miles – both literally and figuratively – you can travel in it. From PEDV to PRRS, from leadership to advocacy, from public perception to “serving our patient,” we have covered some ground this last several months.
Many of us have recently been challenged, both as individual veterinarians and as an association, to conform our views and our practices to better fit with public perception and opinion. Those challenges can become a bit pointed when they come within the context of gestation stalls or blunt force trauma. It is a plain and simple fact that those things don’t look good on a video. When an industry serves consumers, it becomes profoundly important to consider what the consumer public thinks and believes. While I believe that challenge is generally a good and healthy thing, my innate concern with conforming to public perception is that all too often it falls victim to the human condition. Knee-jerk reactions have at times gotten people hung without the benefit of a trial. Who do we serve? That can be answered in many ways, but I believe the direct answer is that we serve the pig, our patient, and the owner, our client. If we generally have the welfare and best interest of the pig in mind, then we won’t go far wrong. Making something aesthetically pleasing doesn’t necessarily make it humane. If we truly want to progress, we may have to progress in both planes. I would assert that veterinarians have a moral obligation to be the voice of reason and the voice of science, not necessarily the voice of public perception and opinion.
One of our members, and a close friend of mine, recently told me of his future plan, telling me that it was an opportunity for him “to make a difference.” I guarantee this individual has spent a lifetime making a difference, and if I mentioned his name I’ve no doubt that you would agree. His comment did give me pause in regard to realizing that making a difference is exactly what our association is about – finding solutions, fixing problems, discovering a better way. Whether it is eradicating disease or finding better housing alternatives, I have confidence that our members will continue to make a difference. It is what drives us.
As my year as AASV president comes to a close, I want to thank my partners for their willingness to do their share, and my share too, when I had to be gone. They have shown nothing but support and I appreciate it very much.
I would like to thank my family. I am busy enough and away enough as it is, and they have borne all that very graciously. Just to share a little story about my wife – when I was asked to run for vice president, I talked with her, thinking the timing was wrong and that it just wouldn’t fit. She was excited for me and asked if it was something that I wanted to do. After a moment’s thought, I said that yes, I think I do. She replied by saying then that I should run and that God would decide if the timing was right. I guess the timing was right. Her logic makes that a bit hard for me to argue with.
I would like to thank the AASV staff. You hear it often but not often enough – they are awesome and their dedication continues to inspire me. I would like to thank my fellow officers for their dedication and commitment – and their willingness to serve. I would also like to thank you, our association’s members, who have been my friends and mentors. I once wrote that I have never been to one of our annual conferences when it didn’t feel like coming home after an extended absence. And that every year when I leave I am re-grounded in my professional purpose, but leave feeling I should be doing a little more for our clients and our profession. I think that’s called inspiration, and it isn’t necessarily a result of the conference – it is a direct result of being around our members and of the example they set in regard to making a difference. Thank you for that example and the opportunity to serve.
Matt Anderson, DVM AASV President