In the movie “Bridge of Spies,” the character played by Tom Hanks, James Donovan, asks accused Russian spy Rudolph Abel “Do you ever worry?” To which Abel replies “Would it help?” Whether you liked this movie or not, this on-screen exchange lends perspective to whatever real concerns you might be facing. Personally and professionally, I try to not worry about the future and instead focus on the matters over which I might have some control. When considering an action, it is useful to ask the question “Would it help?”
As swine veterinarians, it seems like we never run out of concerns that require our attention and our action. In recognition of this perspective in 1989, a number of swine veterinarians decided to take action and form the American Association of Swine Practitioners (AASP) Foundation. These veterinarians recognized that rather than just worrying about issues, it made more sense to raise the necessary capital to take direct action. This recognition also provided a direct pathway for financial support by the members of the AASP (currently AASV).
Today, the AASV Foundation (AASVF) operates under the following mission:
To empower swine veterinarians to achieve a higher level of personal and professional effectiveness by
- enhancing the image of the swine veterinary profession,
- supporting the development and scholarship of students and veterinarians interested in the swine industry,
- addressing long-range issues of the profession,
- supporting faculty and promoting excellence in the teaching of swine health and production, and
- funding research with direct application to the profession.
Several years ago, concerns were raised over the number of veterinary graduates interested in food-animal practice. In response to those concerns, the foundation began to specifically focus on veterinary students as described in bullet #2. For many years now, funding has been provided for scholarships, externships, internships, and travel stipends to the AASV Annual Meeting. I am occasionally asked to predict the number of swine veterinarians we will need in the future. I could guess but I would almost certainly be wrong. I can, however, be confidant in predicting that we can successfully educate, support, and recruit the best and brightest students who are highly motivated to become swine veterinarians. Since a low point in 1999, AASV student membership has tripled. This would not be possible without the help of the foundation.
The foundation has also embarked on funding research with direct application to the profession (bullet #5). Although the funds are not a large amount, it is a start in the right direction. It is a brutal fact that public funding for research in animal agriculture is shrinking. If we cannot rely on a public resource then it is up to us to either fill that gap or be satisfied with less research and fewer derived benefits. By concentrating on research with direct application to the profession, AASV members can have a say in what is important enough to warrant further study. There is no more direct route than that.
An area of the AASVF mission that has not been energized yet, but has great potential, is addressing the long-range issues of the profession. The AASVF could provide a platform and needed support for the identification, discussion, and analysis of these issues. Examples could include the evolution of practice models, the effect of digital advancements, telemedicine-telehealth, and the role of the veterinarian in animal welfare. By concentrating on those issues with the most potential to “empower swine veterinarians to achieve a higher level of personal and professional effectiveness,” the AASVF can continue to fulfill its mission. The foundation is continually looking for new strategies that meet the needs of swine veterinarians. All ideas are welcome!
The AASVF has been blessed with tremendous support from AASV members as well as a number of industry partners. The endowment now stands at just over $1 million. The board of directors has set a goal of a $2 million endowment by the 2019 AASV Annual Meeting. We have a way to go to meet that goal, but it is certainly do-able with your help. There are currently three giving programs for individuals: Leman ($1000), Heritage ($5000), and Legacy ($50,000). In addition, practices can participate in the Legacy program. Please call our office or contact one of the AASVF Board members for more information.
If you are considering a contribution to the AASVF, please ask yourself “Would it help?” I hope the track record and the commitment of the foundation will answer that question with a resounding YES!<>
Tom Burkgren, DVM