From the Executive Director

Veterinary medical education

The AASV's mission statement is: "To increase the knowledge of swine veterinarians." One of the five core values of our mission is "Mentoring students, encouraging life-long careers as swine veterinarians." As with any mission statement, the real test is in the implementation. Taken broadly, the mentoring of students can mean anything we do to assist students in preparing for a career.

For years, the AASV has included students as part of our annual meeting. Fifteen veterinarystudents present papers during the student seminar session. These students are selected through a competitive submission process. Once selected, they become eligible to compete for eight scholarships awarded by the AASV Foundation and funded by Alpharma and Elanco. The student seminar is widely attended due to the excellent papers presented.

The AASV also has a committee of faculty advisors who represent the various colleges of veterinary medicine in the United States and Canada. This committee meets to discussguidance of the student chapters. The AASV currently has 104 student members. Thanks to the efforts of the faculty advisors, a number of colleges have strong student chapters. There are even colleges not traditionally considered to be "swine schools" that have expressed an interestin forming chapters.

The AASV Board of Directors recently approved formation of a task force to assess the opportunities and challenges of attracting veterinary students into swine-food animal tracks of study and ultimately into careers in the pork industry. This task force will be making specific recommendations to the Board for action. A number of members will be called upon for involvement and input as the task force commences its activities.

The AASV is also involved in ongoing discussionson the subject of veterinary education with other veterinary groups, including the American Association of BovinePractitioners, the American Association of Small Ruminant Practitioners, and the American Association of Avian Pathologists.I anticipate that further collaboration will result in some joint action from these groups.

I have heard a wide range of concerns raised in regards to the future of food animal veterinary medicine. Are we graduating enough veterinarians with an interest in food animal practice? Are we providing adequate education and training to prepare our veterinary students for food animal practice? Are we preparing students for the full range of possible positions for veterinarians in a dynamic pork industry? Are the colleges committing adequate resources (human and financial) to food animal medicine and specifically to swine? Are the colleges staying current with the changes occurring in animal agriculture?

Veterinary students are soon to be our colleaguesin practice and organized veterinary medicine. We have a vested interest in their education, abilities, and success. They will be carrying on a profession that is only as vital as its members.

The return on AASV's investment in students can be substantial. As I look at some of the young veterinarians taking on leadership in the AASV, I recall their earlier participation as students. I was amazed at their interest, enthusiasm, and ambition as students. Now I see those same characteristics displayed after they have become veterinarians.I postulate that any industry will always have room for this type of individual. The key is to continue attracting this type of individual to a career in the swine industry.

Many veterinarians have done an impressive job of personally mentoring veterinary students. You know who they are. They are the veterinarians who welcome students into an everyday practice or production system. They are the veterinarians who give students a look at all aspects of veterinary medicine and animal agriculture, the good and the bad! They are the veterinarians who provide counsel on critical decisions and dilemmas. If you were blessed to have such a mentor, be sure to thank them, and take time to see if your own efforts in mentoring match those of your mentor. If you were not blessed to have such a mentor, take time to reflect on how you can prevent that void in a student's life.

Beyond individual mentoring, organized veterinary medicine is at a critical juncture. It is time for veterinary organizations to either take a more active role in the education of veterinary students and the development of their careers or abdicate the futureof our profession to others with little understanding of who we are and what we do.

After all of the above has been said, the question remains: What can AASV do to ensure that the pork industry will have an adequate supply of properly trained swine veterinarians? The answers will not be found by sitting back and waiting. They will be found by taking measure of ourselves, our profession, and the industry in which we work, and then taking action.

--Tom Burkgren