President's message

Why choose ABVP?

I successfully obtained diplomate status in Swine Health Management with the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (ABVP) in December, 2001. I don't mention this to toot my own horn, but to bring up an interesting point. Following my notification that I had, by some miracle, passed the final examination, a subsequent e-mail was sent to the entire world by my partner, Dr Steve Henry, informing everyone of my new diplomate status. Interestingly, the most common question I got from well-wishers after their initial congratulations was "Why would you put yourself through that, anyway?"

There were certainly times during the whole process that I asked myself that same question. When you really think about it, what could my reasons for this form of self-inflicted torture possibly be? Here are the top ten reasons to consider if you are thinking about going through the ABVP program.

1. More money. If you have a job that will elevate you to a higher salary level when you become a Diplomate of ABVP in Swine Health Management, this is a no-brainer. It is akin to a matching retirement program that puts a dollar into your retirement fund for every dollar you put in. The only difference is that this would put a dollar in for every hour you spend expanding your knowledge base. Unfortunately, this was not so in my case.

2. More letters behind my name. I don't think that I am quite that narcissistic, but if this turns your crank, go for it. Writing "Diplomate, ABVP" will add considerable length to your credentials. I personally found it frustrating to try to fit it on my business card without changing all the fonts, but if someone else does that for you, you might find this to be a motivator.

3. More respect from clients. My clients are happy with my accomplishments. However, from their perspective, it is assumed that I am up-to-date on the latest in disease diagnostics and herd health management. They do not need to see those letters behind my name. After all, don't they already pay me the big bucks to come up with the answers? Besides, they are more interested in seeing pictures and hearing stories of what my children are doing than how many letters I have behind my name.

4. More respect from family. Not in my extended family. I would get more respect by demonstrating the fact that I learned to juggle at Dr Amass' juggling workshop or by being on the winning team of the annual New Year's Eve board game marathon than I would from announcing my new diplomate status. They already know I am a college graduate. Anything beyond a BS is overkill and might be an indicator that you just can't find a job. I still have to take out the garbage when I'm at home.

5. Because my partner did it first. Granted, when one person in your practice achieves new status such as "Diplomate, ABVP", it sets the tone for others to meet the new expectations lest they be left in the dust. However, I learned early on that trying to keep up with Steve Henry in terms of professional achievements would drive me to an early grave, so this is not necessarily my main driver.

6. To one-up the competition. This could certainly be a driver for some of you in more hog-veterinarian-dense areas. Our swine-veterinarian density in AASV District 7 is one swine veterinarian per 6066 square miles, versus Iowa's density of one swine veterinarian per 215 square miles. From my perspective on the fringe of the hog belt, this would not benefit me in the least. Most of our neighboring veterinarians are more than happy to give us the swine work so they can go back to being cowboys. They only like to take those pointy boots off for one thing and it isn't to shower into a pig farm.

7. It beats being bored. NOT! My kids are 5, 3, and 1 and my practice is growing -- it's been awhile since I have seen boredom.

8. To lengthen my resume. Additional publications might benefit those of you looking to be upwardly mobile. With full partnership and a house mortgage to pay, I don't see myself going anywhere, anytime soon.

9. I enjoy the challenge of a 3-day examination. Yeah, right.

10. For lifelong learning and professional growth. As all graduate veterinarians in private practice have learned, the growth curve is steep for the first couple of years post graduation as you learn to apply all your knowledge to the real world. Once you have acquired a feel for surviving the rigors of daily practice, the difficulty comes in devising a way to motivate yourself to learn when you don't have a professor, midterms, a final exam, and the threat of endangering your precious Grade Point Average. Usually this challenge is complicated by many other factors, such as school loan payments, mortgages, family responsibilities, buying into a practice, etc...

There are many avenues available to help you keep your learning curve on the upswing. I chose AVBP because it allowed me to design my own course of study without requiring prolonged absences from my family or my practice.

Like anything worthwhile, the completion of this project did not come without frustration, worry, tears, self-examination as to why I ever started such a project, and various disparaging words not in my everyday vocabulary. However, when all was said and done, a great deal of satisfaction comes with knowing that you can juggle the struggles of family, practice, and every day life, and still feel like you are on top of your game.

If you feel like your learning curve is nearing horizontal, consider embarking on the ABVP adventure. You will love it, hate it, curse it, and praise it. When all is said and done, you will be glad you did it. And don't forget, you get a nifty blue and gold lapel pin to boot.

Anticipating your enthusiasm for the adventure, I will remind you how to do it.

Check out the website. Go to and check out the Swine Health and Management section so you know what you are getting into.

Take the entrance exam. Sign up to sit for the entrance exam at the AASV Annual Meeting in Orlando next year. You could come in and take the exam on Saturday morning, go to the meetings, and stay the rest of the week in Vacationland to reward yourself for your efforts.

Write papers. Case reports are really not as difficult as they seem. You do the mental exercise all the time in practice. You are just not accustomed to the discipline of recording your observations in case report format. If you need help, call one of us or get connected with someone in your area who does research and have them help you.

Fill out the application. This seems like the easy part, but I will warn you that it is time consuming to compile all the necessary documents and letters of reference, so start early.

Sit for the final exam. No other recent events have put the fear of God into me or been as humbling as sitting for the final ABVP exam. However, you will survive it if your arm doesn't fall off from all the essay writing. Tip: Be sure that you carry Diseases of Swine, Managing Pig Production, and a year's worth of Journal of Swine Health and Production in your writing arm for 3 months prior to the exam to build up your muscles for the essay-writing marathon.

Wait patiently. They say the results take 6 weeks, but ours only took 4. That's 30 days, or 720 hours, or 43,200 minutes of waiting, but who's counting?

Think about it. Why not get an advanced degree of recognition for doing something you should be doing anyway? Best of luck to you. See you in Orlando; the entrance exam is Saturday at 8:00 am.

--Lisa Tokach