From the Executive director

AASV - 35 years old

In 1969, 30 veterinarians met to discuss the need for an organization dedicated to veterinarians interested in swine medicine. Dr John Herrick, then President-Elect of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), chaired the meeting. From this humble beginning arose the American Association of Swine Practitioners (AASP). The first AASP annual meeting was held in conjunction with the American Pork Congress in March of 1970 in Des Moines, Iowa.

Now, 35 years later, the AASV annual meeting is being held in Des Moines once again. As times have changed, so has our association. Perhaps most noticeable is the change of the name from "practitioners" to "veterinarians." This was done to recognize the diverse nature of the activities of veterinarians in the swine industry. I was not surprised to read that this recognition was made for the first time in 1971. In the early 1970s, most members of AASP were in private practice. However, the second president (1971), Dr Tom Keefe, was an industrial veterinarian and not in private practice. Thus, the value of employment diversity was recognized early in the leadership of AASP.

There is no doubt that over the years the membership of AASV has changed. The percentage of members in practice has declined and those in industry and education-research have increased. In 1998, 70% of our members were in practice, 15% were in industry, and 11% were in education-research. In 2003, 52% were in practice, 17.5% were in industry, and 14% were in education-research. Another category of membership that is increasing is retired, mirroring an aging trend found in much of food animal veterinary medicine.

The other change that has occurred in membership is a decline in the total number of AASV members. In 1998, there was a total of 1645 members. By 2003, this number had decreased to 1336. The discussion on the factors affecting this decline would take much more space than allowed here. We may not like this trend, but the fact is that it has occurred, and the AASV has adjusted accordingly.

Over the years, the leadership of AASV took steps to ensure that there will be an organization dedicated to veterinarians who possess an abiding interest in swine health and production. Because of this foresight, the AASV is blessed with a strong financial base. Perhaps just as importantly, the AASV has an astounding number of very gifted people who as members give time and varied talents to the association. One of the greatest strengths of the organization is the sheer number of members who may be called upon in times of need.

AASV members are diverse not only in professional activities, but also geographically. Currently, we have members from 44 countries throughout the world. The bulk of our membership still lies within the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Spain, Denmark, and Italy are the next largest sources of AASV members. The international diversity of membership offers a unique opportunity for all to gain knowledge, insight, and understanding. The AASV has not taken full advantage of this opportunity, but is working to better understand the dynamics of international membership. Questions remain on how best to serve this segment of membership, and how the AASV can strengthen all areas of membership.

The AASV has also been affected by changes in other aspects of the swine industry. Over the years, the AASV has enjoyed a strong relationship with the commercial companies who provide the industry with pharmaceuticals, biologicals, feed, equipment, genetic material, and services. You are familiar with the changes that have occurred for these companies. Some are no longer with us because of mergers. Others are no longer engaged in the swine market. The numbers of companies in certain segments are shrinking. Through all of these changes, the sponsorships by these companies has remained a vital part of the AASV. It has been that way since the very beginning of the association.

These companies and their employees continue to be a vital part of the present and future of the AASV. They support the AASV through a large number of sponsorships, including the Journal of Swine Heath and Production, events at the annual meeting, and various other opportunities to which they commit. Without the financial sponsorship of these companies, AASV members would be spending at least twice the amount we currently charge for dues and meeting registration fees.

These companies provide much more than just money to the AASV. They provide people who are committed to the swine industry and the AASV. These members offer expertise and intellectual capital on a wide array of issues related to swine health and the production of pork. They participate on committees, assume leadership roles, and serve in a number of capacities that further the mission of the AASV and the AASV Foundation. I have come to count on a number of them to serve on what I consider to be my "go-to" list. This list is made up of people who I can go to when I need a task done correctly and often in a short period of time. I have come to depend on these "go-to" people and I have never been disappointed by their efforts or their commitment to the AASV.

How an organization handles change speaks volumes about the character of its members and the mettle of its leaders. The AASV has witnessed and survived a breath-taking rate of change in the swine industry. The future, no doubt, holds many more changes for the industry and our profession. How about we go for another 35 years?

--Tom Burkgren