From the Administrative Assistant

Sue Schulteis The view from the other side of the office

I would like to begin this message by assuring you that Dr Tom Burkgren, whose column normally appears here, is still executive director of the association. Dr Burkgren has merely taken a brief hiatus from his column-writing duties in order to prepare a more substantial message for the membership (more on that in a moment). In the meantime, he has invited me to write the column for this issue, lending credence to my belief that everyone is subject to an occasional lapse in judgment now and then. In any event, in this issue you’ll be receiving the view from the other side of the AASV office.

For those who don’t already know, I am the administrative assistant in the AASV office – a position I’ve held for the past 9 years, since the association opened its own office in Perry, Iowa, and Dr Burkgren assumed the title of executive director. I’m the person responsible for many of the day-to-day operations of the AASV office. I open the mail, answer telephone calls, and respond to e-mail messages. I maintain the association membership database and receive and ship orders for association publications. In addition, a large portion of my time is spent coordinating preparations for the AASV Annual Meeting. I find this latter role very rewarding, as it provides the opportunity to meet and work with many AASV members and other swine industry professionals.

While many of the tasks involved in preparing for the annual meeting are similar from year to year, each meeting is unique and quickly develops its own “personality.” It starts when the new program chair (AASV President-Elect) selects a theme and taps an individual to make the keynote presentation of the meeting: the Howard Dunne Memorial Lecture. It’s always interesting when the program chair reveals his or her plans, and it was certainly no exception this year when Dr Daryl Olsen stopped in the AASV office to share his ideas with us. If you turn to page 327 for a quick look at the 2007 program, you’ll see that the meeting theme is “AASV: From good to great,” and the Howard Dunne Lecturer is none other than (drum roll, please…) AASV Executive Director, Dr Tom Burkgren!

You should know that Dr Olsen’s proposal for the Howard Dunne Lecturer did not meet with immediate acceptance. While Dr Burkgren had already read the book Good to Great1 by Jim Collins and was very interested in the concepts it introduced, he was not convinced that he should be the one to describe how those concepts could be applied to the AASV for the benefit of swine veterinarians. He vocalized his concerns: Was he the right person? Would he have time? Would it even be appropriate for him to address the topic? Dr Olsen presented very convincing arguments in favor of his choice, but it wasn’t until Tom consulted with colleagues – and his wife – and gave serious consideration to the pros and cons that he finally said “yes” to the invitation.

When Dr Olsen makes the introduction for the Howard Dunne Lecture next March, I’m sure he’ll outline Dr Burkgren’s background and explain why he feels Tom is the right person to present the lecture. In the meantime, I would like to share my enthusiasm for Dr Olsen’s choice from my viewpoint – the view from the other side of the AASV office.

You see, Tom’s office really does have an open door, and over the past 9 years I’ve seen first-hand the passion he has for the association and the swine industry. I’ve taken phone calls from job “headhunters” who try to lure him away to positions offering more money and prestige, and I’ve noticed there is little hesitation as he turns them down. I’m convinced he believes that guiding the AASV is the ultimate dream job.

Since accepting the invitation to speak, Tom has continued to pore over his already highlighted and dog-eared copy of Good to Great. He is also studying Jim Collins’ recently published book, 7 Measures of Success: What Remarkable Associations Do That Others Don’t,2 to glean every nugget of wisdom he possibly can. While Tom may feel he possesses his ultimate dream job, he has never been content with maintaining the status quo at AASV. However “good” the association might be, his goal has always been to make it better.

The process of preparing the Howard Dunne Lecture is enabling Tom to focus on the key factors that will help the association more efficiently and effectively serve you, its members. I’m confident you’ll find that many of the same concepts will be applicable in your practice or employment situation as well. I’m excited about what that means for the AASV and for the swine veterinary profession as a whole!

So while Tom continues his research and prepares to write his paper for the annual meeting proceedings (due November 15, I might add), I am quietly tapping out this message for JSHAP. And that brings us back to the “lapse in judgment” I mentioned earlier. Nobody’s perfect, you know. I’m quite sure when Tom turned the column-writing duties over to me that he did not intend for this column to be about him. Surprise!


1. Collins J. Good to Great. New York, New York: Harper Collins Publishers Inc; 2001.

2. Collins J. 7 Measures of Success: What Remarkable Associations Do That Others Don’t. Washington, DC: American Society of Association Executives and the Center for Association Leadership; 2006.

--Sue Schulteis