From the Executive Director

Tom Burkgren Opportunity: Encouraging life-long careers

The AASV Board of Directors approved a new mission statement in 2001. The new AASV mission now incorporated an unequivocal inclusion of students: “Mentoring students, encouraging life-long careers as swine veterinarians.” Prior to this time, AASP had included students, but had not emphasized their importance to the extent seen with the new mission. If pressed to describe this cumulative effort with one word, I would say “opportunity.”

Student AASP memberships were created in 1976. Student dues were $10 annually and increased in 1979 to the current level of $15. Regular dues at that time were $45; thus, student dues were one third the cost of regular membership. Today, student dues are less than one tenth the cost of regular dues. Student members receive the Journal of Swine Health and Production and the AASV e-Letter. Student members also receive a complimentary registration at the AASV annual meeting.

The AASV annual meeting offers students a tremendous opportunity to dive into the profession of swine veterinary medicine. Nowhere else are students afforded the level of access to information, knowledge, and swine veterinarians found at the annual meeting. Students may attend any workshop on Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning, as well as all other sessions. For several years, Dr Larry Firkins has offered a Sunday morning workshop specifically for students. This workshop is highly interactive and very popular.

The popularity of Dr Firkins’ workshop has resulted in a spin-off AASV program of outreach to students at select colleges of veterinary medicine. Since 2004, Dr Firkins has been traveling to colleges of veterinary medicine to put on workshops on financially related topics of interest to all students, not just those interested in swine. The response from students and faculty alike has been overwhelmingly positive. The contact with students also gives Dr Firkins an opportunity to provide a glimpse into swine practice and the pork industry. The AASV will continue to fund this outreach effort as it matures and evolves to meet the needs of the students.

The AASV annual meeting also offers students a chance to participate as presenters during the student seminar on Sunday afternoon. Fifteen students are selected through a blinded competitive process. Drs Sandy Amass and Tom Fangman have done an extraordinary job of coordinating the seminar over the last few years. These student presenters come as well-prepared as any speaker during the annual meeting. This session has proved to be a highlight of every meeting. Many veterinarians attend with an eye towards finding a new associate.

Due to the popularity of the student seminar and the competitive nature of the selection, every year students submit papers that are not selected for presentation. In 2007, the AASV provided these students with the opportunity to present their papers as part of a poster session on Sunday afternoon. It is hoped that this broader access will encourage even more student participation. Stipends for both the student seminar and the student poster session are provided by Alpharma Animal Health.

In conjunction with the student seminar, the AASV Foundation created a student scholarship program. The 15 student presenters are eligible to compete for $25,000 in scholarships. The top student presenter receives a scholarship of $5000 provided by Alpharma Animal Health. Elanco Animal Health provides $20,000 to fund the other 14 scholarships. These scholarships reward students who make a significant effort to begin their careers as swine veterinarians while still in college.

Many years ago, the AASV Foundation recognized the value of the annual meeting to all interested students and in 2005 provided a $100 stipend to every student attending the annual meeting. In 2006 and 2007, the AASV Foundation partnered with Newport Laboratories to continue the stipends. Although it is not a large amount, the stipend does provide valuable incentive and assistance to attend the meeting.

The AASV Foundation also provides financial support to any AASV student member wishing to gain practical experience through an externship with an AASV member. The student must spend a minimum of 2 weeks at the practice of an AASV member as well as provide a brief report on the experience. In return, the AASV Foundation offers a grant of $200.

In 2007, the AASV is rolling out two new opportunities for student involvement. The first takes place during the annual meeting in Orlando. Students have the opportunity to interview selected speakers at the annual meeting. These taped interviews will be available as podcasts on the AASV web site. Not only does this provide the students with access and experience, but they also receive a stipend for each successful interview. AASV members will benefit through access to the podcasts.

The second new opportunity for students is an outreach program to the colleges of veterinary medicine. Dr Harry Snelson will be traveling to a number of colleges to present information on classical swine fever (CSF). His presentation will include the newly produced video on the diagnosis of CSF and the procedures to follow with this foreign animal disease. One distinguishing aspect of this video is that it is 3-D, allowing viewers a much more realistic experience. The video was funded by the USDA and produced through the cooperative efforts of National Pork Board, Iowa State University, and AASV.

I would be negligent if I did not also recognize the contributions of the faculty advisors at each of the colleges of veterinary medicine. They are the glue that holds the student chapters together. They serve as mentors and advisors to the students. They also serve as a valuable source of input and feedback to the AASV on programming for students. Without the faculty advisors, it would be difficult to build or sustain an effective program for attracting students to swine medicine and production.

The AASV provides many opportunities for student involvement. In return we expect students to take advantage of these opportunities and in the process to gain insight into the profession they are soon to enter. Exposure to AASV may be a deciding factor in their career choices. It is critical for AASV to continue to offer opportunities that are relevant to students. Therefore, we also depend upon students to tell us what they need from the association and its members. The AASV needs to actively seek out this information.

At the fall board meeting, the AASV Board of Directors approved the addition of two student representatives. These students will attend the board meetings and provide their input into the issues coming before the board. They will not act as voting members, but I believe they will prove invaluable in their role of liaison between the board and the student members of the AASV.

Opportunity presents itself in many different forms for student members of the AASV. Opportunity also presents itself to the members of AASV in our ability to have an impact on newly beginning careers in swine medicine and production. One of the blessings of being a small association is that we don’t have to mass-produce our members – we have the opportunity of building our membership one student at a time.

--Tom Burkgren