From the Executive Director

Tom Burkgren Observations from the annual meeting

Having just returned from the 2007 AASV Annual Meeting, I have a mind full of ideas, observations, and thoughts concerning our association, profession, and industry. I will share a few of these with you.

I am awed by the power of synergistic thought and action as demonstrated by the program planning committee. Each June, this committee is reformed with new members to design the program for the next annual meeting. Led by the vision of the AASV president-elect, the committee starts with an overabundance of ideas. Through the course of a one-day planning session, the ideas are discussed, dissected, meshed, built upon, combined, and culled until a cohesive plan emerges. Speakers are suggested. Seminar and session chairs are selected and assignments are made. At the end of the day, the program has sprung to life with great promise to deliver on the AASV mission to “increase the knowledge of swine veterinarians.”

I am honored to serve a board of directors and officers who are “Level 5 Leaders” as described by Jim Collins in his book Good to Great.1 They place the best interests of the AASV members squarely in the forefront. They make the right decisions for the good of the association. They expect little in return. Their drive and will are directed at making the AASV better today than it was yesterday. If you have ideas or issues concerning the AASV, the directors and officers can provide a willing and receptive sounding board.

I am proud of the AASV staff that provides support, services, and products to our members at the annual meeting and throughout the year. Their experience, efforts, and dedication continue to inspire me with my own responsibilities. Watching them work at the annual meeting reminds me to stay out of their way and let them do their jobs.

I am delighted to have seen so many spouses and families in Orlando. They provide a different perspective and insight into the personal lives of AASV members. These loved ones represent the personal sides of life we so rarely view in professional settings but which are so important. They provide balance and reminders of who and what are really important in life. One of my favorite bumper stickers reads “The best things in life aren’t things!”

I am impressed by the quality of veterinary students who attend the annual meeting. Their presence at the meeting brings a youthful feeling to the lecture rooms and the hallways. What they may lack in experience, they make up for with enthusiasm for learning and becoming swine veterinarians. The student presenters do a great job in preparing their papers and presentations. We should all thank the faculty advisors and practitioners who are mentoring these students into the profession.

I am recharged by the passion for knowledge shown so many times and at so many levels during our meeting. From the formal sessions to the hallway talk, members were actively seeking knowledge. We pack as much as we can into the meeting while striving to meet the needs of our members. One of the hallmarks of the AASV is the willingness of members to share information and knowledge with colleagues. Without that, there would be no annual meeting. If you are not a better swine veterinarian when you leave the AASV meeting, then we have not delivered on our promise.

I am pleased to see that our members continue to embrace the value of discussion and debate on the issues confronting the profession and the industry. The issues are diverse and range from which name we should use for the disease caused by porcine circovirus to the selection of a site for the 2011 annual meeting. (Don’t worry: we are not considering Des Moines!) Constructive dialogue between members is a sign of a healthy organization. As an educational association, we need to create an atmosphere where everyone feels secure enough to raise questions and provide input. Even when we agree to disagree, we can do so in a way that reinforces the concepts of professionalism and collegiality.

I am relieved to see that the dire predictions of only needing a handful of swine veterinarians have not come to fruition. The meeting would be a lonely place without the diverse group of attendees that we attract every year. While we have lost a segment of mixed-animal practitioners who no longer work in the swine industry, we have an established core of committed and engaged members. We continue to gain international participation that adds an expanded horizon to our meeting. Without members, there is no AASV.

Lastly, I am blessed and humbled to have a job I love to wake up to every morning. I thank Dr Daryl Olsen for his trust in my ability to deliver the Dunne Lecture. I thank a long line of officers and directors who have entrusted the AASV to me for the last 13 years. Finally, I thank each and every member of AASV for their support and for giving me an ongoing reason to say “Man, I love this game!”


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

-- Tom Burkgren