President’s message

Darryl Olson AASV: From good to great

When it started snowing Thursday morning, the idea of driving to the airport early made good sense. Our flight from Omaha to Orlando didn’t leave until Friday morning, but I was not going to miss being in Orlando for the annual meeting. What would happen if the president-elect, the program chair, did not make it to the meeting? By Thursday noon, over 12 inches of snow had fallen, the winds cranked up to 25 to 35 miles per hour, and western Iowa was experiencing a good old-fashioned blizzard. I was glad to make the 10-block drive home. Forget about driving early to Omaha.

Friday morning brought no relief as winds continued, several more inches of snow fell, and road crews did not even attempt to clear the highways. Panic was starting to set in. It looked like the roads might not be cleared until Easter. Roads stayed closed until Saturday afternoon (we bought new tickets through Des Moines and drove on roads not fit for snowplows). We finally arrived in Orlando Saturday night. I was sure glad the 2007 meeting wasn’t in Des Moines or Omaha.

After arriving in Orlando, I began to question why I was so concerned. Although I was late, the meeting had seemed to progress fantastically without me. I hated missing the board meeting, but the board addressed the agenda items and solved the few problems that did exist. After listening to Dr Tom Burkgren’s Howard Dunne lecture, “AASV: From good to great,” I realized why the AASV is so successful. This organization is designed so that everyone makes a difference and no one individual really changes the course of the AASV. At times, all of us think that we are irreplaceable and will be missed, but these thoughts are quickly extinguished by reality. Dr Burkgren emphasized that AASV does have “the right people on the bus,” and this point was never more recognizable than watching the annual meeting unfold.

Although all of the presentations were excellent and the scientific merit of the meeting was strong, I was especially challenged by the Monday morning general session. In my opinion, no one deserved to be recognized as a Howard Dunne lecturer more than Dr Tom Burkgren. Tom Burkgren represents what is great in our profession, our association, and the industry we serve. The AASV is extremely fortunate to have Dr Burkgren as our executive director. Dr Steve Henry, in presenting the inaugural Alex Hogg lecture, challenged our membership to serve as Alex Hogg served. Anyone who knew Dr Hogg knows that task will not be easy.

If you missed Dr Beth Lautner’s presentation, “Professionalism in veterinary medicine: Good to great,” please take time to read the proceedings. Dr Lautner took a difficult topic and made it applicable to our profession. Two key points of her presentation hit home with me. First, the doctorate of veterinary medicine offers the opportunity to be a professional. Character, attitude, quest for excellence, competency, and conduct (ie, our actions) define us as professionals. The problem with having 25 years in the profession is that you can look back on your career and challenge some of your actions. If given the opportunity, most of us might change a decision or action made in the past, but hopefully, a true professional learns from his or her mistakes and does not repeat them. I would offer three simple bits of advice on the ethics of being a professional.

  • If it feels uncomfortable, it is most likely wrong.
  • If you explain that it is not black or white but grey, it is probably black.
  • If it wakes you up at night, fix it as soon as possible.

Dr Lautner described some challenges she had early in her career as a female swine veterinarian. How daunting it must have felt entering a male-dominated association where females might not have been welcomed with open arms. By 2008, the majority of members of the AVMA will be female. Our profession is rapidly making a gender switch. It certainly seems realistic that not too far in the future, a majority of AASV’s members will be female. It is unfortunate to think that Dr Lautner did not feel welcome; however, she used her cool reception as a challenge to become a swine veterinarian.

“Good to great” associations must realize that in the future “the right people on the bus” might not look like “the old people on the bus.”

-- Daryl Olsen