From the Executive Director

Tom Burkgren When was the last time you did something for the first time?

That was the question posed to me by a friend as we were discussing plans for the rest of our respective summers. It is a great question, especially as we get older and perhaps more prone to getting stuck in the proverbial rut. I see this as a question that challenges you to reflect on the past and to consider new experiences and opportunities for the future. The possibilities are quite extensive as you consider the levels of your life at which you can ask this question.

On a personal level, the opportunities for first-time experiences are abundant but dependent on your personal preferences, resources, abilities, and where you are in life. For me, parenthood has presented many first-time experiences over the last 17 years. My two teenagers continue to be the catalyst for me to do things for the first time. They often challenge my way of thinking, my wisdom, and my authority. They sometimes force me out of my comfort zone. I expect that this will continue even as my kids grow older, wiser, and more independent.

Professionally, veterinary medicine can offer a comfortable routine that provides stability and security. However, the introduction of disruptive factors and technology can provide the opportunities for first-time experiences. Over the last 25 years, the changes within the swine industry have presented veterinarians with the means and motivation to do many things for the first time. The veterinarians who met the changes head-on found themselves doing many things for the first time. Those who have been unwilling or unable to change have found their swine practices to be shrinking and even disappearing.

While this question can be applied to a veterinarian’s personal and professional lives, it is just as legitimate for an association to be asked this question: When was the last time the AASV did something for the first time? It needs to be asked on a routine basis – at least annually if not more often. If an association is not doing some things for the first time, then it may not be serving the needs of its members or fulfilling its mission. I would not propose counting “first times” as a definitive measure of success of an association. However, when used as a qualitative indicator, it can provide insight into the trend of an association.

So what has AASV done for the first time lately? Some things come to mind. The first AASV Summer Conference was held in early June. It was a combination of lecture and hands-on labs presented at the Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine. Registration was not quite as high as we hoped. This turned out to be a blessing because fewer registrants meant a lower instructor-to-registrant ratio and less crowding in the labs. Feedback from participants was very positive. It was clear from the feedback that the hands-on, practical labs are preferred. By now, planning for the next AASV Summer Conference will have begun.

Finalization of the planning for the 2008 Annual Meeting is well underway. In making decisions on meeting sites, the board of directors has made a number of “first time” decisions. “First time” cities outside the Midwest have included Denver, Nashville, Orlando, Quebec City, and Toronto. For the first time, the AASV will be meeting in San Diego, California. It is the first meeting held at a California site. The Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina is a great hotel for the AASV. The weather and scenery are spectacular. As always, the scientific program has been designed with the care and knowledge necessary to exceed the expectations of AASV members.

Over the years, the AASV has done many other things for the first time. Each has had a tangible value and impact for members. Some of the more recent are the Hogg Lecture, AASV Web site (speaker videos, podcasts, online member directory, and image library), AASV e-Letter, Swine Disease Manual, Swine Information CD, full-color printing of the Journal of Swine Health and Production (including the photo on the front page!), ownership of the PRRS Risk Assessment, closed-door session at the World Pork Expo, and student recruitment efforts (student seminar, externships, and scholarships). This is not a complete list of “first times” for the AASV. They have truly been piling up since the beginnings of the association in 1969.

The AASV exists to increase the knowledge of swine veterinarians. What is essential is how members use the AASV “first times” to keep current on continuing education, to stay in touch with the profession, to stay connected via technology, and to recruit young veterinarians to the swine industry. Just as important as the past “first times” are the future “first times.” What should AASV be doing for the first time in 2008? Ultimately, the members of AASV will have the best answers for that question. Can you think of the next “first time” for AASV? It doesn’t count unless you tell someone!

--Tom Burkgren