From the Executive Director

Planting trees

We built our house in 1995. Prior to that time, our house site was an alfalfa field. There were no trees or landscaping – just a flat field. Through the years we have planted a number of trees around the house. Over Christmas vacation, my kids were looking at photographs from the spring after we built our house. They found one that showed a little maple tree we had planted in the front yard. They were amazed at how small it was when we planted it. Now, after 12 years, it has finally grown to a size that provides nice shade over our driveway. One thing I have learned from trees is that you have to have patience as you wait for them to yield the benefit of shade.

Jennifer M. Granholm, governor of Michigan, stated “Sometimes leadership is planting trees under whose shade you will never sit.” I could not help but reflect on how this statement fits the AASV. Since the beginning of our association as AASP, its leaders have been planting ideas and providing benefits to swine veterinarians. Some of these benefits are realized in short order. For example, right from the start, the annual meeting was increasing the knowledge of swine veterinarians. Other benefits have arisen from ideas that may have taken years to come to fruition. For instance, the idea for a warm-weather site for the annual meeting was discussed years before the AASV visited Orlando or San Diego. In this case, it was the sun rather than the shade that was enjoyed!

I don’t know what our early leaders envisioned for AASP. I do know that they set the tone and the values for the association right from the start. Today we continue to reap the benefits of the ideas and ideals planted over the years by the officers and board members. During 40 years of the association’s existence, the leadership has stayed true to the mission of increasing the knowledge of swine veterinarians. While doing so, several AASV “cornerstones” have arisen from this mission.

The annual meeting has developed into a “can’t miss” event for many members. It continues to offer some of the best and most topical education for swine veterinarians from around the world. This education occurs inside the meeting rooms as well as in the hallways, the social events, and after-hours get-togethers. The topics may have changed and evolved since the early years, but the intensity, enthusiasm, and love of learning has not lessened a bit.

The Journal of Swine Health and Production has been published since 1993. It is currently being read in at least 44 countries. The original intent of publishing peer-reviewed scientific articles for swine veterinarians is just as important today as it was in the beginning. It continues to be one of the most mentioned and valued member benefits. It is not only an essential source of information but also provides our members with an opportunity to publish.

With the technological advances of the last 10 years, the AASV Web site and e-Letter have become integral parts of the offerings to members. The digital world offers up-to-the minute accessibility and around-the-clock availability. It also offers the ability to keep large amounts of audio and video content literally at our fingertips. We can educate members on their time schedule and according to their specific wants and needs. The content is always evolving and expanding as new ideas come forth.

The AASV has served as a source of information and advocacy for members on decisions being made beyond the barnyard. Proposed and enacted policies, regulations, and laws can have an impact on members’ practices and businesses. For many years, the AASV has served its members’ best interests by providing them with a unified, passionate, and persistent voice on important issues. Some examples over the years are regulations governing Certificates of Veterinary Inspection, the legalization of extra-label drug use, the creation of the veterinary feed directive, antibiotic resistance, food safety, and animal welfare. There are many others that could be highlighted. The AASV also serves as a source of information on these issues so that members can better understand the issues and voice their own opinions. Often our advocacy is in cooperation and collaboration with the National Pork Board and the National Pork Producers Council. The AASV by itself cannot achieve the synergy and leverage possible through joining with the producer organizations.

Finally, the increased emphasis by AASV on the recruitment of new swine veterinarians has been at the forefront of efforts by the association and the AASV Foundation. Years ago, our leaders recognized the threat of a dwindling number of new graduates interested in swine medicine. This recognition initiated programming that is aimed at attracting veterinary students to swine practice and the AASV. Our student participation is at an all-time high. These “trees” are being planted right now, but the benefits from their impact may not be felt for some time. Judging from the quality of these young colleagues, there is tremendous potential for them to grow into leadership roles in the veterinary medical profession and the swine industry.

Trees require patience and a vision for the longer term. Growing them is a long-term commitment. So is growing an association. What is planted by our leaders today may not yield benefits today, but when done correctly, the benefits will develop and accrue with time. As AASV members you need to be asking yourself, “What trees need planting today?”

--Tom Burkgren, DVM