From the Executive Director
Good purposes

I am just back in my office following the 2010 AASV Annual Meeting in Omaha, Nebraska. A bit tired and worn out, but nevertheless invigorated. The annual meeting is a whirlwind of activity, but I especially enjoy the opportunity to catch up with so many of our members. Most of these members I see only once or twice per year, and for some it has been even longer. For me, it is like a big family reunion with a lot of my most favorite cousins!

The subject matter of the meeting was also inspiring. Dr Paul Ruen and his program committee did a wonderful job in preparing sessions of interest and timeliness, with content which holds great potential to make a difference when attendees return home to their practices and work.

Our concurrent and general sessions were held in the Qwest Center. There was a plaque outside the ballroom naming it the “Peter Kiewit Grand Ballroom.” On the plaque there was also this statement: “Nothing pleased him more than to bring people together for good purposes!” What a great statement! I was not very familiar with Mr Kiewit, so I did a little investigation.

Peter Kiewit was a lifelong resident of Omaha. He worked in the family business of bricklaying as a young man. Growing older, he became the head of the company and led it to become one of the largest employee-owned contractors in the United States. He was known for his community leadership and philanthropy. He attributed his success in business to his Nebraska work ethic. To this day, the Kiewit name is on a large number of companies throughout North America.

Peter Kiewit died in 1979 and left the bulk of his estate to the Peter Kiewit Foundation. Interestingly, he was a stanch opponent to inherited wealth (another Nebraska ethic?). His namesake foundation focuses on supporting charitable projects that benefit the public in the Omaha and Nebraska areas. His commitment to “good purposes” is carried on today.

Bringing people together for good purposes is an accurate description of the AASV Annual Meeting. The content of the seminars, concurrent sessions, and general sessions serve the purpose of connecting science to the farm and to the animals under our care. The “take home” ability to implement what you learn in a session is the key to creation of value for attendees. The fulfillment of the mission of the AASV is based on the ability of an annual meeting to increase the knowledge of swine veterinarians.

Beyond the educational sessions, there are other areas of bringing people together for good purposes. The committees of the AASV met on Saturday morning to discuss and take action on a wide range of issues. Committee members contributed several hours to this work of the association, setting the stage for how the AASV will address issues of importance to members. The committees provide a conduit between members and leadership.

The leadership of the AASV resides with the board of directors. The fifteen members of the board include the eleven District Directors and the four officers (also known as the Executive Committee). The board meets twice per year to manage the business of the association, considering new programming and member benefits, taking positions on pertinent issues, and setting the general course of the organization. Between board meetings, the Executive Committee is charged with transacting business which must be addressed during the period between board meetings. The leadership of AASV takes these “good purposes” quite seriously.

Beyond the formal education and meetings at the annual meeting, there occurs a great deal of hallway talk, business meetings, one-on-one discussions, and small-group gatherings. Walking through the hallways during these interactions, I can almost feel the intensity of the discussions and the brainpower being generated and stimulated. I view this as having great importance for our members and our organization. Good purposes need not be restrained by formality.

I would be negligent if I did not highlight the good purposes of the AASV Foundation. The work of the foundation is most visible in the young faces of the many students at the annual meeting. The good purposes of the foundation would not be possible without the support of the AASV members and our industry partners who believe in the mission of the foundation. Dr Warren Wilson, with the help of Dr Rodney Johnson and an enthusiastic committee, organized a very impressive lineup of both live- and silent-auction items. The enthusiasm was also evident in the bidding that occurred at the auction.

There are so many facets to the AASV and the annual meeting that I am sure I have missed other good purposes that transpired in Omaha. I can leave you to fill in those blanks. Lest we feel too smug, I urge you to keep in mind what more we can do. The future will bring more challenges, threats, and opportunities to our profession. We must be strong in our resolve to face them together and with good purposes in mind.

I have not given a great deal of thought to what I would like to have engraved on my gravestone. However, I would be satisfied with an epitaph that read “Nothing pleased him more than to bring people together for good purposes!” Now I suppose I should start thinking about my bucket list!

--Tom Burkgren, DVM