Vice-presidential candidate
George Charbonneau

I am honored to have been nominated for the position of vice president of the American Association of Swine Veterinarians (AASV). Over the years, I have enjoyed the opportunity to work with AASV staff and members whose contributions to the art and science of veterinary medicine and our profession have been inspiring. The AASV has been a trusted source of continuing education and has provided great networking opportunities.

Growing up in a small rural town, I had opportunities to work in many different areas of agriculture. These jobs ranged anywhere from bee keeping, mixed farming, and beef feed lots to cash crop. I could see early on that the veterinary profession stood out as a career that would provide ongoing challenges and would demand life-long learning. Graduating from the Ontario Veterinary College in 1981, I elected to accept an offer to work in pork-production management. This provided an invaluable opportunity to learn about pork production from the producer’s perspective. This single pork producer was also the first herd-health client for my fledgling swine practice. Over time, the practice client base continued to grow. In 1989, I convinced my wife, Ann, to become the practice manager. At the same time, we relocated to Stratford, as our children, Amy and Matt, were ready to start school. Stratford turned out to be a great community for us to raise our family and grow our business.

Stratford is very central to our Ontario pork industry. I have enjoyed serving as president of the Ontario Pork Congress. In 1996, a small group decided to develop a volunteer organization that would include the entire Ontario pork supply chain. I had the honor of serving as the founding chair of the Ontario Pork Industry Council when this organization came to fruition. Both of these organizations focus on creating cooperation amongst the various players in the pork supply chain. They also continue to teach volunteers how to work as part of a team. In addition to these industry organizations, I have had the opportunity to serve as president of the Ontario Association of Swine Veterinarians and the Canadian Association of Swine Veterinarians.

As swine veterinarians, we spend an ever-increasing amount of time dealing with industry issues. The AASV plays a pivotal role in managing these issues and allows us to collectively step up to the plate much more effectively than we could ever do as individuals. These issues present risks to our industry and profession, but they also present great opportunities.

Animal welfare. Consumers will decide outcomes by voting with their pocket books at the meat counter. Activists will continue to apply pressure to retailers in order to achieve their various agendas. Members of AASV are in a great position to focus on doing what is “right” for the animals and communicating this to the industry.

Food safety and antimicrobial resistance. Traceability translates into accountability. We play a central role in communicating the need for antimicrobials in order to relieve animal suffering, while understanding that food safety is critical to maintaining consumer confidence. As a profession, we continue to provide leadership by following the guidelines for prudent drug use.

Industry careers. The AASV continues to reach out to veterinary students and this presents a great opportunity to showcase a career in swine practice. There is equally an opportunity to tell our industry story to students who will not be involved with food-animal practice.

Animal health. Health continues to be the “800-pound gorilla” in the room. Regional disease control and elimination programs provide an excellent training ground for networking and information management. We need to provide industry leadership in the early detection, control, and elimination of emerging diseases. This is especially true of the so called “production-limiting” diseases, where it will be up to industry to take the lead.

Continuing education is a core function of AASV. The annual meeting, AASV e-Letter, AASV-L, podcasts, videos, Swine Information Library, JSHAP, and other venues provide multiple learning opportunities. The recent Web-based porcine epidemic diarrhea session provided an excellent resource for updating our membership on a real-time basis.

In recent years, I have had the opportunity to serve on several AASV committees. The growing spirit of cooperation in research, issues management, and regional disease control and elimination is a great example of how we are so much more effective as part of a bigger team. The AASV will need to work hard to maintain the trust of our industry partners and consumers, while at the same time remembering our role as advocate for what is right for the pig. I am fortunate to have grown up in a family and worked in a practice where service to the community was encouraged. I am truly honored to have been nominated, and if elected, I will do my best to serve the AASV.

-- George Charbonneau