It is an honor and a privilege to be nominated to serve as vice president of the American Association of Swine Veterinarians (AASV). The AASV has been an integral part of my life since before graduation from veterinary school. I have attended 29 of the last 30 annual meetings. It is a wonderful organization and, frankly, the envy of many other veterinary groups. I have never experienced the camaraderie and willingness to share knowledge at any other veterinary meeting I have attended.
I grew up on a small grain, fruit, and livestock farm in West Michigan. Over time, we had less fruit and concentrated more on livestock. We started with a few sows and about 60 head of beef cattle. After a few years, my father decided to focus on hog production and divested of the fruit and cattle. We expanded the herd to 90 sows, farrowing four per week. The farm was more labor intensive than today’s farms, but we had some distinct advantages. We were isolated in the fruit belt. The closest pigs were nearly 3 miles away. We utilized two-site production; our finisher barn was built on our second farm over 6 miles away. My dad was adamant that we drive to an isolated corner of the farmstead to change boots, wash the truck cab, then clean and wash the livestock trailer after EVERY load of hogs that was sold. I’m not sure we knew those habits constituted good biosecurity at that time. The lessons of hard work and animal care that my father instilled in me have been a solid and valuable foundation on which to build my career in swine practice.
After high school, I attended Michigan State University (MSU), where I earned both my bachelor and DVM degrees. Education in swine medicine was not prevalent at MSU, but I was blessed to have a wonderful mentor in Dr Brad Thacker. I spent nearly as much time visiting farms with Dr Thacker as I did in class. He taught me the essentials of swine medicine as well as the art of veterinary practice.
I completed the Executive Veterinary Program (EVP) at the University of Illinois in 1995. At that time, Iowa State gave graduate credits to EVP graduates. A small group of us continued on to a master of science program and I earned an MS degree in swine health and production in 1998. I then became board certified in Swine Health Management through the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (ABVP).
My supportive and patient wife, Donna, is also a veterinarian. She earned her MBA degree and currently teaches practice management at two universities, as well as business consulting with private practitioners. We have three wonderful children: Ben, who is in his first year at the Kentucky College of Osteopathic Medicine; Sarah, who is in her final semester at Purdue University; and Amy, who is a first-year student at Kent State University.
My first job after veterinary school was at a mixed animal practice in southern Michigan. Swine made up 50% of that practice and nearly all of those farms utilized outdoor production. I then moved to central Indiana and practiced with Dr Max Rodibaugh, a great mentor and a leader in the industry. In 1993 I started my own practice in Holland, Michigan. I worked primarily with small family farms, many of which grew rapidly as the industry consolidated in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. I call on fewer farms now, but see many more pigs.
I believe giving back through community service and serving organized veterinary medicine is important. I served as trustee in our church for over 10 years and was chairman of the building and grounds subcommittee. I was the swine representative on the board of directors of the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (AVBP) for 7 years and am currently the chairman of the ABVP Foundation. Animal welfare is also very important to me. I have been on the Michigan Veterinary Medical Association animal welfare committee for several years. I enjoy presenting Operation Main Street lectures to various audiences across West Michigan. I also participated in the Swine Advocacy Program in Washington, DC, through the National Pork Producers Association.
The AASV is one of the most respected veterinary groups, making it truly enjoyable and satisfying to serve on AASV boards and committees. I am currently AASV’s representative to the Clinical Practitioners Advisory Council for the AVMA. I have been on the JSHAP editorial board as the practice-tip reviewer, then as a regular reviewer for the last 5 years. I have also served on the Pig Welfare Committee for several years and am now the chairman of that committee.
Our profession and industry will always need to be promoted, and we need to manage obstacles as they arise. Although the welfare front has been quiet for a few months, it is important that we continue to educate our professional colleagues and the public, as we are the best advocates for swine welfare. The assault on antibiotic use will continue and our expertise will be needed to educate both producers and consumers. Verifying that pork is a safe and wholesome protein source will take the efforts of all swine veterinarians and pork producers working together. There will continue to be disease issues, both old and new, where we will need our medical experience and expertise. The AASV will rise up to the challenge. The leadership and staff is second to none. I am humbled to be nominated for the office of vice president of AASV. I look forward to the challenges.