Ihave been training a bit lately in preparation for an upcoming amateur sporting event and have been enjoying the journey of preparation. I have been squeezing this into my already busy day and sometimes find myself wondering how to fit it all in. I am also in the midst of watching professional sports playoffs. As some of you may know, I am an avid hockey fan. Unfortunately, my favorite team (Blackhawks) is out of the playoffs (but I forgive them) and I am finding myself becoming a basketball fan as the Toronto Raptors are still in it! I watch the dedication of these professional athletes and the excellence that they demonstrate in their athletic skills. Watching these athletes and reflecting on my own general journey of constant improvement in both my professional and non-professional life has me thinking quite a bit, lately, about the pursuit of excellence in general. There is also quite a bit of talk in university communities about centers of excellence. There it is again – the word – “excellence”! What is excellence and how do elite athletes and centers of excellence do it – whatever “it” is?
As usual, I went to the dictionary to look up “excellence.” In simple terms it means “the state, quality, or condition of excelling; superiority.”1 The definitions for “center of excellence” that I found are similar, but embody a team approach: “a center of excellence is a team, a shared facility or an entity that provides leadership, best practices, research, support and/or training for a focus area.”2
Personally, I find the term “center of excellence” to be a bit haughty, but the term has stuck in universities and many other aspects of the business world. I do, however, think the general model of a center of excellence is sound and can be applied to swine health and more specifically to swine veterinary clinics. There are many models for the development and sustainability of a center of excellence, but generally the center should serve some basic needs. 1. Support – by way of providing experts for a subject matter (let’s use swine health as an example); 2. Guidance – providing guidance in a subject area (swine herd health visits); 3. Shared Learning – encourage learning, training, skill assessment in subject area (mentoring a DVM student in swine health, producer training in swine welfare); 4. Measurements – demonstrate deliverables of results in a subject area (producer reports); and 5. Collaboration – promote collaboration and information sharing among other centers of excellence (AASV Annual Meeting presentation). Does any of this sound like what you do as a swine practitioner? I would argue that swine veterinary clinics (all veterinary clinics) are in fact centers of excellence, each made up of a team of individuals whose shared goal is the pursuit of excellence in swine health.
Currently in my world of work, research is a primary focus. I think what has struck me most about the pursuit of excellence in swine research is that a team approach is essential for success. This is not unlike the need for a team for the elite athlete, ie, coaches, doctors, trainers, teammates. This is also not unlike the need for a team approach to swine health, ie, researchers, practitioners, industry, and the teammates that make up those specific areas.
Professional sports teams and elite athletes seem to have embraced the team approach to achieving excellence (I know, there is a lot of money invested in professional sports). But I encourage you to think of who is your support network or team that helps you to achieve excellence, what is your role in your team’s success or pursuit of excellence? And how do you fit excellence (or the pursuit of excellence) into your day repeatedly and consistently?
1. Collins Dictionary. Available at http://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/excellence. Accessed 15 May 2016.
2. Cambridge Dictionary Online. Available at http://dictionary.cambridge.org/ us/dictionary/english/centre-of- excellence. Accessed 15 May 2016.
Terri O’Sullivan, DVM, PhD