One of the most difficult tasks I’ve had in my job over the years has been to write my message for Journal of Swine Health and Production every other month. My struggle is to come up with something new and fresh so that I don’t bore the few members who happen to read it. You would think that as my tenure with AASV draws to a close in 2019 that the words would flow with mighty advice and grand visions for the association. Alas, words fail me. So, I went back to the May and June 2000 issue of JSHAP and pulled up my very first message. I find it just as applicable today as I did back then. What follows is an updated version of that message.
I am at a loss to find words to adequately describe my experiences over the last 25 years with the AASP/AASV. I was new on the job in 1994 when Steve Henry asked me why I would take a job with the association. I replied, “I like working without a net!” I responded in that manner because that is how association work had been described to me: association employees walk a tightrope, working at the whim of officers, boards, and committees. Now as I look back, I realize that reply does not do justice to the privilege of serving the members of the AASV. I have had a net the entire time. This net is made up of some of the most dedicated and inspired people I have seen in my career.
Ken Blanchard, management expert, describes a style of management in which you are “catching people doing things right.” This also describes my experiences while working for the AASV. This is an organization that has had people “doing things right” since the formation of the AASP in 1969. This is an organization filled with people willing to look beyond the philosophy of “what’s in it for me?” It is amazing how many times in 25 years I have heard the words “how can I help?” The AASV is blessed with members willing to provide countless hours as volunteers so that all swine practitioners might benefit.
The veterinarians who volunteer for the AASV fill many roles. Some roles are more visible than others. Yet all roles directly affect the success of the association. The AASV would not be the strong organization of today without the time and effort put forth in past years by active and engaged members. These members saw their efforts as an investment in the AASV and not as a cost to themselves.
Having said all the above is the easy part. Now comes the part that has turned my hair gray: How does the AASV continue its success? How does the AASV continue to educate and inform swine veterinarians? How does the AASV continue to effectively advocate for the veterinary profession and the swine industry? The questions could continue for a long time. Fortunately, the answers can be found within the same premise that has brought the AASV this far: encouraging and facilitating the philosophy of members serving members.
The following are a few of my observations of the drivers for the future success of the AASV:
- Ensuring that the right people are in the right place at the right time.
- Providing resources to do what needs to be done.
- Allowing younger members to assume leadership roles.
- Keeping long-time members engaged and accessible.
- Maintaining a “lean and mean” organizational structure, staff, and office.
- Segmenting the membership to ensure that all needs are adequately met.
- Surpassing the expectations of all who interact with the AASV.
- Providing the best education, information, networking, and advocacy for swine practitioners.
The best advice I can give to any member is to get involved. Your involvement may be in the form of service as an officer, director, committee member, or representative to another organization. Just as vital, however, is your involvement as a member who contributes ongoing input to the AASV on how well the association is meeting your needs as a swine veterinarian. Let the AASV know how we are doing and what we can be doing better.
Some might consider me lazy for recycling this message, and that opinion may well be justified. However, I like to believe that the core values of the AASV have not changed. My time spent with the members of AASV has shown me that the unwavering strength of an organization is based in values and beliefs that remain true and constant through the years. The key to future success is grounded in those same values and beliefs.
Tom Burkgren, DVM