Greetings and best
wishes. This is
my final message in Swine Health
and Production as President of the AASP. It is a privilege to serve this organization. The strength of the AASP is in its dedicated and competent membership. I also recognize the professionalism, dedication, and efficiency in our AASP office of Dr. Tom Burkgren and Dr. Sue Schulteis. My presidential predecessors took a bold step in creating our own AASP office. It was a correct decision, and one that all members of AASP will benefit from in the future.
The activities of the AASP on which I'd like to report include the future of antibiotics for use in swine practice. The Food and Drug Administration-Center for Veterinary Medicine (FDA-CVM) scientists are evaluating information from many sources and attempting to determine safe thresholds for antibiotic resistance development. Unfortunately, the AASP is a minority voice along with other food animal veterinary groups. Special interest groups and individuals are fervently promoting issues such as food safety and antibiotic resistance. These issues are important to all members of the AASP. However, public perception and special interest agendas have the potential to replace science in the debate. One question that needs to be addressed is: "Will the removal of antibiotics from animal uses truly result in fewer antibiotic-resistant bacteria being transmitted to humans?" This question may never be answered during the debate. Once the FDA-CVM enacts more stringent pre-approval and post-approval regulations, the pharmaceutical industry will decide if any potential return is worth the investment.
Another area of concern is our relationship with the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). The AVMA recently spent about $1 million on a study assessing the future of the veterinary profession. At the outset, the AASP was told that this was a small animal initiative and would examine only small animal practice. Members of the AASP and also of the American Association of Bovine Practitioners (AABP) were not invited to participate in the study. Unfortunately, when study was completed, it included an assessment of food animal veterinary practice. Leadership of the AASP and AABP have objected to the results of the study, the manner in which it was conducted, and the exclusion of our members' input during the process. Nonetheless, it demonstrates an important issue that the AASP must face. We are a small specialty group with limited political clout. This is true at the FDA-CVM and also at the AVMA. AASP members understand the needs of swine practitioners. Dr. Tom Burkgren has worked closely with the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) and the AVMA on various issues, including legislative and other items. In addition, the AASP needs members who are willing to work in these arenas in order to optimally represent our interests. The AASP must not assume that our opinion will be sought on important issues involving our future. Our success in this arena will require clear, open communication and careful positioning of our agenda.
The Scientific Program Planning Committee, chaired by Bob Morrison, has prepared an exceptional program for the 2000 AASP Annual Meeting. I look forward to seeing you in Indianapolis during March 11-14, 2000.
We have been through the toughest year on record for prices. It has rocked the foundation of our industry and all who serve it. At the same time, our industry is experiencing increasing public scrutiny over issues such as environmental impact, antibiotic use, animal well being, consolidation, integration, and "industrialization." This may have caused you, as it has caused me, to reflect on our future role and careers within this industry.
As I think about my current and past jobs, three criteria seem to have driven my satisfaction, or lack thereof:
- First is the personal fulfillment that I might get from the job; that is, do I look forward to coming to work? Personal fulfillment could come from making a contribution to those I serve and ultimately to society, having a positive impact on others, enjoying the people I work with, and having an opportunity for learning, and perhaps for career advancement. Also, the amount of autonomy that a job affords me can have an enormous impact on fulfillment.
- Second is the effect of the job on my lifestyle. Work-related travel, worries and stress, and work hours will all impact home life. As well, the more responsibility a job has, the more stress it seems to carry with it.
- Third is the income and benefits that I receive.
The relative priority that I have placed on each of these criteria has changed over the years. In high school and college, money was the only driving factor. I could put up with an unpleasant work environment, unfulfilling tasks, disagreeable bosses, and long hours if it paid "enough." Today, I am interested in balancing the three. I take on extra tasks to supplement my income and further my learning at the expense of home life. And I suspect that late in our careers, many of us hope to be in a position where we are least motivated by income. So given that we spend the better part of our adult lives in the workplace, how can we remain fulfilled?
Think about the relationship between autonomy and job fulfillment for a moment. As independent business owners, private practitioners have a substantial amount of autonomy. But this can be reduced when one answers to someone else and too much external control is exerted over that individual's environment. Individuals and organizations benefit most when autonomy is supported within the workplace.
A second key to job fulfillment is lifelong learning. To remain satisfied, competent, and content, we need to remain mentally challenged. Lifelong learning is critically important for all of us and one of the main functions of the AASP is to help us stay abreast of new developments. The AASP Annual Meeting is one of the cornerstones of our educational effort, and Swine Health and Production is another. Board certification, Masters programs, reading, and writing are other stimulants.
As we contemplate our place in this industry, our strengths are profound. Veterinarians are smart, capable, and well-educated. Incoming veterinary students continue to have the highest GPA of all colleges at the University of Minnesota. Veterinarians are hard working, conscientious, and driven to succeed. You cannot get into and through veterinary school without being so. And veterinarians are scientists with a unique understanding of the production system and especially the impact of disease. In the new industry, we will need to constantly look for ways to add value to the farm or company. Veterinarians will need to have an interest in and experience with managing people and projects. Finally, veterinarians will need to have a desire and dedication to make that farm's or company's performance the best in its market.
Your AASP can help you achieve your career goals. We have a culture and community that freely shares experience and knowledge. You should know that your career concerns are shared by many, and perhaps most, of your colleagues. Look for examples of success--we have many individuals who are leading the way.
To comment, please email me at RMorrison@MES.UMN.Edu or call me at 612-625-9276.