President's message

Are you open to changing the name of the American Association of Swine Practitioners?

Let me tell you about three recent incidents. The employer of one of our members questioned why he was taking precious time to go to the AASP conference, when he was no longer a "practitioner." Another member told me he felt less connection to the AASP after leaving practice to join a pharmaceutical company. And, finally, a third colleague has elected not to renew his membership because he is in charge of production at a company, not in swine practice anymore. Does this concern you? Losing just three members alarms me. We need these folks!

When our elected AASP leaders held a strategic planning retreat recently, one of the topics we studied was the increasing diversity of our members' roles. If current trends continue, non-practitioners, in the traditional sense of the word, will soon comprise the majority of the AASP members. However, we all share two characteristics: we are veterinarians, and we have an interest in the pig.

After much discussion, it was proposed that the AASP become the AASV - American Association of Swine Veterinarians. We believe such a change will strengthen the membership, ultimately benefiting the practitioner. As our swine industry changes, new opportunities are developing for veterinarians. Think of the current variety of roles that our members play:

  • production companies, where responsibilities include disease control and management,
  • academic institutions, serving in teaching, research, and service,
  • allied industry in technical service, research and development, and management,
  • government veterinarians at the USDA and state level,
  • associations such as the NPPC (and the AASP),
  • quality assurance for packing plants, and, of course,
  • practitioners in mixed animal practice and exclusive swine practice.

The name, American Association of Swine Veterinarians, recognizes the new opportunities that exist and are developing, and welcomes veterinarians working with all aspects of pork production. As we know, there is great strength in diversity.

At the planning retreat, the board also reviewed our mission statement and proposed the following:

The mission of the AASP (V) is to increase the knowledge of swine veterinarians by:

  • Promoting the development and availability of the resources which enhance the effectiveness of professional activities,
  • Creating opportunities which inspire personal and professional growth,
  • Advocating science-based approaches to industry issues,
  • Encouraging personal and professional interaction, and
  • Mentoring students, encouraging life-long careers as swine veterinarians.

Each of these points was debated at length, and words were carefully crafted to assure that our meaning was clearly stated.

We agreed that the first point, promoting the development and availability of resources, is our core function. We currently accomplish this through our annual conference and journal. Members' needs change, however, and the board is looking at additional means to fulfill this part of the mission.

The second point encourages our leadership to constantly look for new opportunities for members. As an example, I discussed in my last column the field of food safety and the coming opportunities for members. A new service that our association might provide is a confidential job bulletin board. At least one company, search firm, or veterinary practice looking for the right person to fill a position calls me every month. My list of candidates is short, however. If you are interested in knowing what opportunities might be coming up, call me - strictly confidential. Similarly, if you are looking for someone, call me. If there is a demand for this service, we'll provide it.

The third point refers to the fact that as veterinarians, we are scientists. Our industry and the public depends on us to understand the difficult issues that we often face today, including judicious use of antibiotics, pig well-being, food safety, and the environmental impact of the swine industry. Tomorrow, there will be new issues, and our association will help us address them with science-based approaches. We need to educate those around us about the science of our industry.

Our fourth point is something we all value in the AASP (V): the relationships that we have formed over the years. I have attended many conferences of other associations, but nowhere else have I experienced the attitude of community, sharing and respect that we have in the AASP (V). Our members never refuse to share their knowledge, especially with new members. This is something we must continue to acknowledge, treasure, and nurture.

The final and perhaps most important point is the recruitment of students to our professional specialty. Successful managers prepare their own replacements. As a teacher, I urge each of you to take the opportunity to encourage students to get to know you and our profession. The opportunities to do this are few and candidates are increasingly scarce. I believe that we have the smallest number of veterinary and graduate students interested in the pig that we have ever had in my professional career. If veterinarians are not available to serve the swine industry, someone else will do it.

Your board and executive committee are working hard to serve your needs. Please contact me and/or your district representative if you have comments or questions about our direction.

-- Bob Morrison