FROM THE EDITOR
The student presentations at the Annual Meeting of the AASP serve a vital role for the future of the AASP, swine veterinary medicine, and the swine industry. Research has shown that veterinarians and physicians choose to work in specialty areas according to their extracurricular experience during their university education. Veterinary students who gain extracurricular experience with swine are more likely to choose swine health management than students who do not work with swine.
Veterinary education in North America has changed over the past 20 years. In most veterinary colleges, there are fewer lecture hours dedicated to swine health management, fewer faculty members with a swine focus, and less time spent on swine field service. Administrators argue that few veterinary students choose swine veterinary medicine upon graduation. This could have devastating consequences. Students not provided with a thorough education in swine health management will not have the confidence to do swine work upon graduation. If we do not educate our veterinary students, before long we will stop providing swine veterinarians to the field, few new graduates will choose swine health management, and the administrators of veterinary colleges will conclude that we do not need to train any veterinarians for the swine industry. It could be a downward spiral.
The demographics of students entering veterinary school have changed along with the general population. Fewer people are associated with agriculture in North America and, similarly, fewer incoming veterinary students have had agriculture experience. It is even more essential that we provide extracurricular educational opportunities for preveterinary and veterinary students. If you had never been in a pig barn prior to sitting in lectures on swine health management, what is the chance that you will fully comprehend the lecture? Similarly, if you haven't visited a pig farm, you would never choose a career in swine. If we expose students to swine health management early in their veterinary education, we will show them the opportunities available in this very exciting field of veterinary medicine.
Unfortunately, as the hours dedicated to swine education have decreased, the expectations of the knowledge of the new graduate have increased. Most employment opportunities for swine veterinarians come with expectations of experience, a high level of knowledge in many areas of swine production and health, and a broad sense of the swine industry. All of this is beyond the educational opportunities available to students in any one veterinary college.
Summer employment for veterinary students provides them with the opportunity to experience swine health management and gain invaluable, hands-on experience with the industry. They will become very proficient in one or more areas of applied veterinary medicine. The employer benefits from the enthusiasm of the student and the chance to get a project accomplished. The AASP presentations provide the students with a focused goal at the end of a summer's work. This enables the students to see a project through to the end and take ownership of the project. You will find that the students work very hard on their AASP proceedings papers and the presentation. Last year, the students selected from the University of Guelph gave their presentations to the OVC Swine Club, faculty, and graduate students. This increased the visibility of the swine program and these students, and provided an extra educational opportunity in our curriculum.
Giving a presentation at the AASP Annual Meeting provides the students with a sense of belonging and contributing to a worthwhile organization. Students appreciate being treated as professionals by the members of the AASP. The students gain more education in swine health management during the conference and see the diversity of our organization and the opportunities in swine health management. The student presentations themselves provide more education to the AASP members, often in very applied, practical areas of research. Finally the presentations give the students exposure, which may lead to employment opportunities in the future.
Since 1993, 82 students have given one or more presentations at the AASP Annual Meeting. Of these students, 54 have graduated from veterinary college. Most of these veterinarians (78%) do some swine work and 37% work exclusively with swine. Of these graduates, 39% are currently members of the AASP. I encourage you to look at old proceedings and you will recognize that many of today's prominent industry leaders were once student AASP presenters.
I applaud the Roche Animal Nutrition and Health and Lilly Foundation on behalf of Elanco Animal Health for providing honoraria and awards for these students. I am pleased to see that Alpharma, Inc. has agreed to sponsor students and provide an award. I would like to thank Drs. Sandy Amass and Tom Fangman, who organize the student session and review the papers that are submitted, and the veterinarians who mentor these students.These young people are the future of the AASP and the future leaders of the swine industry. I would encourage all of you to consider mentoring preveterinary and veterinary students. You will find it a very rewarding experience and you will be contributing to the future of the AASP and the swine industry.