Main goal is attracting young practitioners
As Dr. Rick Sibbel takes the reins as president of the AASV, he has many things on his mind, but one thing in particular: increasing the number of new veterinary graduates who enter swine practice and stick with it.
"We have never marketed ourselves at the level of veterinary students, and we have never marketed ourselves at the level of preveterinary students," Dr. Sibbel said. "I believe that's the number one thing that we have got to do. And we have got to energize our resources, both financial and personal, to begin doing it."
Dr. Sibbel says demographic changes account for the dwindling numbers of veterinarians who go on to serve as food animal practitioners. This can be blamed on several factors, he says, including the fact that fewer males are entering veterinary medicine, and, traditionally, men are more likely to pursue food animal disciplines. Most students are from urban areas, and therefore, more likely to pursue companion animal care. And there is another reason.
"It's particularly clear that society does not encourage young students to go into food animal medicine because society believes more and more, every day, that veterinarians are only companion animal people, as society moves more generations away from rural America," he said.
The AASV has a program, headed up by membership, that will travel to veterinary schools, educating students in all years of study, about the opportunities that await them in the swine discipline. "Food animal medicine has to beat our own drum and we have not done that in the past," he said, emphasizing the many reasons to beat that drum now.
Swine veterinarians currently earn higher salaries right out of school and five years down the line, compared to veterinarians in some other sectors. And the profession has honor in that it involves creating a safer food supply and protecting public health, Dr. Sibbel said.
"If you start selling that message, then urban students coming into veterinary schools will suddenly begin to look at these opportunities very differently than the companion animal sector," he said. "There are going to be some of those people who migrate in our direction."
One of Dr. Sibbel's other top priorities is enhancing biosecurity. "No place in the world is the concentration of livestock as immense as it is in the United States, so therefore, no place in the world is there more opportunity to cause food security problems," he said.
Dr. Sibbel participated in creating the "Animal Health Safeguarding Review," through which the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture has identified biosecurity needs for the future. The AASV is also joining forces with the AABP and the Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Veterinary Services to address evolving biosecurity issues. The collaboration of these groups is essential for success.
Dr. Sibbel will also focus energies on promoting swine veterinarians as competent individuals concerned with animal welfare issues, by developing experts who can speak and provide direction, on a regular basis, to groups outside veterinary medicine.
And, he will continue the AASV's efforts to gain approval for the Journal of Swine Health and Production to be included in MEDLINE. This will most likely increase the number of people who submit papers to the journal.
A technical services manager at Schering-Plough Animal Health, Dr. Sibbel is a recognized leader in the use of vaccines to manage and eradicate swine diseases, serving as an adviser to many state and regional regulatory agencies. He currently serves in a business development role at Schering-Plough in a start-up company, Global Animal Management.
Dr. Sibbel chairs the AASV Veterinary Medical Education Task Force and is a past chair of the Budget Committee. As president-elect, he was program chair for this year's annual meeting, and he was vice president of the association in 2001.
Dr. Sibbel serves as the vice chair of the board for the National Institute for Animal Agriculture and chair of the AVMA's Animal Agriculture Liaison Committee. He received his DVM degree Iowa State University in 1979.