Bovine practitioners venture into online courses
It was a good showing for the American Association of Bovine Practitioners. The 36th annual conference, Sept. 18-20 in Columbus, Ohio, drew 2,103 attendees from the United States and 24 foreign countries. Eleven hundred veterinarians came, as well as 232 students, a category whose numbers rise each year. Another 400 people registered for the Society for Theriogenology conference, held with the AABP every other year.
But AABP leaders are not content with providing continuing education only for the minority of members who can come to the conference. Aside from the travel costs, some practitioners cannot afford the lost income.
"The concern has been we attract a nice crowd, but only about 25 percent of our active, practicing members attend the annual conference, and we're trying to find a way to reach the others," said Dr. James A. Jarrett, executive vice president.
For some time, the AABP has been exploring distance education, and in Columbus, the board of directors approved the CE vehicle. This format involves accessing information and communications with instructors over the Internet.
The AABP teamed with the University of Illinois for the first distance offering, a training program on advanced dairy feeding and management. It comprises four sessions, from late November to late January. Enrollment was limited to 30, 12 hours of CE credit were available, and the cost was $400.
At their convenience, participants will listen to 15-minute lectures on compact disks before logging on to a live evening session with their instructors, Drs. Mike Hutjens and Richard Wallace, every other week. Case studies and field problems will be available for chat room discussion and solutions, but no tests or homework are required.
AABP board member Dr. Steven C. Stewart coordinated contacts between the AABP and U of I. According to Dr. Stewart, "This particular course was specifically proposed by the board as a low-risk trial offering, as one way to assess interest in distance education by our members." AABP leaders intend to see how this first course is received before planning future ones. Only AABP members can enroll for distance education, but nonmember veterinarians are welcome to join the organization and become eligible.
In Columbus, well over 400 CE hours were available in the form of seminars, clinical forums, and sessions on dairy, cow-calf, feedlot, and general cattle topics. Bovine viral diarrhea virus and cattle pain management were two areas of concentration at the general sessions.
Awards were given to the top three student case presenters. Karen Lorch (MIN '04) tied with Sarah Tomlinson (COL '04) for first place, and Molita Birchen (ILL '04) won third place.
BSE special session
At Dr. Will Hueston's request, the AABP added an early-morning slot for a program on bovine spongiform encephalopathy. A BSE expert, Dr. Hueston was involved in review of the case earlier this year in Alberta, Canada.
Undaunted by the early hour, a sizable audience heard three speakers with 35 years' collective experience with BSE. Dr. Hueston began with an admonition. "What you're going to hear today is also a challenge to the organization, because our effective response in North America depends on bovine practitioners. You all could play a major role in either supporting our aggressive and appropriate response, or undermining our response and jeopardizing the cattle industry in North America."
Dr. Wayne Lees, an epidemiologist with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, fleshed out details of the Canadian investigation and response. Canada is the third largest beef exporter in the world, he noted, Australia being first and the United States second. Per capita, however, beef is more important to Canada, he added. "The impact (of the diagnosis) was immediate," Dr. Lees said. "The border was slammed shut." He said the lingering problem is an oversupply of cull cows. Calf prices have returned to normal, unlike cow prices. He believes more cows were exposed to the BSE-contaminated feed. "This is a major wake-up call in terms of if we're going to find these diseases," he said, "we have to have a contingency plan."
Dr. Hueston, looking at the trade implications, said, "This is an insidious disease spread worldwide through commodity trade of infected animals and feed ingredients." First, how do we characterize the BSE risk for countries of origin and animal commodities or products? And who is the global watchdog? Second, how do we prevent the spread of BSE without halting trade? "The challenge of global trade is that transshipment currently obscures country of origin, he noted." Third, health requirements may be used as nontariff trade barriers. The Office International des Epizooties has set international health standards aimed at minimizing the negative effects of unjustified health barriers on international trade. Unfortunately, Dr. Hueston said, it's the political appointees and not the veterinarians making decisions in the United States. He said, "There's a growing global perception that the U.S. and Mexico are hiding BSE."
Dr. Linda Detwiler, former coordinator of BSE activities for the Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Agency, is a consultant to government agencies. Dr. Detwiler, who spent time this summer in Canada on the investigation, said, "We got a warning shot by way of Canada." She focused on the incident as a wake-up call for North America, with more cases likely. Citing Germany and Japan, she said, "This disease topples governments, it cripples governments," because there are more questions than answers. The United States has checked 35,000 samples over two years and found no BSE, but strong enforcement is critical to ensure against feeding of ruminant meat and bone meal to ruminants. And, she said, the lesson we must learn is never say "never." Dr. Detwiler said, "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence."
"Food animal agriculture—a futuristic look" was the keynote address, delivered by Lowell Catlett, PhD. A Regents Professor at New Mexico State University, he teaches agricultural economics and agribusiness. His theme: agriculture will be the dominant industry of this century, and those who embrace technologic changes will reap rewards.
"Consistently, you are the most admired profession in the world, always, everywhere ... on the planet," Dr. Catlett told his veterinary audience. "You picked the right profession, students." He went on to preview some trends and how the profession could benefit.
In 2002, there was the largest amount of entrepreneurial activity ever, by a factor of 10," Dr. Catlett said. At the same time, there is "staggering affluence." Americans in the 12- to 14-year age group spent $163 billion last year—10 times what Generation X spent and 100 times what his generation, the baby boomers, spent. We've never had so many people in the world with so much money, he said.
Americans are an aging society. The average American is 36, compared with 32.9 in 1990.
"Since 9/11, health not only sells, safety sells," Dr. Catlett said. "We're affluent, we're aging, and we'll pay." When you're aging and affluent, demand for services goes up, he continued. "We'll need more specialists of every kind. The knowledge base doubles every 17 months."
The number of pet food manufacturers doubled over the past decade, Dr. Catlett said. "As we're dying of old disease, so are our pets. A quarter of our pets are obese."
Dr. Catlett mentioned two developing technologies the profession should embrace. One is remote sensing technology, such as radio frequency identification. The largest retailer in the world, WalMart, has told its top suppliers that by 2005, it will buy only items with an RFID. These RFID tags, or "smart labels," are expected to replace the universal product code. They would communicate with an electronic reader that could, for example, ring each item in a shopping cart instantly, transmit product information to the retailer and manufacturer, and deduct the cost from the purchaser's bank account.
Another technology Dr. Catlett believes "will revolutionize veterinary medicine" is intelligent default. According to him, 97 percent of people surveyed want to communicate with physicians electronically, and the veterinary profession should take note.
The AABP Animal Welfare Committee recommended that the board of directors explore the proposed Professional Auditor Certification Program and possible AABP participation in this organization of farm animal welfare auditors. Despite uneasiness among some board and committee members that these auditors will not be exclusively veterinarians—it's envisioned they will include representatives from livestock professional groups—the board approved the motion to look into this activity.
The Committee on Pharmaceutical and Biological Issues recommended that the board adopt a statement disqualifying companies that produce, advertise, or promote drug compounding for food animals from exhibiting or advertising in AABP publications or electronic media.
The board approved the CPBI's recommendation endorsing the Academy of Veterinary Consultants' position statement of caution on the use of neomycin in feedlot cattle.
Messages from AVMA, AASV
At the AABP business meeting, AVMA President-Elect Bonnie Beaver said she is pleased to be able to represent all veterinarians who are members of the AVMA. "What many of you may not recognize or appreciate is the representation that AABP has at AVMA. Certainly, we have our delegate, Darrell Johnson, and the alternate, Jim Jarrett, voting for your interest in the House of Delegates. Also, we have five committees that specifically have representation from AABP, and they're represented by Drs. Terry Lehenbauer, Dr. Florian Ledermann, Dr. Chris Dutton, Dr. David Beyers, and Dr. Greg Ledbetter.
"In addition," Dr. Beaver continued, "there are a large number of committees and councils that have positions for people who represent either ruminant or large animal/food animal interests, so there are many other members of AABP who are part of the AVMA's decision-making priorities, including Dr. Patty (Scharko, 2002-2003 AABP president). So, the representation and interests of this organization are well-represented and well-appreciated within the AVMA."
Dr. Beaver outlined a few issues of concern within the profession—animal welfare issues, agro- and bioterrorism, steps the AVMA is taking to develop closer interaction with state and allied organizations on regulatory and legislative challenges, and globalization as it relates to veterinary school accreditation.
AASV President-Elect John Waddell also acknowledged the importance of animal welfare issues, antimicrobial resistance, food safety, and foreign animal disease monitoring. On antimicrobial resistance, he said, "It's the activist groups that are driving this, and if we (do not) stand up and fight (but) try to appease these people, then we're going to lose the tools we need to really fulfill our veterinary oath." Dr. Waddell noted that the AASV is a member of the Food Animal Summit Task Force, which is looking into recruiting young people to the profession, mentoring them, and working with veterinary colleges to improve the selection process. "We need to target those students who have a greater chance of remaining in large animal and food animal work," he said, and the food animal sector must work with faculty on the curriculum so that students are prepared to enter food animal practice. In closing, he offered a quote: "Take on causes that matter, day after day, and often unseen."
Auction/AABP Amstutz Scholarship Award
Every five years, including this year, the AABP Amstutz Scholarship Committee holds a benefit auction. In Columbus, there was a silent auction and a live auction. The live auction, run by Dr. Jarrett, took place during an evening social event, "Reliving those vet. school nights," at the Buckeye Hall of Fame Café. The auctions raised more than $12,300. Items included old textbooks, pieces of art, vacation escape packages, an ultrasound class, articles from pharmaceutical companies, and autographed footballs.
According to committee chair Dr. David McClary, 20 veterinary students each received a $1,500 scholarship in 2003. These are students entering their third year. Fourteen scholarships were funded through annual support from the Eli Lilly and Company Foundation through Elanco Animal Health, and six through member contributions.
Research assistantships, externships
Research assistantships totaling $10,000 were presented to four recent graduates in master's or doctoral programs, to support research on bovine health and management. Recipients were Dr. Jeffrie T. Fox (KSU '03), Kansas State University, $4,000, for "Near infrared spectroscopy: a potential method to evaluate respiratory function following undifferentiated bovine respiratory disease in stocker/feeder cattle"; Dr. Jason Lombard (COL '93), Colorado State University, $3,500, for "An evaluation of serum ELISA, fecal culture, rectal biopsy and composite milk sample PCR to diagnose Johne's disease at the time of slaughter in cull dairy cows using tissue identification of Mycobacterium avium ss. Paratuberculosis (MAP) as a gold standard"; and Dr. Jorge Vanegas (LAS '97), University of California-Davis, $2,500, for "Effect of rubber flooring on lameness and productive performance in dairy cows."
Earlier this year, the AABP awarded externships of $500 each to 21 veterinary students from 12 colleges. The program is directed toward first- and second-year students who are interested in food animal medicine but who have had limited exposure to it.
Current AABP membership is about 6,100 and includes a thousand students, the most ever. Of AABP members, 65 percent to 70 percent are involved in dairy practice, and 30 percent to 35 percent in beef practice.
New officers and directors
Dr. Mark F. Spire of the Food Animal Health and Management Center at Kansas State University ascended to the presidency (see profile, page 1553), succeeding Dr. Patty Scharko, University of Kentucky.
Dr. Rich Meiring, The Ohio State University, assumed the office of president-elect. Prior to the conference, AABP members elected Dr. John Ferry, Adams, N.Y., as vice president, and Dr. Scott Waltner, Burlington, Wash., as director of District 11. Dr. Mark Wustenburg, Bay City, Ore., continues as treasurer, and Dr. M. Gatz Riddell, Auburn University, as parliamentarian.
In 2004, the AABP will meet in Fort Worth, Texas, from Sept. 23-25. Charlotte, N.C., was chosen as site of the 2008 conference. Other venues are Salt Lake City, 2005; St. Paul, Minn., 2006; and Vancouver, British Columbia, 2007. The World Buiatrics Congress is scheduled for July 11-16, 2004, in Quebec; log on to www.wbc2004.ca.