An hour north of Syracuse, N.Y., in the town of Adams, Dr. John Ferry co-owns a practice that is primarily dairy and small animal. Dr. Ferry serves the same herds today that he did when he graduated from Cornell University in 1977.
Being an experienced practice owner led him a few years ago to make the multiyear commitment to ascend through the AABP leadership positions. As a businessman, he believed he could help guide the association through the transition to a new executive vice president when the time came for Dr. James A. Jarrett to retire.
Dr. Ferry was installed as AABP president in September, just seven months after the transition to a new CEO began—not with the retirement, but with the death of Dr. Jarrett in January, and the subsequent naming of Dr. M. Gatz Riddell as his successor.
Cattle have been an everyday part of Dr. Ferry's life from the time he was born on a dairy farm. His goal in attending veterinary college was to work with cattle, and he became an AABP member as a young veterinarian to partake in the continuing education.
"It just seemed to be an evolution, as an AABP member who enjoyed the program and had great respect for the organization, to become increasingly involved, which led to being a district director for six years and then coming back through the chain of offices," he said.
Earlier, Dr. Ferry served on three New York State VMS committees and one year chaired the bovine program of the society's annual meeting. He has been honored as the Fort Dodge/AABP Bovine Practitioner of the Year and was a recipient of the Merial/AgVet/AABP Award for Excellence in Veterinary Preventive Medicine for dairy practice.
Speaking as a longtime AABP member, Dr. Ferry says that bovine practitioners can always be heard talking about their favorite treatment approaches and how they're dealing with business or clientele matters.
"That talk now has a heavy mixture of other issues, such as animal welfare, food quality, anti-animal-agriculture groups, and how to maintain the positive perception that the public has of veterinarians in the face of attacks from special-interest groups," Dr. Ferry said. "We like working with cattle and the people who own the cattle, and that was the career we envisioned, but that's not the world that we live in today. Both on an organizational level and a personal level back home, we all have a responsibility to address those concerns.
"The main issue that's looming is the increasing importance of animal welfare issues as they apply to animal agriculture, in trying as an organization to articulate a position that supports our industry while leading our industry to the most socially acceptable care of cattle."
Dr. Ferry's wife, Diane (NCU '93), co-owner of their five-veterinarian practice, will help with that endeavor, having been appointed to the AABP Animal Welfare Committee this fall.
Referring to a point made by AVMA immediate past president, Dr. Bonnie V. Beaver, during the AVMA Veterinary Leadership Conference, Dr. Ferry said that although food animal practitioners are only one sector the AVMA represents, the Association's broad advocacy is important because animal rights activism isn't limited to the anti-agriculture arena.
"There are groups out there who don't believe that people should own pets at all," Dr. Ferry noted. "Our challenges with activist groups are not just our challenges—the entire profession has those same concerns. The AVMA, recognizing that those concerns are not just with the food animal allied groups but for their entire membership, creates a larger framework that allows us all to try to address these concerns together."
Dr. Ferry sees the AABP-AVMA relationship as the best it's been in his years on the AABP board because of the "excellent liaisons" the AVMA Executive Board has sent—currently, Dr. David McCrystle, and most recently, Dr. Roger K. Mahr. Of equal importance, he said, is the Veterinary Leadership Conference each January, which is a good format for bringing the groups together. The AABP hopes to expand its delegation to the conference to build on that relationship.
The new AABP president will continue to press forward with some "fantastic" initiatives of his recent predecessors that focus on making AABP the most inclusive organization possible. The initiatives have included establishing a process whereby committees regularly provide input to the board of directors for policy development, instituting term limits for committee members and actively recruiting new graduates for committees, and enhancing the financial policy.
Recruitment of more food animal students is also a high priority. Dr. Ferry noted that the dues increase approved by AABP members during the conference will enhance recruitment initiatives.
"As a practice owner who has gone through periods of time of being shorthanded, it's frustrating to see the small number of food animal veterinarians that the colleges graduate," Dr. Ferry said. "So as an organization, to try to respond to our membership's need for helping recruitment (efforts) requires funds to reach out and try to attract veterinary, and even preveterinary, students."
Programs that support bovine veterinary students include the Amstutz Scholarship and other AABP educational grants and externships. The association also reaches out to students by providing AABP student chapters with funding.
The Ferrys are committed to promoting food animal careers one-on-one as well. Students rotate in and out of their practice. They have had a succession of students living with them for as many as 28 weeks in a given year, although now, they can offer student housing in their clinic. Dr. Ferry said that hosting student externs has led to some of his most enjoyable long-term relationships.