The future of animal disease surveillance was the theme of the 2006 joint scientific session of the United States Animal Health Association and the American Association of Laboratory Diagnosticians. The USAHA conference was held Oct. 12-18 in Minneapolis in conjunction with the AAVLD.
Dr. Bret D. Marsh, 2005-2006 USAHA president, said, "In the past few years, countries across the globe have dealt with a number of serious diseases affecting agriculture, including foot-and-mouth disease, exotic Newcastle disease, West Nile virus, SARS, monkeypox, and bovine spongiform encephalopathy.
"These situations highlight the necessity for robust surveillance systems to detect quickly introductions of animal diseases, as well as for the need for multi-agency and international cooperation and collaboration to deal with them."
Topics included global surveillance for avian influenza, zoonotic disease surveillance for public health, integration of food surveillance systems, U.S. domestic animal disease surveillance, global wildlife disease surveillance, and the future of surveillance systems, including the role of the Department of Homeland Security.
Resolutions approved by the USAHA can be viewed here.
The USAHA committees also met. The Committee on Livestock Identification heard Bruce Knight, undersecretary of agriculture for marketing and regulatory programs, reiterate USDA support for a voluntary National Animal Identification System. The committee recommended adoption of a bookend approach as an interim step in reaching a complete animal ID tracking system. An animal would be identified at two opposing points in its life—at its farm of origin and then at slaughter or at the time of diagnosis with a reportable animal disease.
The need to develop a regulatory structure for transgenic animals and derived products highlighted discussions of the Committee on Biologics and Biotechnology. Dr. Robert Tully, chair, said the Department of Agriculture is working on such a structure. "There are moral, ethical, and environmental issues involved," he noted.
The Committee on Animal Emergency Management called for the development of a national coordinated carcass and disposal/utilization plan for specified risk materials.
Dr. Marsh, who is also AVMA treasurer, told JAVMA, "The convention that we had at Minneapolis set an attendance record, and that's the fifth year running, so we're real pleased."
Climbing attendance, along with expansion of interest in USAHA programs and the breadth and depth of issues, led the organization to look at strengthening its day-to-day leadership, Dr. Marsh said, beginning with hiring an executive director.
Benjamin Richey, a recent graduate of Purdue University's College of Agriculture, took office Nov. 1, 2006, as executive director. Richey is a former director of communications for the National Institute for Animal Agriculture.
Georgia state veterinarian, Dr. Lee M. Myers, who succeeded Dr. Marsh as president, said, "With the hiring of an executive director for the first time in the history of USAHA, we will be grazing new pastures. During the coming year, we will be focused on elevating the organization to the next level to better serve our members."
Operations for USAHA will shift from Richmond, Va., to Kansas City, Mo., where the new CEO lives. Richey will be responsible for relocating the central office, expanding membership, and coordinating the work and reports of some 33 committees.
Also to foster leadership development, Dr. Marsh noted, "We offered free registration to veterinary students, so students from anywhere in the country who were interested in coming to the meeting to learn more about regulatory veterinary medicine could come there free.
"To recognize excellence within the organization, we set up the USAHA Medal of Distinction. That award was given this year to two individuals."
Drs. Clarence Campbell, Tallahassee, Fla., and Dick McCapes, Davis, Calif., were the first recipients of the Medal of Distinction, the highest award presented to a member. Dr. Campbell retired as Florida state veterinarian in 1991 after 38 years of service. Dr. McCapes retired from the faculty of the School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California-Davis, in 1994. Each has served as a USAHA president and committee chair.
Dr. Willie Reed and Dr. Terry McElwain were presented with the APHIS Animal Health Award. Dr. Reed is the new dean of the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. McElwain is executive director of the Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory and professor of pathology in the Department of Veterinary Microbiology and Pathology, Washington State University.
Dr. Sam Holland, South Dakota state veterinarian, received the annual award of the National Assembly of State Animal Health Officials for his contributions to U.S. animal health in the regulatory field. Dr. Holland is also executive secretary for the South Dakota Veterinary Medical Examining Board.
Serving in office this year with Dr. Myers are the following: James Leafstedt, a South Dakota pork producer, president-elect; Dr. Don Hoenig, Maine state veterinarian, first vice president; Dr. Richard Breitmeyer, California state veterinarian, second vice president; Dr. Steven Halstead, Michigan state veterinarian, third vice president; Dr. William L. Hartmann, Minnesota state veterinarian, treasurer; and Dr. J Lee Alley, retired Alabama state veterinarian, secretary.