May 01, 2014


 Diseases, outreach top issues for AASV president

​Posted April 16, 2014

Dr. Michelle L. Sprague said two viral diseases deadly to pigs and animal welfare debates are the top challenges for swine veterinarians.

Dr. Michelle L. Sprague

Dr. Sprague, new president of the American Association of Swine Veterinarians, said swine veterinarians are making progress in fighting those diseases, and the evolving public perceptions of agricultural practices represent challenges that come with opportunities for swine veterinarians.

“We also have the opportunity to tell the story of the interactions between our profession and production agriculture and detail the efforts that go into safeguarding animal health and welfare as well as food safety and public health,” she said. “I will do my best in the coming year to articulate that story as I live it in my daily practice life.”

Dr. Sprague became president at the organization’s annual meeting, which occurred March 1-4 in Dallas. Dr. Ron L. Brodersen of Hartington, Neb., became the AASV president-elect; Dr. George Charbonneau of Stratford, Ontario, became vice president; and Dr. Matthew S. Anderson of Algona, Iowa, is the immediate past president.

Dr. Sprague knew as a child she wanted to be a veterinarian. She liked to help her father work with pigs on the family farm in southwest Iowa, and she wanted to be involved anytime a veterinarian visited.“

I was drawn to the profession because of my love of pigs and my challenge-driven nature,” she said.

She began attending AASV meetings as a veterinary student and appreciated the kindness, mentoring, and familial feel. Serving as an officer is helping her repay the organization and its members who have given their time and knowledge.

She has worked at the Audubon-Manning Veterinary Clinic in Audubon, Iowa, since graduating in 2005 from Iowa State University and is now a partner and director of sow health.

Dr. Sprague became president following nearly a year of battles with outbreaks of porcine epidemic diarrhea, a viral disease estimated to have killed millions of pigs. She expects knowledge about the disease will increase and spread among swine veterinarians at a rapid rate over the coming year.

“There are dramatic and widespread efforts to try to put as many resources—both time and financial—forward to assimilate as much information as we can to improve our chances of eradicating this disease,” she said.

Drs. Michelle L. Sprague, AASV president; Ron L. Brodersen, president-elect; George Charbonneau, vice president; and Matthew S. Anderson, immediate past president (Courtesy of the AASV)

Those efforts coincide with progress in the fight against porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome, Dr. Sprague said. She expects research will continue providing better information on PRRS and its effects.

While the AASV has limited money to fund research, Dr. Sprague noted that the AASV Foundation provides scholarships to many veterinary students who perform research as well as grants to researchers. The AASV also helps the National Pork Board determine research needs.

“I think it’s important that we continue to advocate for improving technologies, given the evolution of swine practice,” Dr. Sprague said. “Everything is always evolving, and we need to continue to keep up with that evolution and make sure that we’re always at the forefront scientifically, doing what’s best for the industry, for the animals, and for our clients.”

Dr. Sprague also plans to promote local and national advocacy on animal welfare issues, including outreach by swine veterinarians.

In their communities and travels, swine veterinarians can help improve public understanding of their work with pig owners, she said. She and other AASV officers also have been meeting with state and federal lawmakers about swine veterinarians’ roles in promoting food safety and availability.

“Anything we can do as individual members helps to further that cause,” she said.