Dr. Lisa Tokach.
As Dr. Lisa Tokach takes the helm as president of the American Association of Swine Veterinarians, she will continue in the tradition of past presidents to tackle the long list of ever-changing issues that face the swine industry as well as individual veterinary practitioners.
Predicting a busy year, the Kansas-based veterinarian says that one of her main focuses will be animal welfare. "We are trying to stay in a proactive mode with animal welfare instead of falling into reactive mode," Dr. Tokach said. She hopes to achieve progress by continuing to partner with allies such as the National Pork Board and gaining seats on advisory boards that influence animal welfare decisions.
"We need to gain seats on more committees that are making decisions for companies far removed from production agriculture so we can have some input before statements become public," she commented. "If we don't, we are right back in reactive mode."
The association is exploring avenues to keep the image of producers and veterinarians wholesome in the eyes of the meat-consuming public, rather than letting the public be swayed by the vocal minority of animal rightists.
Another concern of Dr. Tokach is biosecurity, both on the local and national levels. Locally, more needs to be done to control disease spread among herds. "We have had at least 12 of the boar studs throughout the Midwest that were PRRSV negative go positive within the past couple of months, and we don't have all the answers as to why," she said. On the national level, increased monitoring of, and ability to respond to potential outbreaks of foreign animal diseases such as foot-and-mouth are needed.
"We can all appreciate the devastation of an actual outbreak from what we learned from Great Britain a year ago," she said. "We are just learning what the news of even a possible FMD outbreak in the U.S. can do to commodity markets and food companies in a matter of just a few hours. We have to do our best to walk the fine line between good national biosecurity and good common sense."
Dr. Tokach is also keenly aware of the need for increased surveillance of diseases that have already been eradicated or are close to being eradicated, such as pseudorabies. "It is going to take a great deal of cooperation between the state veterinary offices to eradicate pseudorabies," she said. "The producers are willing to cooperate and so are the veterinarians. It is going to take money and a lot of surveillance." But, she said, we are very close to success.
When questioned about challenges specific to practitioners, Dr. Tokach spoke about the increasing cost of veterinary education. "For new graduates, we realize they come out with quite a burden of student loans," she said. "We are trying to mentor them and get them situated so they can get a good job and be active participants in our organization."
Once veterinarians are established, they soon realize the need to provide their producer clients with advice in many areas of production, not just disease diagnostics, and the AASV will continue to supply this pertinent,timely information.
Dr. Tokach will rely on her personal experience in tackling many of these issues. Since graduating from the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine in 1990, Dr. Tokach has worked in general practice, specializing in swine population medicine, at the Abilene Animal Hospital, P.A., in Abilene, Kan. Since 1994, she has been personnel director for this hospital, which employs six veterinarians and 10 other full-time employees. Since 1996, she has served as president of Kansas Swine Alliance Inc., a corporation designed to manage interdependent pork producers, enabling them to remain competitive in today's industry.
Dr. Tokach has served on the AASV board of directors and various AASV committees, including the Human Health Committee, Animal Welfare Committee, and Public Relations Committee. She is a member of the Kansas VMA, Kansas Pork Producers Council and Association of Psychological Type, and a diplomate of the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners.
Dr. Tom Burkgren, executive director of AASV, says the new president exemplifies the leadership of AASV. "She typifies the youth in the organization," he said. "We try to bring younger members into the committees and get them active in leadership roles early in their careers." Dr. Tokach hopes to help AASV fulfill this goal.