An advocate for the cow

Meiring takes practice mindset to academia
Published on November 15, 2004
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Dr. Rich Meiring, 2004-2005 AABP president, had been practicing production medicine in western Ohio for 25 years and still loved it when he was offered a position in academia in 1998.

He had owned the three-veterinarian, primarily food animal practice, where he practiced dairy production medicine. Dr. Meiring serviced herds ranging from 20 to 600 cows, and also did consulting for producers throughout a tristate area.

The decision to move to academia was difficult, because he enjoyed every day of private practice. It was the opportunity to work more with students that won him over. While in practice, Dr. Meiring had been an adjunct professor at The Ohio State University and liked supervising the enthusiastic students who came to his practice for their preventive medicine rotation.

"When Ohio State offered me the opportunity to come, I thought it would be really good to have someone with a private practice background in an academic setting, because we have a little different mindset," Dr. Meiring said.

As "assistant professor, clinical" in the Department of Veterinary Preventive Medicine, he teaches students while working as a production medicine clinician at OSU's Marysville, Ohio, facility, about 30 miles from the main campus at Columbus.

Fourth-year veterinary students at OSU are required to spend a two-week rotation at Marysville. "While they're there, we essentially run Marysville as a true food animal/large animal practice, servicing our client herds," he said.

Ambulatory practice allows students to work with animals in their environment.

Dr. Meiring teaches some didactic courses on the Columbus campus and finds his interaction with other faculty there an added stimulation. He also serves as the adviser to the food animal club and the bovine practitioners club at OSU.

He encourages his graduating students to find a practice that will make the time to mentor them, and he is happy to help if his protégés call with questions.

Dr. Rich Meiring at The Ohio State University dairy farm in ColumbusDr. Meiring has set his sights on four priorities during his year as president.

"Working on the Food Supply Veterinary Medicine Coalition/Bayer Study and the transition (to a new AABP executive vice president) are going to be important this year," he said, "and (so will) positioning AABP—nudging us into a little bit more of a politically active role. Something else I want to focus on during my year is development of young leadership within our organization."

Dr. Meiring elaborated on those four priorities. First, he said the FSVMC/Bayer Study, being conducted by the Andrus group from Kansas State University, is in its early stages but is a positive step, and the profession needs to do all it can to support the project. It will provide many questions, a necessary prelude to finding answers, he said. Finding how the AABP can support academia in efforts to attract and retain students to food animal practice is one of Dr. Meiring's main interests.

Interestingly, at the Marysville ambulatory clinic, it's not unusual for a veterinary student with no previous exposure to animal agriculture to discover an interest in bovine medicine. Unfortunately, the realization often comes too late in the curriculum.

Relative to the search for a new executive vice president, Dr. Meiring said that while the search committee seeks Dr. Jim Jarrett's successor, AABP leaders are focusing on how to help with day-to-day activities to keep the transition smooth. Although staff and officers will be busy, he does not believe the extra work will slow the association's agendas appreciably.

The reason he would like to see the AABP become more active politically is because the expertise of bovine practitioners is often overlooked. "As an organization, we need to position ourselves to be resource people ... people who are thought of as the first-line resource," he said. That will include strengthening coalitions, and involvement with organizations such as the AVMA, he noted.

Dr. Meiring considers development of young leadership crucial to the AABP's future. To that end, he has charged the chairs of standing committees with overseeing the recruitment of a young person to serve on each committee. The AABP is proud of its growing student membership.

Dr. Meiring's own involvement in the AABP began with a three-year term as District 4 director. His reelection in 2002 was superseded by his election as vice president. This past year, he served as president-elect and program chair. He has also been active in the Ohio VMA.

His six years on the AVMA Council on Veterinary Service, part of that time as chair, gave him an appreciation of the Association's workings. Of his term on the AVMA Animal Agriculture Liaison Committee, Dr. Meiring said the semiannual meetings were among the best he attended, a "fantastic opportunity" that brought allied group representatives and regulatory people together for two days of dialogue. He also served on the National Mastitis Council and as AVMA liaison to the NMC.

The AABP is trying to provide its members with the tools they need to serve industry and be proactive in areas such as animal auditing, Dr. Meiring noted. This commitment to industry should not, however, override a veterinarian's first allegiance.

"We have to remember we're still advocates for the welfare of the animal, and we have to be careful that we remain focused on the health of the animals," Dr. Meiring said. "A lot of times, it's easy to become more of an industry spokesman.

"Veterinarians and farmers are all welfarists at heart, so how we can help our members assist them is going to be very important. I always tell my students I'm an advocate for the cow. It's important for us to understand, that's why we're in business."