Riddell named to lead AABP

Advocacy on food animal issues a priority
Published on March 15, 2005
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By Susan C. Kahler

Dr. M. Gatz Riddel Jr.The American Association of Bovine Practitioners will mark the 40th year of its founding with a new executive vice president, its third in four decades.

Dr. M. Gatz Riddell Jr. was named to the position by the AABP board of directors Feb. 12 during a special meeting in Atlanta. AABP President Richard W. Meiring made the announcement. A professor in the Department of Clinical Sciences at the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Riddell was one of two candidates selected by a search committee and personnel consultant who screened candidates in January.

"We're very fortunate to have a shining star of his vintage as the executive vice president of the AABP," said Dr. Mark Spire, the ex officio AABP representative on the search committee, and chair of the selection and contract committee.

Dr. Riddell succeeds the late Dr. James A. Jarrett, AABP co-founder and executive vice president since 1993 (see obituary, March 1 JAVMA).

"It's going to be a challenge," Dr. Riddell said. "I feel a little bit like the coach who followed the beloved football coach Ralph "Shug" Jordan down here at Auburn University. No one can ever replace Jim Jarrett, so you just have to work at things differently and try and perform at the same high level."

His commitment to raising the bar is already known. In 1999, Dr. Riddell won the Hoffman LaRoche Award of Excellence from AABP. Dr. Stephen Sundlof, director of the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine, nominated him, saying, "If I had to name one thing that sets this person apart from others, it's his unrelenting quest to hold bovine practitioners to a higher standard."

Dr. Riddell will be making the transition from academia to organizational leadership after 21 years on faculty. "I very easily could have finished out my career at Auburn," he said, "but Dr. Jarrett was only the second executive vice president the AABP has ever had, so it's not a very high turnover job. It's an opportunity that, if I were to sit on the sidelines now, I probably wouldn't see again during my career."

Serving as AABP president in 1995-1996 piqued his curiosity about the workings of the AABP office, inspiring him to learn more about how veterinary and membership issues are addressed, information is disseminated, and the annual conference is planned.

Leading up to his presidency, Dr. Riddell served as district III director on the AABP board of directors beginning in 1989. He learned the intricacies of the annual conference while serving as chair of local arrangements, seminars, and the program. At the time of his election as executive vice president, he was parliamentarian.

A theriogenologist, Dr. Riddell became a diplomate of the American College of Theriogenologists in 1982, five years after receiving his DVM degree from Kansas State University. Even so, he acknowledges having "a fairly nonspecialized and broad-based interest" in bovine medicine. He has dealt with most facets of dairy production medicine and, to a great degree, with individual animal medicine in beef and dairy cattle. His residency training at Auburn was primarily with beef cattle. While on faculty, and before that, during several years of private practice, his focus has been dairy cattle.

His new position will give him the opportunity to continue working on issues he has been helping address through AABP and the AVMA Council on Biologic and Therapeutic Agents-issues such as drug compounding, drug availability, antimicrobial resistance, and food safety concerns. At present, Dr. Riddell chairs COBTA. His membership on COBTA, however, poses a dilemma.

The AABP Bylaws provide that the executive vice president serve as alternate delegate to the AVMA. The conflict is that the AVMA Bylaws do not allow simultaneous service in the House of Delegates and on an AVMA council. "I've really been invested in a lot of COBTA's issues," Dr. Riddell said, "so I'm looking into whether there's any way we can name an 'alternate' alternate delegate so I could serve out my last year." If not, he intends to resign from COBTA following the council's spring meeting. In addition to his six-year term on COBTA, Dr. Riddell served five years on the AVMA Drug Advisory Committee, the predecessor to the Clinical Practitioners Advisory Committee.

Dr. Riddell is also a consultant to the Food and Drug Administration's Veterinary Medicine Advisory Committee. Assured this presents no conflict, he nevertheless recognizes that the nature of some sessions may dictate that he recuse himself. From 2000-2005, he served on the U.S. Pharmacopeia Expert Committee on Veterinary Medicine.

Dr. Riddell's AVMA service experience will influence his approach to AABP-AVMA relations. "Of course, Dr. Jarrett had an extremely good working relationship with the Executive Board and the hierarchy of the AVMA. I know a significant number of people on the board, too," he said. "But, given my experience with COBTA and my familiarity with the extremely valuable staffers that AVMA has, I look for AABP to talk to those staffers such as Dr. Elizabeth Curry-Galvin and Dr. Lyle Vogel in Scientific Activities who deal with issues that are really important to AABP. That, to me, is as valuable as relationships with the Executive Board, because the AABP has issues that are very much in concert with AVMA. I look for that strengthened relationship at a different level to be of a lot of value."

The AABP board of directors has given Dr. Riddell the go-ahead to begin the headquarters transition from Rome, Ga., to Auburn, Ala., sometime after the AABP annual conference in September. Rome became headquarters when Dr. Jarrett took over the reins from Dr. Harold Amstutz, the first executive vice president. Originally, the headquarters were with Dr. Amstutz in West Lafayette, Ind.

As much as Dr. Riddell regrets uprooting the AABP office staff, his interest in the position was predicated on keeping his family in Auburn. His wife, Dr. Kay Riddell, is a research associate in the Department of Pathobiology at the veterinary college, where she works with disease transmission through embryo transfer, bovine viral diarrhea, and in vitro fertilization. They have three children: Molly, Wes, and Jonathan.

His transition from professor to executive vice president will be incremental. From March 1 to June 30, 2005, Dr. Riddell will devote 60 percent of his time to the AABP, increasing to 80 percent from July 2005 to June 2006. The balance of his time will be an appointment at Auburn, to help with the transition to new faculty and maintain a relationship with the students. The AABP board intends that he be full-time with the association after July 1, 2006. At that time, he may be granted professor emeritus privileges so that he can continue working with students.

Immediate needs will dictate some priorities. "We have to get our newsletter out. We have to have our annual meeting go off without a hitch. We have to look for a meeting site for 2010. We have membership services we need to continue to provide," Dr. Riddell noted.

"The one thing I would really like to do is enable the AABP office to be a good conduit of information for our board of directors and committees, so that the entire hierarchy of AABP can be advocates for the bovine practitioner on the diverse issues impacting our facet of veterinary medicine."