AASV president leads attack on deadly disease

Meanwhile, AASV past president continues work on swine welfare
Published on April 15, 2006
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Dr. Scott Dee wants to help wipe a disease from the face of the continent.

Specifically, the president of the American Association of Swine Veterinarians wants the AASV to work toward eliminating the costly porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus from the North American pig population.

Dr. Dee will spend 2006 working with other officers, members, associations, and groups to promote the PRRS eradication effort—and to address continuing concerns in the swine industry, such as animal welfare.

PRRS platform 

Pigs were far from Dr. Dee's mind when he was growing up in the city in Rochester, Minn. When he decided at age 5 to become a veterinarian, he was thinking in terms of companion animals.

The University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine didn't accept him on his first two tries, so he entered a master's program there in veterinary microbiology—with an emphasis on swine virology. He met members of a group that was concentrating on a single species, the pig, and their excitement was infectious.

"I became immersed in swine medicine and have never looked back," he said. "That was 1982."

He later became a member of the student chapters of the AVMA and AASV, which was then the American Association of Swine Practitioners. After graduating from veterinary college in 1987, Dr. Dee remained active in the associations while practicing swine medicine for 12 years in Morris, Minn.

Dr. Dee is a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Microbiologists, and he served on the ACVM board of governors from 1998-2001.

Dr. Dee is now a professor at the University of Minnesota's Swine Disease Eradication Center, where he studies PRRS. He served on program planning committees for several AASV annual meetings. He has chaired the AASV subcommittee on PRRS, and he ran for vice president on a PRRS platform.

"We're at a crossroads," he said. "We may need some strong leadership in the area of PRRS, both from producers and veterinarians."

Dr. Dee said PRRS is not the only important issue facing swine veterinarians, though, and the AASV will be at the table to discuss the rest.

"I'm not an expert in welfare or antibiotic resistance or some of these other issues, which are very important," he said. "We have many acknowledged experts in these areas within the AASV, and I will ask them for assistance. However, with a PRRS platform and PRRS focus, I felt I could do the job properly."

Dr. Dee also had a hand in the theme of the 2006 meeting, "Beyond the Basics." He built on the previous themes of "Back to the Basics" and "Applying the Basics" by looking at the future of swine medicine. He said he was happy with the meeting, which focused attention on infectious diseases.

With PRRS in particular, Dr. Dee plans to participate in the eradication effort after his tenure as AASV president. He thinks the next five years are going to be critical for building teams, discussing the issues, and applying new science. The entire eradication effort, however, may take more than a couple of decades.

"It's a long-term goal," Dr. Dee said. "It's a goal that depends on science, and the AASV will work in tandem with the swine industry to help get it done with a careful, well-thought-out plan." 

Continuing concerns

Joining Dr. Dee as AASV officers are the president-elect, Dr. Daryl Olsen, Audubon, Iowa; vice president, Dr. Kerry Keffaber, North Manchester, Ind.; and immediate past president, Dr. Tom Gillespie, Rensselaer, Ind.

Dr. Gillespie's focus has been on animal welfare, which he considers to be one of the biggest challenges facing the swine industry—along with antimicrobial usage and biosecurity issues.

Animal welfare was also one of the topics of Dr. Henry E. Childers, AVMA president, in his remarks at the AASV business breakfast.

Dr. Childers opened his comments by complimenting the AASV on its meeting and inviting the audience to attend the AVMA Annual Convention.

He stressed the importance of organized veterinary medicine at the national level, but he added that the diversity of AVMA members also allows for a spectrum of knowledge on issues such as animal welfare. He said the AASV has contributed to the AVMA Task Force on the Housing of Pregnant Sows and will participate in the AVMA Committee on Animal Welfare.

Dr. Childers and Dr. John Scamahorn, who represents District VI on the AVMA Executive Board, also emphasized the importance of animal welfare during the AASV board meeting.