Hatcher advocates more time on farm

Preparing practitioners for front line a priority for AABP president
Published on November 01, 2006
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The combination of owning a private practice and working in a state office is an advantage for Dr. Charlie Hatcher as president of the American Association of Bovine Practitioners.

On the one hand, Dr. Hatcher understands the needs of practitioners. "With my government ties, I realize the importance of homeland security and foreign animal disease and the role that the private practitioner plays," he said.

Dr. Hatcher, who was installed as AABP president Sept. 23 in Saint Paul, said that although the association includes valued members from industry, government, and academia, most are practitioners, and his presidency will have a strong practitioner slant.

"It is critically important that private practitioners be on the farm a lot," he said. "I hope we can develop programs or continuing education that will allow them to be on the farm more. They're going to be the first line of defense—the first ones who realize there is a foreign animal disease or an agroterrorism event."

Dr. Hatcher is staff veterinarian for the Tennessee state veterinarian's office and acts as coordinator for animal identification and for Johne's disease in the Division of Regulatory Services, Tennessee Department of Agriculture.

He means to work closely with the AABP Animal Welfare Committee and the new Biological Risk Management and Preparedness Committee to develop training to complement existing AABP modules and programs. He would like the AABP to develop an animal welfare preconference seminar similar to the one on biological risk management, for example.

"It's my feeling that as veterinarians, we're the most qualified to meet animal welfare issues head-on, instead of trying to dodge them," he said.

As industry focuses increasingly on animal welfare audits on the farm, Dr. Hatcher envisions that the AABP, working with the Professional Animal Auditor Certification Organization, could create a program to certify veterinarians in conducting animal welfare farm audits.

The biggest concern he hears from AABP members is the shortage of recent graduates to hire for their practices, and he considers the veterinary food animal manpower issue the most urgent. "I'm going to focus on improved relationships with the veterinary colleges and deans," he said, "and work with them to make some changes in the curriculum and admissions policies and focus on rural student applicants."

Dr. Hatcher will continue some initiatives of his predecessor, Dr. John Ferry, such as working collaboratively with the AVMA.

"We had a very productive board of directors meeting this past July in Washington, D.C.," Dr. Hatcher said. "We came to Washington to visit our respective senators and congressmen to let them know we're available as an animal agricultural resource, and the AVMA Governmental Relations Division was instrumental in lining up the visits. We were surprised at how we were received in Washington." The AABP board also met with a variety of government agency and industry stakeholders.

Dr. Hatcher began his ascent to the AABP presidency by serving two consecutive 3-year terms as director of District 3, comprising the Southeast and Puerto Rico. The offices of vice president and president-elect followed.

His mixed practice, Rock N Country Veterinary Services in College Grove, Tenn., is located on the family farm. Dairy and beef cattle and sheep are raised on the farm. Some of the farm's acreage has been in the family since 1831. Of late, he and his family have been pitching in more because his brother who is his partner dislocated a hip.

Most mornings, Dr. Hatcher stops by his practice on the way to his government office in Nashville, picking up laboratory samples. On the evening return trip, he checks back in. He refers to it as a 2.1-veterinarian practice in which he is the .1 doctor of the group. Dr. Hatcher manages the practice, fills in on Saturdays and holidays, takes some emergency duty, and works some hours during vacation.

His daughter, Dr. Jennifer Hatcher (TEN '05), is running the day-to-day activities of the practice. She is what he proudly describes as a legacy student—the veterinary college's first second-generation graduate. Jennifer recently arranged for two veterinary student externs, continuing the practice's 23-year tradition of hosting externs from schools throughout the country.

The first-generation Dr. Hatcher said, "I am kind of spoiled by the fact that my daughter is a veterinarian. She's followed in my footsteps, so to speak, which is a big luxury."