Equine professor ready to take the reins

White prepared to implement AAEP's strategic goals
Published on January 18, 2010
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The Nathaniel A. White II file 

  • Received his DVM degree from Cornell University in 1971.
  • Completed an internship and residency in surgery at the University of California-Davis.
  • Received his master's in pathology at Kansas State University in 1976.
  • Served on the faculty of Kansas State University, University of Georgia, and Virginia Tech.
  • Authored or co-authored 148 journal articles and 35 book chapters.
  • Cultivated clinical and research interests in the pathophysiology of ischemia-reperfusion, epidemiology of colic, and abdominal and orthopedic surgery.
  • Received the Pfizer Animal Health Award for Research Excellence in 1999.

After nearly 40 years in academia, Dr. Nathaniel A. White II knows a thing or two about veterinary education.

Nathaniel A. White IIHis years of research into the epidemiology of colic and abdominal and orthopedic surgery have served him well as director of the Marion DuPont Scott Equine Medical Center at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine and as adjunct professor at the University of Maryland.

And now his familiarity with veterinary students' issues will aid Dr. White in his most recent position as president of the American Association of Equine Practitioners in 2010.

The Hamilton, Va., resident also is prepared to handle the various welfare, economic, and medical issues with which the AAEP continues to engage. He will be guided by the association's three strategic goals—providing quality continuing education, addressing equine welfare, and attracting students to equine medicine.  

A confounding issue

An area where Dr. White sees equine practitioners needing more continuing education is compounded and unapproved drugs. In an interview with JAVMA, he said members largely lack an understanding of the consequences and liabilities of using these drugs. Dr. White also emphasized that unapproved drugs have no record of safety or monitoring or any assurances that the labeling accurately reflects the bottle contents.   

In a meeting with Food and Drug Administration officials in November 2009, Dr. White was told there are 6,400 unapproved drugs and 1,500 approved drugs in veterinary medicine.

"Some (compounded drugs) are needed, but there is a process to get them approved, and that needs to happen before they use these products," Dr. White said.

To combat this lack of awareness, the AAEP will continue to put out information on the topic while working closely with the FDA. Dr. White even suggested the association's Biological and Therapeutic Agents Committee could write a related white paper.

The problem of unwanted horses is another area where Dr. White said AAEP aims to direct its education efforts. That starts with teaching members and the public about how to take care of horses, including whether they should be breeding, he said.  

Race to the top

Perhaps the most prominent welfare issue the association continues to deal with is horse racing.  

"As veterinarians, we're tired of taking the blame for what we see as real problems in the industry. Vets have to take some responsibility, but the way the industry is set up, it puts veterinarians as a target for the failures that seem to be happening, yet it's not true," Dr. White said.

He noted the AAEP has a Racing Committee—formerly the Racing Task Force—that has issued a white paper on the racing business model, the veterinarian-owner-trainer relationship, medication, and the public perception of racing.

The committee will next come out with a best practices document for racetrack practitioners, touching on medication handling and administration protocols, medical records and billing procedures, and guidelines for communication with owners and trainers.

"We think there's misinformation going on in all directions there. We feel the veterinarian gets trapped in that, and we want to make sure our opinion is respected by the owner and trainer," Dr. White said.

Welfare concerns about treatments for all competition horses, and whether these horses are given medications for more than their health, has continually vexed equine practitioners. Dr. White said the AAEP is concerned about this issue at all levels.

"Some treatments may be in the best interest of horses in competition, but we're not in favor of enhancing the horse's ability during competition. It should be a level playing field," Dr. White said.

The AAEP's most imminent challenge is to define its role in welfare, he said, acknowledging it can't do this alone. Dr. White's view is that a veterinary consortium on welfare is needed, as it is the only way the profession can maintain its role as protectors of animals—by working together.  

Balancing act

As the AAEP looks to the future, it recognizes that low starting pay for recent graduates makes it difficult to retain this group in the equine veterinary sector.  

"We're trying to get students excited about equine practice and the long-term benefits of that practice and what's available," Dr. White said, noting there is generally substantial payoff in the form of a much higher salary for staying in equine practice.

The struggle to maintain a proper work-life balance represents another challenge over which recent graduates, who are predominantly female, have become more vocal.  

The 2010 AAEP Executive Committee: Dr. John S. Mitchell, vice president; Dr. William A. Moyer,
president-elect; Dr. Nathaniel A. White, president; David Foley, executive director;
Dr. Harry W. Werner, immediate past president; and Dr. Jeffrey T. Berk, treasurer.

"We want them to know, 'You can do it. You can have a successful family life, and there are practices where women are doing that,'" Dr. White said.

The AAEP Membership Development Committee has been working on addressing the issue of family leave and should have some articles out soon on, for example, practitioners who have found innovative ways to balance work and family.

Even before a recent graduate enters a practice, Dr. White said, the AAEP recognizes the effect that deficiencies in veterinary education, whether from a lack of resources or time, can have.

"We're training students to be veterinarians across the board. They have to go through all that, and focusing on specific techniques is becoming difficult if not impossible," Dr. White said.  

New officers, board members

The 2010 AAEP Executive Committee and new members of the board of directors took office Dec. 8. New members of the board are Dr. Jay D. Addison, Independence, La., District IV; Dr. John A. Stick, Williamston, Mich., District V; Dr. Josie L. Traub-Dargatz, Fort Collins, Colo., District VI; Dr. Roger E. Rees, South Jordan, Utah, director-at-large; and Bill Brewer, equine industry

For more information on the 55th AAEP Annual Convention, visit www.aaep.org.