PRRS elimination, public education are goals for new AASV president

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Dr. Ruen
Dr. Paul D. Ruen
AASV officers
Drs. Tara S. Donovan, AASV vice president; Randy Jones, president-elect; Paul D. Ruen, president; and Rodney "Butch" Baker, immediate past president

Dr. Paul D. Ruen said improving the health and well-being of pigs will always be swine veterinarians' top objective.

"If we hold the pig up as number one—what's right for the pig—I think we take care of a lot of the issues that people are concerned about, both the farmers and the consumers," he said.

Dr. Ruen, a practitioner at Fairmont Veterinary Clinic in Fairmont, Minn., became president on the last day of the American Association of Swine Veterinarians annual meeting March 6-9 in Omaha, Neb. He hoped the 2010 meeting gave members the most current scientific knowledge, information on the best practices, and good discussion and debate.

The new president said the impact of the porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus continues to be one of the most substantial ongoing challenges for swine veterinarians, noting that five years ago the AASV adopted a long-term organizational goal of eliminating the virus from North American herds. Producers are increasingly seeing the importance of such efforts, and the National Pork Producers Council recently adopted a goal of eliminating the virus from U.S. herds.

"It's a disease that can cause suffering and high mortality in pigs, and it also creates a lot of treatment cost and economic hardship for pig farmers," Dr. Ruen said. "So it's the right thing for the pig, to work toward eliminating that disease, and that's going to be one of our ongoing focuses—to know more about that disease and find ways to minimize its impact."

Swine veterinarians can also improve on telling the public how they care for pigs, Dr. Ruen said. Veterinarians working with farmers have done tremendous work eliminating disease and improving food safety, he said, but they have not told their story well.

"I think we need to become better communicators and tell the public about how health and pig care is delivered on the farm—to tell our own stories," Dr. Ruen said. "Somehow, we need to figure out how we can become more transparent regarding what happens on farms and the results of the changes in production methods."

Dr. Ruen grew up in Lanesboro, Minn., a small town in a hilly southeastern area of the state where his family raised beef cattle, pigs, corn, and soybeans. He was interested in human and animal medicine when he began attending the University of Minnesota, but his desire to make a difference close to both his roots and the type of people he grew up with outweighed his desire to work in human medicine.

Dr. Gary D. Dial, a professor in swine medicine, worked closely with the veterinary student and brought him to his first AASV meeting in 1989.

"I just found the group to be welcoming and interested in students and promoting the opportunities in pig medicine," Dr. Ruen said. "So that increased my eagerness to know more and be more involved in the organization and swine veterinary practice."