AASV president sees educational opportunities, challenges

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Dr. Donovan
Dr. Tara S. Donovan

Dr. Tara S. Donovan said the American Association of Swine Veterinarians can help retailers and the public understand complex subjects such as animal welfare and the use of antimicrobials in agriculture.

She also expects swine veterinarians will have increased roles in ensuring food safety and improving efficiency on farms, particularly as pork exports increase in response to demand from a rising global population.

"As we look at a growing population, we owe it to our customers and our producers to have a role in food safety and make sure we have safe yet affordable pork for our families," she said.

Dr. Donovan, who lives in Richland Center, Wis., became president of the AASV on March 13. She also works as vice president of health management in the Spring Green, Wis., offices of the HANOR Family of Companies, a pork producer that operates in six states.

Dr. Randy G. Jones is AASV's immediate past president, Dr. Matthew S. Anderson is president-elect, and Dr. Michelle L. Sprague is vice president.

Dr. Donovan grew up on a Nebraska farm that raised pigs, chickens, cows, horses, alfalfa, corn, and soybeans. She knew as a child that she wanted to be a veterinarian, and she envisioned having the type of rural mixed animal practice described in James Herriot's novels. Her experience as a leader in agriculture began in the 4-H Youth Development Program and the National FFA Organization, and she became a state officer in the latter.

AASV 2012 officers
The AASV's 2012 officers are Drs. Tara S. Donovan, president; Matthew S. Anderson, president-elect; Michelle L. Sprague, vice president; and Randy G. Jones, immediate past president. (Courtesy of the AASV)

As a veterinary student, Dr. Donovan was active in the student chapters of the AASV and the American Association of Bovine Practitioners. She decided after graduation to focus on swine medicine.

"Getting involved in leadership, that's just part of me," she said. "As the AASV has asked me to be more involved and as there have been opportunities, I've volunteered because I think it's important to have an organization like ours."

Dr. Donovan said veterinarians in swine medicine are constantly improving understanding of the needs of pigs, giving the animals appropriate care, and acknowledging the need to bridge a gap in consumer education about practices on farms. She said educating the public on proper care for animals is challenging "not only for us as veterinarians but also for producers and the industry."

During the AASV Annual Meeting March 10-13, a representative for the National Pork Board indicated that more than a quarter of the pork produced in the U.S. during recent months was exported. Dr. Donovan said foreign animal diseases need to be considered in international trade and global movement of pigs and pork.

"That's always a threat to the U.S.: a foreign animal disease that would cause us to lose our ability to have an export market," she said. "I think that's an area of opportunity for veterinarians, as well as just working with producers to become the most efficient so we can increase our production of safe pork."