Guidance, recruitment on AABP president’s agenda

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Dr. K. Fred Gingrich wants more communication, both among bovine practitioners and with their clients, about practices on dairies and ranches.

Dr. Gingrich, who started his one-year term as president of the American Association of Bovine Practitioners in September, also thinks the organization always can increase in value for its members as well as show its value to thousands of veterinarians who work with cattle but are not members.

The veterinarian and practice owner from Ashland in northern Ohio works with dairy cattle and owns a second practice dedicated to pet care. He took office at the September AABP annual conference in New Orleans.

He expects some of that increased communication with AABP members could come, for example, through guidance and discussion on antimicrobial use and pharmaceutical stewardship.

“We don’t need to necessarily call out when people are doing things wrong, but we need to demonstrate to veterinarians and producers what is right and that it can be accomplished,” he said.

Dr. K. Fred Gingrich (Photo provided by Dr. K. Fred Gingrich)

He also said the AABP needs to emphasize the importance of a veterinarian-client-patient relationship and veterinarian oversight of medication use. Some of that oversight will become mandatory as antimicrobials available over the counter for use in water or feed become available only through prescriptions or veterinary feed directives ahead of a December 2016 deadline set by the Food and Drug Administration.

The AABP also should try to recruit members among the U.S. veterinarians who work with cattle but are not yet affiliated with the AABP, Dr. Gingrich said. He cited AVMA figures indicating about 12,000 AVMA members work with cattle, whereas the AABP has 4,500 members. And he thinks both organizations can encourage AABP membership.

From calves to herds

Dr. Gingrich wanted to be a veterinarian “ever since I was a little boy.”

The Ohio native raised calves for 4-H and Future Farmers of America as a child, and his family had “farm dogs” that, he admits with a laugh, received no veterinary care. In high school and into his undergraduate years, he worked nights and weekends as a “kennel boy” at a small animal clinic.

“I just think I wanted to work for a veterinarian,” he said, adding with another laugh, “And, you know, I was making money.”

After graduating from The Ohio State University in 1995, he and his wife, Michelle, moved to California’s Central Valley, where he worked two years in a dairy practice before they returned to their home state. He took a job at a dairy practice in Ashland and, eight months later, partnered with another veterinarian to buy the practice from the owner, who was leaving large animal work.

Personally, I always like to challenge myself and bring new ideas to my customers. And not every dairy or beef client wants to be pushed towards new goals, but there’s a lot of them that do, and so I focus on the ones that want me to push them to new goals.

Dr. K. Fred Gingrich, president, American Association of Bovine Practitioners

Dr. Gingrich since has bought his one-time partner’s stake in the dairy practice as well as a pet-focused practice sold by the same veterinarian who had sold him the dairy practice.

He first became a volunteer for the AABP in 2007, starting with work on the AABP Committee on Pharmaceutical and Biological Issues, which he would chair starting in 2011. His early work for the committee would send him to Washington, D.C., to meet with representatives of livestock industries, the AVMA, and the FDA for discussions on plans to change the rules governing veterinary feed directives.

Dr. Gingrich didn’t seek a role leading the AABP, he said. When a member of the committee that selects AABP officer candidates asked Dr. Gingrich to allow placement of his name on the ballot for vice president, he asked for time to think about it.

“I was rather surprised that I was elected,” he said.

While the four-year commitment to serving as vice president, president-elect, president, and immediate past president made him nervous, he said, election was an honor.

Infectious enthusiasm

Dr. Keith E. Sterner, who was AABP president in 1989, described Dr. Gingrich as remarkable for his infectious and almost childlike enthusiasm for the veterinary profession. The two met through volunteer work for the AABP, and that work included membership on a task force that Dr. Sterner led and that helped develop the AABP’s guidelines for establishing a veterinarian-client-patient relationship.

Dr. Gingrich created what would become the framework for the guidance adopted by the AABP, and his contributions helped make the document practical, Dr. Sterner said.

He also praised Dr. Gingrich for his interest in helping clients improve their businesses, a skill applicable to what Dr. Sterner sees as an accelerating pace of changes in agriculture.

“His enthusiasm shows in the form of pride that he takes in seeing his clients succeed in improving their operations,” Dr. Sterner said.

Those in practice need to recognize the need to adapt to inevitable changes, and Dr. Gingrich is interested in seeing AABP members develop skills needed to remain relevant on livestock operations, Dr. Sterner said. For example, he said, Dr. Gingrich has been dedicated to improving his own communication skills, realizing that nothing improves on dairies unless those working on the dairies understand and believe in what they’re doing.

Dr. Gingrich said veterinarians always need to demonstrate their value to clients.  

“Personally, I always like to challenge myself and bring new ideas to my customers,” he said. “And not every dairy or beef client wants to be pushed towards new goals, but there’s a lot of them that do, and so I focus on the ones that want me to push them to new goals.

“I think that’s good for cattle, I think that’s good for producers, and I think it’s good for veterinarians.”