Swine veterinarians are a lot like the farmers for whom they provide services: they’re salt-of-the-earth men and women who are inquisitive, intelligent, and completely dedicated to their profession. First and foremost, these veterinarians are dedicated to quality swine health and base their decisions on what’s best for the pigs under their care. They are careful when making a diagnosis, knowing a farmer’s livelihood could be at stake.

One of the things I appreciate most about these individuals is their constant quest for knowledge. Anyone not familiar with the pork industry would be amazed at its complexity and the number of health and management decisions that can impact a positive outcome. Like any organization, there are a few “healthy egos,” but for the most part, swine veterinarians are humble and completely passionate about what they do and why they do it.

The theme of the AASV annual meeting this year was “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants,” a phrase that originated hundreds of years ago. On the Shoulders of Giants is a compilation of scientific texts from Galileo Galilei, Johannes Kepler, and Nicolaus Copernicus. The British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking edited the texts and provided commentary. In it, he quotes Sir Isaac Newton as having written in a letter to Robert Hooke in 1676, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

As Dr. Dale Polson, a highly respected swine veterinarian with Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica aptly pointed out in his presentation during the meeting, each generation has “giants” on whose shoulders the leaders of the following generation have stood. Progress is built on the accumulation of knowledge, but just as critical to the equation is the willingness to adapt knowledge based on new information.

Dr. Polson suggests that very few discoveries are made in a vacuum; and the title of his presentation, called “It’s About Us, Not Me! Communication, cooperation, coordination and collaboration,” verifies his belief.

He quoted Henry Ford in saying, “Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress and working together is success.”

Dr. Polson said, “We’re doing much better now than before, but there’s more we can do.”  He feels there are opportunities to improve design and development; operations (with interfaced and integrated health management project networks; research, both institutional and industrial; and learning, inside the industry in processes, and outside the industry as it relates to understanding risk.

This commitment to continual, collaborative improvement epitomizes the veterinary profession in general, and swine veterinarians in particular. It will become even more evident as PORK Network covers the many topics and discussions from the AASV meeting in the weeks to come.