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Solving Problems

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Our winter weather has run the gamut this year. The warm thaw and rain that followed the super cold has created ice everywhere. Great care is needed to navigate our precarious environment safely. Yesterday, our 20 year-old Quarter Horse gelding, Joe, wandered out and found himself stuck in the middle of slick ice. So there he stood, in what seemed to be deep equine contemplation, trying to sort out what to do. Only after a long pause did he creep away with baby steps to better footing.

In veterinary medicine, segments of our profession, can sometimes find themselves in challenging situations. Luckily though, we don’t have to solve the problems alone like Joe did. We have organized ourselves to work collectively for the good of our profession and society. Unintended consequences that arise at the intersections of human endeavor must be resolved in a positive and constructive manner. Organized veterinary medicine, the AVMA and state VMA’s, are our voice in these efforts.

The AVMA meets regularly to discuss important and timely issues. One of those meetings is the Veterinary Leadership Conference (VLC) held every year in early January in Chicago. The VLC includes AVMA governance meetings and CE training focused on leadership and development. The WVMA sends a delegation to this event every year. Our delegation includes our executive director, AVMA delegate and alternate, president-elect, president and two young emerging leaders. As such, this was my second year attending.

Our President-Elect, Dr. Alan Holter and I attended an orientation on the governance of the AVMA with our Emerging Leaders, DeAnna Kosanovich a second-year student at UW School of Veterinary Medicine and Dr. Rheba Zimmerman a 2016 graduate of the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine. Both of these young ladies are/were non-traditional veterinary
students. They both had significantly varied life experiences prior to admittance to veterinary school. Their perspectives, passions and willingness to be involved in organized veterinary medicine
are impressive.

Workshops for personal and leadership development and improving one’s communication skills were provided later during the conference. Current issues like telemedicine and student debt were also addressed.

I found meeting with the state veterinary medical association’s delegations from our district (Illinois and Indiana) as well as the official business of the AVMA to be enlightening and gave me a better understanding and awareness of the many different issues
facing our broad profession. And then there were the chance engagements with other attendees between sessions or during meals that were so engaging. My world of rural large animal practice is removed from so many of the issues facing small animal practice.

I am grateful that our profession works collectively through the AVMA and the WVMA to be the voice of veterinary medicine in society. I greatly encourage anyone who has a passion for moving our profession forward to contact the WVMA about details of how to become involved.

As for Joe, I can only hope that he has gained some wisdom from his experience that will prevent him from getting into such a predicament again.

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Presidents Message

Never Say Never

It was Tuesday, November 23, 1982 and I was an intern at the Caine Veterinary Teaching Center in Caldwell, Idaho. The Teaching Center had a faculty of six besides me, and we met after each two-week rotation of senior students from Washington and Oregon State veterinary medical schools to review the students and get updates on state veterinary issues. Among the issues presented by our director, Dr. Stuart Lincoln, was his appreciation for all the cold weather we had just experienced. unbeknownst to me, there was an outbreak of Vesicular Stomatitis in eastern Idaho. Dr. Lincoln was sure we’d be spared in our southwestern corner of the state because mosquitoes, the vectors that transmit the disease, should have died and transmission would stop. That was the conventional wisdom of the day and regulatory veterinarians were reporting that the spread of Vesicular Stomatitis had subsided. Moments later, Delores, one of the Center’s receptionists, quietly slipped into the conference room and handed me a note. The note said one of the dairies we serviced had noticed a few large blisters on the teats of some incoming heifers and they wanted me to come out to take a look. So began the saga of an outbreak of Vesicular Stomatatis, a disease clinically indistinguishable from Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD). Despite the recent twenty-four “vector killing” frosts in Idaho, the event Dr.
Lincoln had just assured us wouldn’t happen… happened!

This turned out to be quite the experience for a young, enthusiastic veterinarian. All of a sudden, I was on the frontline of a new presentation of a disease outbreak. The disease continued to spread within the herd until December 16, despite the fact that there was many more below-freezing days. I observed oral, feet, and teat lesions on the 332 cows that I examined. Nearly two thirds of the cows had lesions, many of them with lesions at multiple sites. Oral lesions were the most common, which resulted in excessive amounts of saliva contamination in the waterers. We were able to isolate the virus from one of the water samples. Animal-to-animal transmission was the means to the spread the virus in this outbreak.

There was a flurry of educational meetings to update practitioners in Idaho about the latest developments with our epizootic of Vesicular Stomatitis. Because I was the primary attending veterinarian of this herd, and had the most experience with the disease, the University of Idaho flew me, with other supporting faculty, to two different locations to meet with practitioners. It was an exciting and memorable time. But there was one “deer in the headlight” moment for me. During one of the question and answer sessions, a practitioner asked e the difference between a Vesicular Stomatitis foot lesion and foot rot. I instantly realized I was in the dubious position of having experienced more Vesicular Stomatitis feet than foot rot. I didn’t have an answer. Thankfully, I was rescued by one of the faculty veterinarians who answered, “foot rot wouldn’t have the vesicle lesions with it.”

This event early in my career came to mind when I noticed the CE event sponsored by the WVMA and the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP): Secure Milk Supply - Planning for the Unimaginable, on June 15 at Glacier Canyon Lodge in Wisconsin Dells.

Secure Milk Supply is a collaborative effort of industry, state, federal and academic representatives funded by USDA-APHIS. This is a new and important program to help mitigate the disruption of food supply and business while still controlling an outbreak of FMD. The voluntary Secure Milk Supply plan is a workable continuity business plan for uninfected farms in a FMD Control Area. One of the components of the plan is an Operation-Specific Enhanced Biosecurity plan, which herd veterinarians will help design, implement and oversee. This is a very important role in which we maintain the responsibility.

I realize it is hard to get excited about low probability events when we are all busy with high probability challenges every day. However, in today’s world with terrorists looking to disrupt our way of life, some sort of deliberate sabotage is a real possibility. The possibility of a FMD outbreak is just as likely as a vector free outbreak of Vesicular Stomatitis was 36 years ago.

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