New AAEP president rallies support for education, technology, emerging disease research
Dr. Jerry Black, 1971 DVM graduate of Colorado State University, surmises that the daily planners of the new generation of veterinary graduates do not look like his did 30 years ago.
The incoming president and 20-year member of the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) acknowledges the new generation has "different priorities. "
"We want to make sure that AAEP fits the needs of these new members as they become involved in AAEP, "says Black, who officially assumes the reins at the 47th AAEP Annual Convention in San Diego this month.
One such need to which Black, owner of the Pioneer Equine Hospital in Oakdale, Calif., intends to devote a large portion of his term is continuing education undertakings, which he says "build leadership in professionals " - young and old.
AAEP is soundly involved in training and continuing education through internship and externship programs, Black explains.
"It is a primary goal of our strategic plan that we will be their primary resource for professional education and involvement. We will not alter from that course, "Black says.
New graduates, especially, deserve the latest in practice management and personal financial management material, he says.
"The norm will not be for equine veterinarians to work 80 hour weeks as past generations have done. There will be life and time management issues that are real and the industry needs to understand that. "
After all, Black concedes the calendar date is no longer 1973 - the year he ventured to California fresh out of college.
Black, who was raised in a farming and ranching community in New Mexico, started the Pioneer Equine Hospital in 1973 along with another partner, who then died five years into Black's career. The hospital has since emerged as a seven-doctor referral center concentrated on clinical orthopedics and surgery.
Once Black established his practice, he acknowledged something was still missing.
"I was interested in participating in the professional end of organized veterinary medicine from the time I started going to the AAEP conventions, " Black says. "As I became more involved through the committee as a volunteer, it became more important for me to contribute. "
But contributions didn't cease with AAEP.
His resume of contributions includes a host of organizations, including the Pacific Coast Cutting Horse Association, AVMA, National Cutting Horse Association and California Veterinary Medical Association.
"When you are involved in professional organizations I think you gain experience in leadership, "he says. "And I think it gives you a little broader perspective on the profession and the industry. "
The industry is not what it used to be, says Black. "It is evolving from a rural-based industry where horses were part of a farm and ranch environment to a situation where horses are a part of people's everyday life in terms of companions and their hobbies, "says Black.
And the progressive industry he describes is thriving.
"The practice of equine veterinary medicine has been very solid and growing over the last few years. Even though we're looking at a probable economic downturn, I don't think we're going to be positioned any differently than the rest of the veterinary profession, "he says.
Yet Black advises veterinarians to be "cognizant "of the role of economics in daily equine practice.
"We must continue to strive to make sure our economic base of practice itself will support the veterinarian as a professional. We're in a situation where I think there are generations of veterinarians who have worked way too many hours and too hard for what they were compensated, "he says.
State of affairs
The equine industry will soon have access to refined technologies available in human medicine, he predicts.
"I could envision for horses that we're going to have CAT scans, MRIs - those types of technologies that have been difficult for us to have will become more commonplace. "
Even armed with advanced technologies, veterinarians can expect the staying power of emerging diseases, such as the West Nile Virus, he adds.
Yet he says an alignment with organizations such as AVMA, the American Horse Council, and USDA, allows AAEP to serve as a resource for its membership to remain current on various types of diseases.
In the meantime states should chart a course of action before encountering a WNV confrontation, Black says.
"We have to say, not 'is it going to reach California?' but we will be ready for it, if it does reach California, "he says. "We will support any research and technology that will aid in preventing the spread of this disease. "