AETA 2012 Scholarship Winner: Jason Zwilling

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Published on: December 21, 2012

The AETA convention was a great experience for me as a student nearing graduation. I greatly appreciate the support of the organization for the student scholarship. Beyond the monetary support, the membership continued to be inviting to the students during sessions and events. I was surprised by the number of practitioners that voluntarily came to introduce themselves to me. Many of these conversations were quite informative and I was able to gain useful information of the expectations practitioners have of graduating veterinarians. Specifically, the most beneficial educational sessions for me were the practitioner’s forum, animal health discussions, and the industry talks.

The practitioner’s forum was one of the most enjoyable veterinary experiences I have had since starting veterinary school. It was very interesting to listen to the various approaches to solving problems in ET. I was impressed that the group was able to, for the most part, have civilized discussions. This was one of the only experiences I have had where the academic veterinarians and practicing members had an equal contribution and a mutual respect for one another. The forum also showed me how important record keeping can be to solving problems and observing trends. In school we are taught the basics of epidemiology, data analysis, and population statistics.  The forum showed that with a quality data set the ET practitioner can evaluate their own performance, understand trends, and perhaps add some level of predictability to a highly unpredictable business. One of the take home messages for me was that there are many ways to approach a problem and for the most part they can all be considered as correct.

The animal health discussions were largely based on their effects on reproduction. However, they were big picture topics covering diseases that are important to any beef operation. The lecture on BVD brought some interesting questions with the discussion of finding the virus in semen of systemically post-infection bulls. The lecture about nutrition and reproduction was also very informative. The lectures were able to present both the known information and shed light on what is still to be discovered or topics while believed anecdotally but have little scientific evidence to support. As a student with a predominately beef background, I found the topics presented by those in the dairy industry interesting. Specifically, in dairy production the environment, nutrition, and management is more controlled and similar across cows and groups of cows. So from a donor standpoint perhaps individual cow variation is more a factor than environment and management as is seen in the beef side of the industry. Some topics of my interest could be applied to beef or dairy embryo transfer included increasing heifer progeny, sexed semen, and “problem donors”

The discussions of the industry by its leaders were also interesting. From my standpoint as a student, I enjoyed hearing presentations from people I had heard of or read research from in the past. I also enjoyed receiving an understanding of how the Canadian cattle industry works. The presentation from Semex was interesting from a standpoint of how real advancement in a technology had changed the semen freezing process. The highlight of the industry discussions was the presentation on Genomics in my mind. This is rapidly expanding technology in the beef and dairy industries. Our ability to unlock the genome has the potential to greatly change the veterinary approach to problems if we are able to identify those individuals that are more resistant to disease. Genetic selection through EPDs and genomics were topics briefly covered in the veterinary curriculum. The genomics discussion really introduced me to how important a practitioner can be in the process of education and explanation as the field of genomics expands.

In closing, I would like to thank the organization for the scholarship and opportunity to attend this year’s convention. I appreciate the willingness of the members to converse and share experience with the students. I felt welcomed and comfortable with the leaders and membership of the AETA. The experience increased my desire to work in embryo transfer after graduation. I hope to continue my membership in the AETA and take advantage of the educational opportunities through the convention.

Jason Zwilling

 

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