OBLIGATIONS TO AGRICULTURE AND PUBLIC HEALTH
*This column is a portion of an address given by Dr. Vaughan at the Buffalo Trace Veterinary Medical Association meeting at Morehead University, Morehead, Kentucky, June 3, 2018.
In the effort to emphasize the concepts of one medicine, we may be apt to forget that veterinary medicine is a child of agriculture, ably abetted by its brothers in the schools of agriculture including the agricultural experiment stations and the cooperative extension services; and at the federal level, under the U.S. Department of Agriculture: 1) the Food Safety and Inspection Service, 2) the Agricultural Research Service, and 3) the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. From 1884 to 1953, Federal Veterinary Services were conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Animal Industry, the fifth and last chief of which was our own Dr. Bennett T. Simms (1943-1953).
It may be pointed out that the very survival of formal veterinary education in the U.S. past the first half of the 20th Century, which included two world wars, the agricultural depression of the 1920s, and the Great Depression of the 1930s, depended in large measure upon the Morrill Act of 1862, that established the land-grant colleges, the Hatch Act of 1887, that established the agricultural experiment stations, and the Smith-Lever Act of 1914, that established the cooper-ative extension service. All these were federally-funded programs which were established as cooperative ventures between the state land-grant colleges and the federal government, jointly founded so as to avoid the vagaries of state government appropriations to state universities.
Life’s full of ironies. Already alluded to was [Dr. Charles Allen] Cary’s penchant for public health, with emphasis on meat and milk inspection as well as T.B. control measures- tuberculin testing and pasteurization of milk. This was reflected in school course work including practical exposure to abattoir procedures in addition to classroom teaching. This had carried over to 1952 in my own experience.
Of all the courses taught to students “chomping at the bits” to get into clinics and thereafter to “draw first blood” in real life practice, the dullest of the dull were “Meat and Milk Inspection” and “Jurisprudence and Ethics”. The first one involved dry lectures by “Mother Jones” (pseudonym), and the latter, pontifications by the dean. There were endured as requirements, and promptly forgotten.
Then came the awakening. Preceptorship, called internship in those days, was with a solo general practi-tioner in the heavily agricultural Johnson County of eastern North Carolina. I was sent there by Dean Sugg who was looking out for my best interests. Despite the varied mix of practice, the hospital had met qualifications for certification by the American Animal Hospital Association. Suffice it to say it was well-managed by the practitioner’s wife- truly a mom-pop operation. In fact, I lived in an upstairs bedroom in their home and boarded where they had lunch every day. Of course, Al Gore hadn’t invented internet yet, and cell phones were still something you read about in Dick Tracy, but communi-cation was never a problem.
Back to public health. A brief introduction to the practice involved following the practitioner and his schedule for the first couple of days, and when he was satisfied with me, I was on my own. Early morning calls were made before breakfast at the boarding house, and by eight o’clock, the day began on the killing floor of the slaughter house which conducted hog kills four mornings a week and a beef kill on Friday. By pulling some well-connected strings, I was given Federal accreditation to do Food Safety, and Inspection Service for meat inspection.
Then, on every Thursday afternoon, the role changed to Animal and Plant Inspection Services at the stockyard. Six nights a week-Sunday through Friday, this carried over to hog inspection at the shipping yard where up to six, double-decker 18-wheeler truckloads of hogs were shipped every night. This was during the Vesicular Exanthema outbreak in 1955 which meant visual inspection of every hog. Resembling Foot and Mouth Disease, any hog that was lame or showing discharge from the mouth or nose had to be caught and examined individually and separated from the rest.
Then, on lazy afternoons, a prison-release inmate and I would blood test cattle and hogs for brucellosis, and vaccinate for hog cholera with serum and live virus. Indoctrination into what was to become my preoccupation was provided by tobacco mules. If there was ever anything to keep a young veterinarian “on his toes”, it was injecting blister (iodine in almond oil for example) into the patella ligaments of a 1,200-pound tobacco mule that was stifled (upward fixation of the patella) on first being put to work in the spring. Mules can teach a young, would-be equine practitioner things a horse can’t.
All during this time, hospital work and farm calls went on with little interruption. It was a two-man practice by then.
Regarding ethics, despite the fact that this was pregrad-uation, [Dr. C.R.] Swearingen was careful that I was accredited by the Federal Veterinarian in charge in order for me to participate in what amounted to F.S.I.S. and A.P.H.I.S. work under his authority. As regards profes-sionalism, he was to become a role model. He conducted himself as a professional man. Even on farm calls, he wore a business suit, and he was an economy of time and motion. When we went together, he was always out of his coat and into a pair of coveralls with clean knee-high rubber boots before I even got started. At the end of the call, he brush-cleaned his boots with disinfectant wash, removed his coveralls, and was ready to go before I got out of my boots. Times change, of course, but the point is he never tried to be “just one of the boys.” He was respected by his clientele and a credit to his profession.
In this latter day of competition and marketing, when ambulance-chasing, personal injury lawyers post billboards on the interstate, and medical practices advertise in newspapers and radio- some on local television- the old days when it was considered to be sufficient to hang out a shingle and rely on goodwill and grateful clients seem to have been relegated to the archives.
By the end of summer, I was back in Alabama, and by September, had been drafted by Dean [Redding S.] Sugg to be an instructor in the Large Animal Department. This included both hospital and ambulatory service and responsibility for instruction in physical diagnosis and clinical techniques to a class of senior students, many of whom were W WII veterans, on average ten years older than I. My rigorous internship stood me in good stead.
Yr humbl and obdt svt,