The Iowa State University (ISU) Swine Disease Conference included tributes to two highly regarded ISU veterinarians who passed away during 2014. Pat Halbur, DVM, professor and chair of the Department of Veterinary Diagnostic and Production Animal Medicine at the ISU College of Veterinary Medicine recognized both Scott Hurd, DVM, and James McKean, DVM, by providing an overview of the accomplishments both men achieved during careers devoted to improving food safety and swine production on behalf of the nation’s pork producers.
Both men's families were recognized during the opening session of the conference. Halbur announced that the ISU Swine Disease Conference will be renamed the James D. McKean Swine Disease Conference from this point forward as a lasting tribute to McKean's dedication to the pork industry, and to the conference he is credited with starting in 1992.
Hurd passed away on March 27, 2014, after a courageous battle with cancer. He was an internationally renowned epidemiologist who was highly regarded for his expertise in food safety and best practices for antimicrobial usage in food animals. Halbur noted that he provided a strong, well-informed voice on how science should influence national policies on animal protein production. In addition to conducting research in food safety and risk assessment, Hurd also taught veterinary professional and graduate courses in epidemiology, risk assessment and risk communication. Hurd served on a number of important national advisory committees related to animal health, most recently as the Task Force Chair of the Council of Agricultural Science and Technology, which studies the relationship between animal health and public health. “Dr. Hurd did a better job at risk communication than anyone else I’ve ever known,” Halbur says.
While on the faculty at ISU, Hurd served as deputy and acting undersecretary for Food Safety at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2008. In that capacity, he was the country’s highest ranking food safety veterinarian and policy adviser to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. The Office of Food Safety oversees all meat, poultry and egg product inspections in the United States and for all imported products.
“Dr. Hurd’s career was a remarkable example of the land grant mission in action,” Halbur says. “He was passionate about the outstanding job U.S. livestock producers do in producing a nutritious and safe product. His research had a major influence on animal health and food safety. He was simply outstanding at getting the latest science-based information out to the animal agriculture industry and to consumers. Dr. Hurd’s body of work over his career had a major impact on several of the policies now in place related to food production in the United States. For these and many other reasons, Dr. Hurd will be greatly missed here at Iowa State University and broadly by those involved in U.S. animal agriculture.”
“Swine veterinary medicine and the U.S. pork industry lost a major piece of the foundation we currently stand on when Dr. James D. McKean passed away unexpectedly on April 10, 2014,” Halbur says. “Our profession and the swine industry have built upon and benefitted tremendously from many of the things Dr. McKean has done to improve the health and welfare of pigs, the profitability of the pork industry, and the safety and quality of pork.”
McKean was named a University Professor in 2000 in recognition for distinguished service to ISU. He had been the ISU swine Extension veterinarian since August 1974. In this role, Halbur said he impacted essentially all aspects of the Iowa and U.S. pork industries. “He was passionate about and very good at finding and bringing the latest information on current best practices in swine health and welfare and food safety to the people who applied it on the farms and in the pork processing chain. Dr. McKean was very gifted in presenting this information in a concise and easily understandable manner, whether it was delivered at the kitchen table on an Iowa swine farm, at a county pork producer meeting, or at meetings around the world, such as the International Pig Veterinary Society Congress,” Halbur notes.
McKean was born in New York City and grew up in central Illinois. He received his veterinary degree from the University of Illinois in 1970, a master’s degree in veterinary pathology from Michigan State University in 1973 and the Juris Doctor degree from Drake University in 1988.
“As both an attorney and veterinarian, Dr. McKean had a unique and highly valued perspective that was sought out regularly by many organizations that he belonged to such as the Iowa Pork Producers Association, Iowa Veterinary Medical Association, American Veterinary Medical Association, American Association of Swine Veterinarians (AASV), National Pork Board, National Institute for Animal Agriculture (NIAA), U.S. Animal Health Association, American Association of Extension Veterinarians (AAEV) and others,” Halbur says. McKean served as president of several of the organizations, including the AASV, the AAEV and the NIAA.
McKean had been recognized throughout his career with many awards including the Honorary Iowa Master Pork Producer award, the Extension Veterinarian of the Year from the AAEV, the Howard Dunne Memorial Award from the AASV, and President’s Service Award from the NIAA. He was also recognized by National Hog Farmer as a 2008 Master of the Pork Industry.
“There are likely few other veterinarians in the United States that had a better understanding of global pork production — and perhaps no one who was better networked with international leaders and innovators in swine health and production,” Halbur says. “The Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine and the stakeholders we serve have lost a great friend and scholar who will be missed dearly by our faculty and the veterinary profession and the pork producers we serve.”