Alumbaugh: The industry loses a leader: Dr. James McKean

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James McKean I was very saddened to hear of the passing of Dr. James McKean, respected Extension swine veterinarian at Iowa State University. I saw him just last month at the AASV meeting in Dallas, Texas and at the Iowa Pork Congress earlier this year. He will be sorely missed.

I met Dr. McKean early in my writing career and even then, he was considered a pork industry icon. He was a continual learner, and always had the best interests of the pork industry in mind.

You’d never guess that he was born in New York City because he was firmly rooted in animal agriculture from an early age. He grew up in central Illinois where an uncle and grandfather were involved in farming, and often helped out on their farms. He received his veterinary degree from the University of Illinois (1970), a master's degree in veterinary pathology from Michigan State University (1973), and the Juris Doctor degree from Drake University (1988). 

A news release from Iowa State University says that Dr. McKean was named a University Professor in 2000 in recognition for distinguished service to Iowa State: “He has been the Iowa State University Swine Extension Veterinarian since August of 1974 … a few months short of 40 years. In this role, he impacted essentially all aspects of the Iowa and U.S. pork production. He was passionate about and very good at finding and bringing the latest information on current best practices in swine health, welfare and food safety to the people who applied it on the farms and in the pork processing chain.”

While this description is significant, Dr. McKean was so much more. He was interested in visiting with everyone, whether a world-renowned researcher or a young, impressionable editor. He carefully explained complex issues and truly believed in an “open door” policy.

"His research and grassroots efforts with pork producers and his mentorship of young industry-oriented faculty reflected his devotion to the industry and vision for its future,” says Dr. Lisa K. Nolan, dean of the Iowa State College of Veterinary Medicine in the ISU release. “Our college has also lost an outstanding colleague and friend." 

I couldn’t agree more. Dr. McKean was dedicated to helping producers be their best, and worked diligently to help the industry find solutions to animal health issues. Though we will miss his positive attitude and progressive insights, we can rest assured that he will be with us in spirit, driving us to excellence.

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