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Georgia poultry vet heads AAAP

Posted by: Erica Hensley

Hector Cervantes, DVM, DACPV, has big plans for his new role as president of the  American Association of Avian Pathologists. 

As a food animal veterinarian, he advocates for the specific needs of poultry producers and population health. As a teacher and researcher, he recognizes the importance of consumer education and production transparency. While great strides have been made in both the poultry medical and educational fields he says, more work is needed. 

“The poultry veterinary community has done a great job in conducting basic and applied research to deal with emerging diseases,” he said, like infectious bronchitis that causes severe respiratory disease in chickens and variant strains of avian reovirus that cause severe lameness in chickens and turkeys resulting in significant mortality losses for poultry producers. 

“The poultry veterinary community has not done as great a job in addressing issues or misconceptions that consumers have about poultry production,” like hormone label confusion, he said. Even though hormones are banned from poultry production, consumers are often confused about marketing and labeling tactics that can mislead them, he said. 

Cervantes added that poultry producers and AAAP experts need to work together to correct consumer misconceptions by providing clearer information to the public. Cervantes plans to expand the AAAP’s website (http://www.aaap.info) to include consumer resources and real-time poultry production video feeds that show current conditions. 

Cervantes prides himself on his education and work, and on helping young veterinarians-in-training obtain the same level of expertise he worked hard to obtain and maintain. As an adjunct professor of population health at the University of Georgia’s College of Veterinary Medicine and honorary Master of Avian Medicine from the same college, he thinks it’s important to attract young veterinarians to poultry medicine and give them the tools to become innovators for poultry population health problems, like antibiotic resistance, and build trust with the public. 

Serving as the 60th AAAP president, Cervantes is the first from a Spanish-speaking country. Born and raised in Mexico, he knows the importance of worldwide poultry medicine collaboration. Expanding AAAP partnerships across Latin America is an important goal of his presidency, he said. 

“We live in a global health and trade world, including poultry,” he said. “By collaborating with poultry veterinary associations in other Latin American countries we will be able to more effectively communicate and monitor exotic diseases like highly pathogenic avian influenza and prevent or more quickly suppress outbreaks in the United States and other countries, which will be beneficial for everyone.”

Embodied by his roles that crisscross the private and public sectors—as an educator at UGA, AAAP president and Senior Manager of Poultry Veterinary Services Phibro Animal Health—Cervantes says devoting his life to veterinary population health is the best decision he ever made.