Spotlight - Pamela Ruegg

Name: Pamela Ruegg
Title: David J. Ellis Professor of antimicrobial resistance and large animal clinical sciences
Institution: Michigan State University, College of Veterinary Medicine

Can you tell us a bit about your background, and what your current research is focused on?
I am a native of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, which is actually farther north than most Canadians (who tend to live in southern Ontario) live. I have degrees from Michigan State University as well as the University of California, Davis. My professional life has included a variety of positions including private veterinary practice, technical service in industry, and academic, extension, and research positions at two US universities and one Canadian university. My current position at Michigan State University is distributed as research and outreach, and I am working at the intersection of preharvest milk quality and safety, udder health, and antimicrobial usage on dairy farms. Right now, most of my research is focused on ensuring antibiotic stewardship on dairy farms by emphasizing evidence-based antimicrobial usage, and I work to identify cow, environment, and pathogen factors that can be manipulated to prevent development of infectious bacterial diseases.

What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in the industry since you started? Do you have any predictions for the future? 
During my career, the dairy industry has almost completely transformed, and I had to transform my skill set to stay relevant. When I started in practice, most milk came from relatively small family farms, and now the majority of milk comes from relatively large family farms. My focus has moved from individual animal treatment to prevention and protocols to manage groups. These changes have created new and interesting challenges that keep me enthusiastic about my career and working in this exciting industry. Based on past failures of prediction, I never predict the future!

What has been your biggest challenge/greatest achievement in your career so far?
My greatest personal achievement is raising two sons, and my greatest career achievement is similar. I consider mentoring graduate students to be my greatest challenge and achievement. I love to work with enthusiastic young scientists who later go on to have big effects in our industry—it is also my biggest challenge. 

Can you share a particularly memorable experience or breakthrough in your research?
At least 20 years ago, we started doing mastitis treatment trials that included nontreated animals. At the time it was considered almost a welfare issue (to not treat). Over the years, reduced antibiotic usage for treatment has become more and more accepted, and I hope that my research has played a part in that. 

What research areas within the field interest you most? Are there any particular trends of study that you are drawn to?
I continue to be very interested in what I call “evidence-based antimicrobial usage.” So many of our treatment protocols are based on anecdotes rather than evidence, and we really need evidence when we use protocols that include antimicrobials. Generating that evidence is difficult but very rewarding.  

What kind of papers would you like to attract more to JDS Communications? Do you have any advice for authors that would help them in deciding whether to submit?
This journal is ideal for smaller projects that don’t have multiple components. The papers that are successful in JDS Communications are papers that have good study design and analysis—just like papers that are successful in JDS. 

Why do we need a journal like JDS Communications today? Why should authors publish in JDS Communications?
This journal is an ideal outlet for smaller studies or parts of a bigger research project that is fundamentally sound but not necessarily representative of an entire hypothesis. 

What do you think are the biggest challenges currently facing the dairy industry, and how is JDS Communications part of the solution?
Today’s challenges are different than those faced earlier in my career. We used to be primarily concerned about applying best management practices as defined by science to solve a particular problem, but now we need to balance many other issues as well. Critical issues like use of antimicrobials, ability to implement recommended practices, training and motivation of farm workers, and making sure we keep animals healthy and minimize the environmental effect are all issues that require multidisciplinary approaches.