Behind the Scenes

Dr. Kent Schwartz has been described as a tireless worker for Iowa State University, the College of Veterinary Medicine, the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and veterinary medicine in general.

“Dr. Schwartz’s countless contributions embody the tri-partite mission (service, teaching and applied research) of Iowa State University,” wrote Dr. Pat Halbur, the Dr. Stephen G. Juelsgaard Interim Dean of Veterinary Medicine. “His commitment to customer service, diagnostic medicine, personalized approach to professional mentorship and problem-solving intellect have long been respected by food animal veterinarians and diagnosticians throughout North America.”

Schwartz’s dedication to VDL clients, CVM students and collaborating researchers was recently recognized with the ISU Award for Outstanding Achievement in Extension or Professional Practice.

Since 1989, Schwartz has provided practical counsel and personalized assistance in solving complex problems in food animal agriculture. He is regularly requested to visit pork production facilities around the world.

And when international visitors come to the College of Veterinary Medicine, it is Schwartz they request to meet with.

“Veterinary medicine is a noble profession,” Schwartz said, “and agriculture is what drives Iowa. What we do here in the diagnostic lab is vitally important to the benefit of animals and society.”

Schwartz, a clinic professor with appointments in both the VDL and the Department of Veterinary Diagnostic and Production Animal Medicine, says his activities are primarily outreach even though it is not a “classic extension appointment.”

“I get a huge satisfaction in serving others,” he said. “When I first started here most of my communications with clients were either in person or on the phone. Now, e-mail or direct web access is the preferred method for reporting results, and email or text communication seems to be the favored method of direct communication.

“The interpersonal side of communication has been diluted significantly, but we try to adapt to the preferences of our stakeholders”

Communications mediums may have changed, but Schwartz says how he communicates remains the same.

“I think I’m a better listener than a talker, and I believe by listening first I can gather the information I need and ponder it before I reply,” he said. “I try to understand the problem, mentally create a picture of the situation, and then find a solution.

“It’s important to back up and see the big picture before jumping to any conclusions.”

Schwartz admits he often doesn’t have the answers to every question. He will refer clients to other experts, websites or direct them to others in the industry who figure out a solution to the problem.

Schwartz is comfortable to stay behind the scenes.

“I enjoy the process but I don’t enjoy being out front,” he said. “I’m like the guys in the back room of NASA or the code breakers during World War II."

“I’m just the analyst in the back room, trying to get a job done that can benefit others.”