Veterinarian, Mentor, Educator

If there was any doubt on the impact that Dr. Roy Schultz has made on the swine industry you just had to attend the recent James D. McKean Swine Disease Conference on the Iowa State University campus to get a true understanding.

Sitting in the Scheman Building’s first floor lobby area, Schultz was speaking with a reporter when veterinarians of all ages dropped by the say hello to the legendary swine veterinarian.

A 1960 DVM graduate of Iowa State, the Avoca, Iowa native’s veterinary career has traveled about as many miles as he has. After graduation, Schultz returned to his hometown where he joined the veterinary practice of Dr. Robert Wunder.

“This was the beginning of my ‘James Harriot’ type of practice which would continue for 20 years,” Schultz said. “We cared for and treated ‘all creatures great and small.’”

And he really means all creatures. The clinic, which eventually grew to five veterinarians looked after Avoca’s large animals, companion animals and exotics.

“This was one of the most enjoyable times of my career,” he said. “Your clients became your best friends and you could feel the satisfaction of your patients and your clients.”

During this time period, Schultz became acquainted with Dr. John Herrick, extension veterinarian with Iowa State. It was Herrick’s suggestion that Schultz and others form a swine group. That organization is now known as the American Association of Swine Practitioners.

“I followed Dr. Herrick’s advice and the AASP has been a great part of my life ever since,” Schultz said.

And although he became a hog producer himself, Schultz never left his first love of veterinary medicine. Soon his focus switched primarily to swine medicine. In 1979, Schultz came across a disease that left him baffled.

A hog producer’s stock was experiencing significant respiratory problems. “They were dying like flies from a condition I had never seen before,” Schultz recalled, “and they weren’t responding to the usual treatment.”

Out of ideas, Schultz attempted to culture the causative agent. “Nothing grew on the culture plate where I streaked the affected lung, but small colonies did grow up around a contaminating Staphylococcus colony. I tried again culturing, and cross streaked with the Staph colony, which again only grew along the Staph streak.”

The next day, Schultz loaded up his samples and headed his vet truck to Ames and Iowa State University where he met up with Drs. Richard Ross and Bill Switzer, noted swine bacteriologists in the Veterinary Medical Research Institute. They were also unfamiliar with the disease.

“They encouraged me to come to VMRI to work out the problem,” Roy said. “The organism would grow on Dr. Ross’s mycoplasma media or chocolate agar, but wouldn’t on regular blood agar unless cross streaked with a non-hemolytic staphylococci. We identified it as Haemophilus parahemolitica, a human as well as pig pathogen.”

The disease fascinated Schultz so much that he took a leave of absence from his practice and commuted back and forth from Ames by his airplane and car. The work load got so intense, that he took up residency in Old Orchard Trailer Park next to the vet school. His family would join him on weekends, often pitching in helping him sort serum samples and other “mundane” work.

“I remember well one striking incident,” Schultz said. “I was inoculating pigs intra-nasally with the organism. The pigs started dying after four hours and all that were inoculated died within eight hours. That night I became violently ill, with what I think today was probably the flu, but after seeing the pigs die and not knowing it was not a human pathogen, I could imagine not waking up in the morning. I wrote my wife a mushy note, which I later tore up when I made it through the night.”

Roy survived and the team figured it was not a human pathogen and that the organism was reclassified as Haemophilus pleuropneumoniae, and later put into the present nomenclature of Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae, which it remains to this day.

Schultz and Ross developed and published much of the original work on APP in the United States. The two worked out serological tests, determined serotypes present, the serological prevalence in Iowa swine herds and antibiotic sensitivities.

“The disease put me in ‘world position’ as I was on the first world committee for APP, including such famous veterinarians and researchers,” he said.

Back home in Avoca, Schultz set up a consulting practice, diagnostic laboratory and research units. There was a constant flow of U.S. and international veterinarians through his home and practice. He continued his research into HPP and APP in an attempt to treat and prevent this disease and developed a bacterin-toxoid, which helped modulate the disease process.

Schultz’s work has been recognized at every level from the College of Veterinary Medicine’s Stange Award to the Howard Dunne Award from AASV. He is also the only foreign veterinarian to receive the Venezuela Swine Practitioner of the Year award.

“All of these awards should have been directed to my wife, family and the supporting colleagues who played a big part in allowing me to achieve in what I believed,” Roy said.

November 2017