April 21, 2014

Traditions

By Tabitha Basine
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Picture yourself on a Sunday afternoon, casually strolling down a sunny city street that is alive and bustling with people clad in their finest business casual.  Flowery dresses are making their debut for the season, although classic oxford button-down shirts still remain a staple.  All around you, faces are alight with smiles and laughter, as people slowly meander towards their destinations.  The staunch air of haste and worry normally occupying this street during the workweek has nearly all but dissipated, leaving in its place a cheery and carefree atmosphere.

A beautiful day outside the Capitol

A beautiful day outside the Capitol

Most of these people are on their way to one of DC’s finest traditions: Sunday brunch.  And they nearly all made reservations well in advance, because brunch reservations have a way of booking up fast!  As these people flocked to their various Sunday brunch locales, I wandered down this busy street to B Too, a Belgian restaurant where Stephanie, Elise, Emerson, and I would be meeting up to join in the brunch tradition.  And all I could think about was Belgian waffles.

My mind was definitely on the right track, because once we all arrived and were seated, we were presented with menus containing all different options for Belgian waffle toppings, from savory to sweet.  Stephanie, Elise, and Emerson opted for a savory choice, while I decided on a sweet choice.  Once the waiter presented us with our waffles, we dug in, and all agreed that the food here was hands-down delicious.

Although Belgian waffles with caramel and orange zest rival as one of the most delicious meals my taste buds have experienced, I chose to write about Sunday brunch in DC because it exemplifies a steadfast tradition upheld in this city.  Sunday brunch may not be unique to DC, but it was an enjoyable and delicious experience, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone visiting the city!

I am from the Greater Boston area, and although brunch is not as much of a tried-and-true tradition there, today marks the day of an important Boston tradition.  Since 1897, it is a day where tens of thousands of runners from all across America join together in Boston to embark on a 26.2 mile-long road race to the finish.  It is an annual tradition where runners, families, and spectators gather to celebrate the tidings of Spring and to celebrate life.

It is the Boston Marathon.

Words cannot describe the utter shock that rippled across the nation last year when news broke of the Boston marathon attack at the finish line, where precious lives were lost and hundreds of people were injured.  It was unspeakably tragic.

I attended a House Committee on Homeland Security meeting here in DC last week on the Boston Marathon bombings, where discussion centered on heightened security precautions at this year’s marathon in order to ensure the safety of the public.  One phrase that surfaced numerous times at this meeting was “Boston Strong.”  Although last year’s marathon was incredibly disheartening, courageous individuals gathered to run that same race today, while brave police officers and first responders were stationed on-scene and on high alert.  These Boston Strong spirits were determined to make sure that the race would go on.  And the race was run.  In fact, Meb Keflizhigi won the men’s elite race – the first American runner to win since 1983!

Traditions like brunch and the Boston Marathon unite communities and provide opportunities to strengthen the bonds between individual people.  I hope you all can take the time to reflect on and embrace the traditions you stumble across in your life, no matter how seemingly insignificant.  They represent an opportunity to step forth (both figuratively and literally) and come together as a community, stronger than ever before.

As we begin our final week as externs here in DC, I plan to make the most of every opportunity to see and experience both the traditional and non-traditional sides of this beautiful city, and encourage you all to do the same, wherever you may be!  Read on for more updates!

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April 19, 2014

Today’s forecast: Sunny with a chance of Panda sightings

By Emerson Tuttle
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Will MERS-CoV make landfall in the form of a laboratory confirmed case within the United States before June 1, 2014? You tell me. Or better yet, let the experts in the fields of epidemiology, biosecurity, and virology decide.

The American Academy for the Advancement of Science, or AAAS, has its headquarters located in downtown DC. Some of you may know this institution for its fellowship program that places scientists in roles within the federal government, including a handful of veterinary students. In addition, they also work with the AVMA to organize the congressional fellowships for veterinarians that you have heard much about if you are up to date on previous entries.

I can get used to a place that decorates their walls with 'artwork' highlighting sea ice coverage data over the last 30 years

I can get used to a place that decorates their walls with ‘artwork’ highlighting sea ice coverage data over the last 30 years

But our visit to the AAAS was for a different reason. We were there to listen to a talk on forecasting advances in the fields of S&T, or science and technology. A professor at George Washington University has developed a program with aid from the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) that acts as a market-driven crowdsourcing technology that hopes to be able to provide strong predictions for future developments in these fields. By tapping into networks of the brightest minds, this program (dubbed SciCast) may be able to help policymakers determine appropriate preventative action, or at least design reactive mechanisms based on probabilities of certain events coming to pass. Involved in the model is a complex set of economic and probabilistic equations which I only understand the surface of, but the idea is one that intrigues me. Oh, and as of yesterday, experts in the SciCast network place the probability of MERS-CoV migrating to the US by June at 39%.

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What better way is there to end a fantastic week than to spend an afternoon meeting with the veterinary resident at the National Zoo? If you come up with one, you know how to contact me. Tabitha and I had the good fortune of visiting the Zoo’s veterinary facilities, which are perched upon a hill overlooking the zoo proper. Below were a variety of animals whose origins range from the Himalayas to the Andes guarded from the masses by fencing and high walls.

And masses there were! The National Zoo is quite an amazing institution given its connection to the Smithsonian. Due to this tie, the price at the doors to enter is nonexistent, and as such it hosts a deluge of visitors each day. Guess who most of them came to see? I’ll give you a hint – refer to my first post about our time on the Hill. That’s right, our good ol’ pal Bao Bao. After waiting in line for 20 minutes, we added to the hysteria and caught a glimpse of the little fella, who was catching a few z’s atop his craggy enclosure. Mom and dad were busy chomping away, as Pandas do for countless hours each day.

My evening ended over some injera at an Eritrean restaurant with a good friend who had also spent time working in Ethiopia. We reminisced and tried desperately to dig in our brains to remember as many Ethiopian phrases as we could while eating our fill. As I write this the next day, I am still full from the bountiful feast!

For pandas, it's always time for dinner

For pandas, it’s always time for dinner

April 17, 2014

The End of the Line

By Tabitha Basine
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The Red Line on the Metro, that is. Who rides the Red Line all the way out to Shady Grove?  Well, this afternoon it was Emerson, myself, and maybe 5 other people total.  I guess Shady Grove is not the most popular destination!

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So why would anyone ride all the way out to Shady Grove?  Aside from being above ground on the Metro and thus being able to appreciate the scenery surrounding you, what could possibly lie out there at the end of the line?

I’ll give you a hint, there’s a federal agency out there that is concerned with drug safety, food safety, and veterinary medicine…

If you were thinking the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM), you are correct!  All the way out to Shady Grove we rode today, and walked an additional half hour from the Metro stop to get there.  Thankfully, it was a gorgeous day out today, so the walk was welcomed and enjoyable.

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After a long walk under the sun, we finally arrived at the FDA CVM, and met with multiple veterinarians there who work collaboratively on drug regulations and food safety concerns.  These veterinarians were some of the most enthusiastic, down-to-earth, yet highly intelligent people we have had the pleasure of meeting with.  They absolutely loved their jobs and the work they did, and their high spirits were catchy.  We held many engaging conversations, ranging in topic from the implications of the melamine pet food recall of 2007, to the benefits of the US Public Health Corps, to even discussing how the term “Pennwe” came about (at Pennwe know where this came from and have learned to embrace it!).

One of these veterinarians also made an incredibly good point that as veterinarians we tend to limit ourselves to job postings that list “veterinarian” as a requirement.  She advised us to consider looking into jobs that don’t list “veterinarian” as a requirement, and emphasized the variety of skills we have to offer as veterinarians.  This is great advice I will definitely consider in the future when applying for jobs!

Who would have known that at the far end of the Red Line, all the way out to Shady Grove, there is a group of incredibly enthusiastic and helpful veterinarians working at the cutting edge of food and drug safety?  Emerson and I certainly wouldn’t have known without traveling all the way out there and experiencing this place in person.  If anything, today has really emphasized the importance of going out of your way to seek out new places, meet new people, and open the door to new opportunities.  You never know what awaits at the end of the Metro line until you venture out there.

With that said, I am actually venturing over to Georgetown Cupcake this evening to try their Cherry Blossom cupcake, and I can’t wait!  Read on for more tomorrow!

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April 16, 2014

Weaving a web

By Emerson Tuttle

Deftly we all spin them: willingly, wittingly, and for a distinct purpose. Through each conversation they either expand, strengthen, become more intricate, or can fragment, fray, and weaken.  Being in DC puts Tabitha and my spinning strategies to the test, and thankfully due to preparation, amiable personalities, and the proper introductory paths, the layers of complexities in our webs continue to thrive.

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I’m speaking of our ever-expanding social and professional networks, two important facets of both one’s career and one’s life. This externship with the GRD has afforded us the opportunity to spend a month weaving away, and Tabitha and I have both eagerly taken on the task. It is a perfect opportunity for those with a desire to explore the potential job market in the federal government, and for those with a true interest in developing professional relationships with leaders in the field of veterinary policy. Today’s adventure was perhaps the most elaborate layer added to the web of any day to date, as we traveled out to Riverdale, MD for an action-packed day of introductions, elevator pitches, and interrogations at USDA-APHIS.

Thankfully I was ready for the day, and had remembered to snag a handful of business cards. By the end of the day, I would be down 11 of my own, but would also have replaced them with unique contact information for future professional contacts. We had arranged previously with a veterinarian at APHIS’ Veterinary Services (VS) office to meet with folks filling a broad range of roles in the department, and his help did not go unnoticed. From the moment we stepped into the building, we were deep in discussion with a unique professional – veterinarian or not – that had spent between 3 months and 30 years with the department. Each individual filled a different role, had a different perspective on the ‘correct’ or ‘best’ path for a young veterinarian to take after school, and had a specific field of expertise that we were able to glean key ideas from. Many of the USDA staff we spoke with worked in the import/export division of VS, as we had indicated our interest in international veterinary medicine prior to visiting. These folks spend each day poring over trade regulations, developing new regulations, liaising with international agricultural offices to establish and evaluate new trade agreements, and ultimately protect our borders from the introduction of new and potentially harmful animal disease. Backgrounds ranged from former equine practitioners, small animal practitioners, microbiologists, virologists, marine biologists, and environmental engineers among others. Degrees ranged from DVMs with MPAs, MPHs, PhDs, and MSs, and non-DVMs with PhDs and PEs. Clinical practice experience ranged from none to those who were boarded in a variety of fields.

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Needless to say, we had some excellent exposure to numerous forms of advice from an equally large pool of professionals. Each had their own preferences, and had developed uniquely from their own experiences.  If this were my first day networking through the GRD, it may have been quite confusing and difficult to manage such a range of suggestions for the future. However, given the ideas that have arisen already regarding my future since my time in DC began, this plethora of advice only served to provide more opportunities, and solidify what small plan I am already crafting in my own head. Whether that pans out or not, the path I will be on is the best one for me, just as the path for you will be the right one regardless of which road you take.

With that, do not forgo any opportunity to strengthen your web, and diligently weave on!

Though the path I choose is truly of less importance than it currently seems, I sure do hope I end up on one that is lined by cherry blossoms!

Though the path I choose is truly of less importance than it currently seems, I sure do hope I end up on one that is lined by cherry blossoms!

 

April 15, 2014

A Place for Innovation and Zebrafish

By Tabitha Basine
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There is a place where innovative ideas on the forefront of scientific research collide to produce state-of-the-art results. This place is also the world’s largest medical research center. Additionally, this place houses over a billion animals, including thousands of zebrafish. The place I am talking about is the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and we were fortunate enough yesterday to visit this place and see where this important research comes to fruition.

The National Institutes of Health

The National Institutes of Health Main Building

The long-standing mission of NIH is, “To seek fundamental knowledge about the nature and behavior of living systems and the application of that knowledge to extend healthy life and reduce the burdens of illness and disability.”  So, how exactly is this mission accomplished?

First of all, it is accomplished through intramural research conducted by NIH. However, NIH not only pursues its own research projects, it also supports and funds other institutions conducting extramural research. In fact, 81% of NIH funds are distributed through grants and contracts to outside institutions. These outside institutions include not only institutions in the US, but all around the world.

The National Institutes of Health Entrance

The National Institutes of Health Entrance

I was excited to visit NIH yesterday and learn about the research underway at their headquarters. When we arrived at NIH, we met with veterinarians who work in the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW) and the Office of Animal Care and Use (OACU). OLAW and OACU are NIH offices that deal with ensuring the humane care and use of animals in Public Health Service research, testing, and training. We learned about the guidelines for animal care and use in research, and were informed about career opportunities at NIH, including but not limited to laboratory animal medicine, veterinary pathology, grants administration, regulatory compliance, and translational research. Each veterinarian we spoke to was more than willing to share their background and how they came to be at NIH – whether through working with laboratory animals, working in the US Army or Air Force, working with primates, or even working abroad in Korea!  The diversity of our profession never ceases to amaze me.

We were also introduced to a website that I wanted to share in case anyone is interested in working as a veterinarian in the government: www.usajobs.gov. If you go to this website and type in the keyword “veterinarian” or “0701”, you will be provided with a list of government jobs available to veterinarians. Although some jobs listed here require higher-level degrees or training, this is a great resource to bookmark. I will definitely be looking into this in the near future!

Last, but definitely not least, we were given a tour of the enormous campus as well as the animal research facilities at NIH. We got to go behind-the-scenes and see a case work-up of a mouse in respiratory distress, rats used for ocular research, Xenopus laevis frogs used for oocyte harvesting, an abundance of zebrafish, and more.

You may be wondering (as I was), what exactly are zebrafish used for, and why does NIH house thousands of them? Zebrafish are actually one of the model organisms used for developmental and genetic research that can be translated to human medicine. Using zebrafish for genetic research is a rapidly expanding field, and NIH has actually been phasing out the use of mice in favor of zebrafish for genetic research.

For some food for thought, who could have imagined that zebrafish might become the new genetic model for human development? Someone somewhere along the line had to think outside the box when they turned to zebrafish.

As Carl Sagan once put nicely, “Science is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of knowledge.” Visiting NIH yesterday reminded me of the creativity and innovation that are the drivers behind medical and scientific advancements made in our society. It is imagination that fuels scientific discovery, and makes breakthrough medical treatments possible. Thanks to imagination, dedicated researchers – and in part, thousands of zebrafish! – our understanding of science is constantly evolving.

After an inspirational visit to NIH, we still have a great week ahead of us, with trips lined up to the USDA, the FDA, and the Smithsonian National Zoo! Stay tuned for more updates!

April 14, 2014

Enjoying free-dom

By Emerson Tuttle
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I hope everyone had the fortune to experience weather as wonderful as what we had in DC over the weekend. It was as close as you get to perfect: 70s/80s and sunny, with a solid breeze from time to time.  As such, it made for perfect weather to get up, and get out (of the house).

A significant, and sometimes overlooked part of this externship is the chance to explore the capital. This city has so much to offer in terms of free space, outdoor opportunities, cultural sites, and social events. In 4 short weeks, we will only be able to scratch the surface of the scene, but we luckily managed to come at an opportune time when we can firmly say that winter is behind us, and more sun sure seems to be on the horizon. Sunny weekends are the perfect ingredient to allow oneself to take full advantage of what the city has to offer. Over the weekend, from a distance the mall looked like a colony of ants making their way to-and-fro across a sea of green, framed by aisles of blossoming trees and historic architecture. The children were out in full force enjoying the sun, and their parents looked comparatively exhausted keeping them in check. I used part of my weekend to relive a childhood experience and visit the Smithsonian Natural History Museum.

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I managed to explore the halls and see the Hope Diamond, an excellent exhibit on human evolution, and numerous other rooms dedicated to fossils, mammals, and aquatic environments, to name a few. However, due to the crowd and the weather outside, I felt more cooped up than I normally do in museums. Typically, I am one who moves quickly through a museum, but can visit a few in a day and feel great. After almost tripping over a myriad of toddlers and 7-year olds that  wander in haphazard paths without any knowledge of their personal space, I managed to escape back to the sunshine.

My plan is to better take advantage of the free offerings that the Smithsonian provides.  The Air and Space Museum, the American History Museum, the National Galleries, the National Zoo, and many others.  Over the next few weeks, I’m going to strap on my pack, toss in my headphones, and navigate the crowded halls to ensure that this opportunity to enrich my life does not so easily pass me by.  Maybe mother nature will make it easier for me by throwing some rain at the mid-Atlantic coast… but on the other hand I sure hope she keeps this sunny spring rolling.

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Until next time, your homework is to get outside and throw a baseball around. After all, it’s Red Sox season, and those gloves won’t break themselves in!

April 12, 2014

There is No Right or Wrong Answer

By Tabitha Basine
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With veterinary school graduation inching closer every day, a big question we are asking ourselves is what should we do immediately afterwards? Should we pursue an internship, should we work in clinical practice, should we try to attain a government job? These are all questions Emerson and I have been discussing with veterinarians while here on the Hill. Do you want to know the general consensus?

As you may have expected, there isn’t one. Everyone has a different opinion on what you should do when you graduate, especially if you are interested in working for the government. We did hear that you should pursue an internship if you are interested in a residency, and that if you want to be a clinician you should probably get some clinical experience. Aside from that, though, there are no clear-cut guidelines. Here on the Hill, all of the veterinarians we’ve met have taken vastly different routes to get to where they are now.

One similarity in background among the many veterinarians we have met is that several of them were previously or are currently AVMA or AAAS Fellows. Both the AVMA and AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) Fellowships offer veterinarians the opportunity to work for the government here in DC.

On Friday, we met with two veterinarians who are current AVMA Fellows, one who is working for Representative Sanford Bishop (D-GA) and one who is working for Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). We asked them about their experiences prior to the Fellowship, and these turned out to be quite diverse! One of the AVMA Fellows had extensive experience in poultry health management, while another had extensive experience working internationally. It was heartening to learn about the varying backgrounds of these two veterinarians who were both accepted as AVMA Fellows – not to mention that one was a fellow UPenn grad (or Pennwe, as we say)!

Emerson and I meeting with AVMA Fellow Dr. Nathaniel Tablante

Emerson and I meeting with AVMA Fellow Dr. Nathaniel Tablante

After our morning meeting, we had worked up an appetite and joined one of the AVMA Fellows, Dr. Eric Deeble, as well as a former AVMA Fellow, Dr. Tristan Colonius, for lunch at the DC food trucks. Eric was insistent that we had to try the food trucks, and the weather was perfect for dining outdoors. I had been a little hesitant to try the food trucks, having heard mixed reviews, but figured I would give them a go. They had all kinds of options, from Italian, to Japanese, to Ethiopian, to Indian, and more. Eric, Emerson, and I finally decided on Indian food, ordering the veggie platter, while Tristan decided on Japanese food. Unfortunately, Tristan had to head back to the office, so he could not join us for lunch.

Food in hand, Eric, Emerson, and I made our way to the fountains near the Capitol to talk with Eric about his experience as an AVMA Fellow working for Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). Eric told us that he absolutely loved his experience as an AVMA Fellow, and was hoping to continue working in policy in the future.  Hearing from Eric – who came to the Hill straight from vet school and is incredibly enthusiastic about the work he does – was quite inspiring for me as a soon-to-be grad.

The food was delicious, and the scenic view of the Capitol was lovely.

Fountains by the Capitol

Fountains by the Capitol

What a great place to eat lunch and enjoy the weather! After we had finished our lunch and thanked Eric for meeting with us, Eric headed back to the office, while Emerson and I stuck around to take some photos of the cherry blossoms.

Cherry blossoms

Cherry blossoms near the Capitol

Emerson and I enjoying the beautiful weather

Emerson and I enjoying the sunshine

As we are learning, there is no general consensus on the “right” path to take after veterinary school if you are interested in government work. In short, there is no right or wrong answer. Even if you may not know yet what you want to do when you graduate, like trying the food trucks on Friday, it is wonderful to discover the different options available and to begin to determine what you like the most.

April 11, 2014

I have a fever…

By Emerson Tuttle
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…and the only prescription, is more time on the Hill! Well in truth, had a fever, and the way I beat it was rest. Oh and some of debatably the most beautiful days DC will be graced with this year. But ignore the fact that I was a bit down for the count with an actual illness, what I’m getting at is that this city, this lifestyle, and the draw of Capitol Hill can be quite addictive. For someone who is used to donning scrubs and delving into the scientific method day in and day out, putting on my best threads and exploring the social and financial maps that glue this city – this Union together, is nothing short of riveting.

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I can’t say exactly what draws me in when I walk off of the Metro at Union Station or when I stride up to the Hill from my nearby apartment. Getting an opportunity to see collective action produce desirable results is surely a significant contributor to the force that encourages each step. Witnessing the magnificence of the iconic Capitol on a beautiful April morning also augments the feeling of pride and importance of any dealings one involves themselves in at the hub of our federal government. Being shrouded in a snow of cherry blossom petals as you walk the paths towards the office buildings transform the paths from mere concrete to something more mystical.

In reality, the stagnant nature of our legislative processes and the complex divisions of power frustrate me. The fact that over 600,000 United States citizens living in DC are disenfranchised without an equal political voice in the legislature when compared to other Americans appalls me. These views may not drastically shift in my time here, but I am beginning to see that some of this stagnation is necessary to prevent change at a pace that is too abrupt, or too careless. That being said, the system remains deeply entrenched in a battle of attrition between two giants.

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Nevertheless, like the cherry blossom-laden paths, mystical our time continues to be. In the past few days we have enjoyed lunch with a livestock advisor at USAID whose portfolio of work is extremely impressive, met with two veterinarians well on their way towards leaving their mark in US Public Policy through the AAAS program, discussed foot-and-mouth disease control with the individual responsible for acquiring licensure of the most recent and exciting vaccine for the disease, seen veterinarians help develop a critical mass of support necessary to move legislature through the Senate in regards to horse welfare, heard how the FDA is acting to provide more veterinary oversight of antibiotic usage in our food animal production chain, and shared drinks with One Health enthusiasts and experts alike on the waterfront.

But yet  it is only the end of week two, and our experience on the Hill is really still just getting started.

April 9, 2014

The Opportunities Are Endless

By Tabitha Basine
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Henry David Thoreau, a famous American poet and philosopher, once said, “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”  This quote resonates well with the meetings Emerson and I attended this week.

"Mountains and Clouds", an Alexander Calder sculpture/mobile within one of the Senate buildings we visited this week

“Mountains and Clouds”, an Alexander Calder sculpture/mobile within one of the Senate buildings we visited this week

Emerson and I began our week on Monday by meeting with two veterinarians who work for the Department of Homeland Security.  While we learned about these veterinarians’ impressive backgrounds and careers working for the government, both of them were inquisitive about our direction and how they could be of assistance to us.  I was most interested to hear how both of them transitioned from veterinary practice into working for the government, something that I am considering doing myself.  As they explained their respective journeys, one through law school and one through working as an elected town official and in a mixed animal practice, I began to acknowledge the variety of paths veterinarians take to get to where they are now.  Both of these veterinarians were incredibly helpful in discussing their paths and suggesting how we might achieve our goals of working in government and shaping public policy one day.

After our meeting at DHS, Emerson and I walked over to our next meeting – but not before stopping to appreciate the cherry blossoms and magnolia trees!  I learned the difference between these two trees from Emerson, who explained that magnolia trees have much bigger flowers and that cherry blossoms have more of a weeping willow look to them.  Both are very beautiful!

Cherry blossom tree

Cherry blossom tree

Magnolia tree

Magnolia tree

After appreciating the cherry blossoms and magnolia trees, we arrived at our destination, the House Energy and Commerce Committee meeting on FDA and DEA transparency, and the meeting commenced.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Meeting on FDA and DEA transparency

House Energy and Commerce Committee Meeting on FDA and DEA transparency

The gist of the meeting was to discuss three bills of importance: HR 4069, which makes changes to the controlled substances act in an effort to combat prescription drug abuse, HR 4250, which aims to speed up FDA regulatory decisions on the safety of active ingredients in sunscreens, and HR 4299, which seeks to speed up DEA decisions on drug manufacture and use in clinical trials.  The meeting was slightly more contentious than other committee meetings we have attended, as different committee members attempted to pry information out of the FDA and DEA witnesses as to why their regulatory decisions took a significant amount of time.  Overall, both committee members and witnesses would ideally like to speed up the regulatory decision-making process.  Additionally, both of these parties agreed that the end goal was to ensure the safety of the general public.

On Tuesday morning, Emerson and I met with a doctor who works for the World Bank.

The World Bank headquarters in DC

The World Bank headquarters in DC, an impressive building

We discussed opportunities for veterinarians to work with the World Bank; opportunities I didn’t even know existed for veterinarians.  The World Bank funds development projects all across the world.  If you haven’t read up on them (which I hadn’t), you can check them out here: http://www.worldbank.org/projects.  This is definitely an organization that I will be looking into in the future.

On Tuesday afternoon, Emerson and I made our way over to the AAVMC office to meet with two veterinarians there.  Thanks to Emerson’s suggestion, both of us had done our homework and research on these two veterinarians to prepare for this meeting, as we read in a previous blog post that we should arrive prepared for the meeting.  Needless to say, both veterinarians were impressed with our preparation and were more than willing to discuss any questions we had as well as their advice for future graduates like us.  Their advice was to be the best you can be in every endeavor you undertake.  They emphasized the importance of networking, communication, leadership, and teamwork.  I asked them how we could best make meaningful connections, as we meet with many different people, and their advice was to follow up.  Later that day, Emerson and I wrote them each a handwritten thank you card for meeting with us.

This week has reinforced that there exists a multitude of career opportunities for future veterinarians like us – whether it be working in clinical practice, on the path to a job with the government, ensuring the safety of the general public by working on bills of importance, working on international development projects, or even just in learning to make meaningful connections with others.  These are just a few of the opportunities that exist for veterinarians, and there are so many more.

Along with Henry David Thoreau’s quote, what I take away from this week is that it is not what you look at that matters, or even what you decide to do with your career that matters, but what matters is the opportunity you see in every endeavor you undertake.  This week has opened my eyes to the fact that opportunity really does lie around every corner for the veterinary profession, and the choice is ours to make the most of it.

On that note, I look forward to the rest of this week, and enjoying the beautiful weather ahead!  Read on for Emerson’s next post!

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April 6, 2014

Pandas, Puppies, and a Moose on the Hill

By Emerson Tuttle

And so the week marched on, with Tabitha and I starting to get our bearings – both as temporary citizens of DC and as seasoned pros of the march up to Capitol Hill. After attending, and this time actively presenting at an appropriations meeting with Gina and Chris (a consultant for AVMA) to David Scott’s (D-GA) Legislative Assistant, we got our first taste of the active law-making process… in a way.

Tabitha and I made our way to the Longworth, one of the three main House office buildings just south of the Capitol itself. Once inside, we navigated the long halls to reach our destination: a House Administration Committee hearing on the status of the National Zoo.  We eventually found a seat in the back of the room and were looking up at the bench where a handful of Representatives sat, waiting to receive testimony and subsequently question Mr. Dennis Kelly (the director of the zoo), Mr. Jim Maddy (the president of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums – AZA), and Dr. Steven Monfort (of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute).  Within seconds, one could note that the hearing, although serious, had a lighter tone than some others.  After all, it is hard to take a negative stance towards the National Zoo, though it is worth evaluating its programs, given that it is heavily subsidized by the government.  The chairwoman Candice Miller (R-MI) kicked off the meeting with a viewing of the zoos local celebrity, Bao Bao.  If you aren’t familiar with this little fella, get familiar: http://nationalzoo.si.edu/animals/webcams/giant-panda.cfm

We also visited the World Wildlife Fund's headquarters for a talk on chimpanzee conservation, and were greeted by the classic Bao Bao-esque emblems

We also visited the World Wildlife Fund’s headquarters for a talk on chimpanzee conservation, and were greeted by the classic Bao Bao-esque emblems

The hearing gave us just a taste of how Washington functions, and we would get to see another step in the legislative process the next day – this time for a bill of direct importance to the veterinary community. With Drs. Lutschaunig and Morgan, Tabitha and I attended a full meeting by the House Energy and Commerce Committee to ‘markup’ H.R. 1528, the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act.  This is the chance for committee members to make amendments to the current wording of the legislation before it moves to be voted on by the full House. Luckily, the VMMA received support through unanimous consent by the committee, and potentially could move to a full vote as early as this upcoming week.  We may have hit a stroke of luck and could get to see (knock on wood) a veterinary bill passed into law during our time in DC!

Where all the magic of marking up H.R. 1528 happened

Where all the magic of marking up H.R. 1528 happened

Friday brought with it the tidings of our four-legged friends, as we attended an adoption event hosted by the ASPCA in the Cannon building on the House side.  Despite everyone’s best efforts, I walked away sans pet, even though Max made us all think twice…

Max charming us all in all of his glory

Max just charming away

A real reminder as to why we are here

A real reminder as to why we are here

Our first week wrapped up with a pair of meetings relevant to my heritage – with the offices of Rep. Shea Porter (D-NH) and Sen. Ayotte (R-NH).  If you hadn’t guessed the theme, I was born and raised in rural New Hampshire, and still vote in the Granite State.  It gave me great pride to discuss the importance of the veterinary profession with folks in the office of my own elected officials, and to feel that my small state carries a weight of importance on the national scale. Not to mention we got a chance to chill with Oscar.

Meet Oscar, my formerly animated NH brother

Meet Oscar, my formerly animated 1300 lb neighbor from up north

Sitting in Rep. Shea-Porter's office, watching family friend and other NH Rep. Annie Kuster speak in front of the House!

Sitting in Rep. Shea-Porter’s office, watching family friend and other NH Rep. Annie Kuster speak in front of the House!

With that, I’m off to enjoy the beauty and high spirits of the city at the Cherry Blossom festival, more updates to follow!