This externship has been a whirlwind, but incredible, experience. I’ve had the opportunity to meet with close to 100 people involved with government and organized veterinary medicine during my time here in D.C. Here are a few things I’ve learned about working in government as a veterinarian:
“Pros” – These are just a few things people have mentioned that excited them about the opportunity to work in government.
- You have the opportunity to truly make an impact on a larger scale. The work you do has the potential to effect the veterinary profession as a whole.
- Working with different agencies is common. For example, if you work for USDA APHIS, you may collaborate with others from agencies such as FDA or Department of Homeland Security.
- The benefits are fantastic! There’s even a chance you’ll be eligible for a certain amount of loan forgiveness.
- There are a lot of ways to “move up the ladder.” Being a veterinarian allows you to do MANY different jobs within the federal government. Once you’re in, you have the opportunity to take your career almost anywhere you want to go.
“Cons” – These are things that someone should consider before deciding if they would be a good fit for working in the federal government.
- You have to be (or learn to be) patient. Things take time in the government. You can’t necessarily expect to make a change immediately. As one of the veterinarians we met with stated, “It’s not always about winning the battle. Sometimes it’s about winning the war.”
- If you are looking for career progression, it’s very likely you will end up in D.C. or the surrounding area. This, of course, depends on the agency and your personal or career goals, but many of their main offices are located here.
Until next time!
While veterinary medicine has been in the spotlight for its lack of diversity, statements that have been made “sound harshly negative, yet in reality, they have served to energize diversity initiatives at our nation’s schools of veterinary medicine,” according to a recent article published in Insight Into Diversity.
I had the pleasure of meeting with Lisa Greenhill, MPA, Ed.D., in D.C. this week to talk about initiatives the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges is working on to promote diversity. In addition, we discussed the current climate of diversity, or lack thereof, in veterinary schools. Related to gender, she shared with me that although women far exceed the number of men attending veterinary school, those same statistics are not represented in faculty—as fewer woman, than men, are in the pipeline for tenure positions, for example.
What is needed to integrate diversity training into our professional degree? Should there be prerequisites that focus on psychology and sociology? Are elective classes in veterinary school a good strategy? All of these questions were discussed in our meeting and one great resource that she shared is a podcast series that she has pioneered “Diversity and Inclusion on Air,” which is also available through Apple iTunes. In the series, they explore some of the challenges with inclusion in the veterinary curricula and have experts weigh in on the subject.
One of the things I learned in our meeting was the term code switching, which describes using different types of language depending on what group you are in. Not only did we talk about it as it relates to racial groups but also related to groups of different interests. It’s akin to speaking another language. Veterinarians are essential to the One Health movement because of our expertise regarding different species and our public health training. However, as Lisa mentioned, veterinarians often fail to use One Health language that is commonly understood across disciplines; by using different language around these issues—or actively, consciously code switching—perhaps veterinarians could be even more involved in One Health initiatives.
The resources Lisa is developing are critical for increased understanding of diversity among the veterinary community. Hopefully by including more diversity training in veterinary schools, we can improve our ability to serve broader human populations and their animals.
Other students have also had the opportunity to speak with Lisa about diversity, like this previous extern blog post published in April 2015. Look to it as well for further information.
As veterinary students, we are acutely aware of the student debt issue. One of the goals of the AVMA Governmental Relations Division is to help students with this issue by supporting certain legislative issues that benefit us and help us combat student debt. Below are just a few of the bills that the AVMA supports:
1. Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment (VMLRP) Enhancement Act (H.R. 3095/S. 440)
- VMLRP gives funding to veterinarians who practice in areas of need or where there is a shortage of veterinary services. These areas are determined by the USDA. These loan repayment stipends unfortunately are currently not exempt from federal witholding tax and the goal of this bill is to eliminate that 39% tax. The goal of H.R. 3095/S. 440 is to eliminate this tax, allowing more awards to be given out.
2. Student Loan Refinancing Act (H.R. 649)
- Currently veterinary students (and other health professionals) are only able to refinance their loans once. This legislation would remove that restriction and allow you to refinance your loans anytime you found a lower interest rate, just as you would with a home mortgage.
3. Eliminating the Hidden Student Loan Tax Act (H.R. 1285)
- Did you know that you are paying an origination fee on all Direct Loans? This legislation would eliminate that origination fee for students.
These are only a few of the pieces of legislation that the AVMA GRD is working on in relation to veterinary medicine. Check out the Congressional Activities page for more!
If you are interested in getting a real hands-on experience in these areas, I highly recommend applying for both the annual AVMA Legislative Fly-In (held next April) and the AVMA GRD Student Externship. Both allow you to dive right into the world of veterinary public policy!
Until next time!
This week the AVMA Board of Directors (BOD) came to the GRD office for their board meeting. Jessica and I had the privilege of sitting in on meetings discussing important issues that affect veterinarians and veterinary students. In addition, we attended Hill Visits with various members of Congress.
I spent Tuesday with Dr. Ted Cohn, AVMA Immediate Past President, and his lovely wife Becky. They were a joy to be around and together we met Representative Ken Buck and Senator Cory Gardner. We discussed with their offices the Marketplace Fairness Act and Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program Enhancement Act. As I have been in DC before for the AVMA Fly-In, the Hill Visits were very similar—reiterating how accessible Congress is. However, having the expertise of members of the BOD added another element of depth to the conversations. I felt that the offices respected having different generations of veterinarians before them supporting the same cause.
Dr. Cohn, Becky, and I also had time between visits to go to the Library of Congress. If you haven’t been—it is a must see! The intricate mosaic ceiling coupled with the attention to detail in the sculptures of influential historical figures surrounding the library made it very awe-inspiring.
A few days spent gleaning expertise from members of the AVMA BOD combined with the opportunity to meet with members of Congress, makes this externship all that more impactful.
Starting the GRD externship this week has made me feel a bit like the metro—there are so many different opportunities and navigating can sometimes be challenging! It has been full of fun though including meetings, stops along the metro, hearings, lunch and dinner presentations, and great networking opportunities. The time seems to be flying by.
One highlight of interest from this week was a lunch seminar entitled “Do you really know where your food comes from?” Traceability is a hot topic, especially in agriculture, because of the intersection of privacy and a need to protect public health. The presenter, Tejas Bhatt from the Institute of Food Traceability, was an engaging lecturer and had interesting slides on where the ingredients on your pizza, for example, come from. Where is the cheese from? Was it processed at a plant owned by the farm? What about the meat? The tomatoes? The spices in the tomato sauce? Some of these questions highlight the complexities surrounding traceability. This seminar is just one example of the wide array of topics to be learned about on the Hill.
Later in the afternoon we were fortunate to meet with Dr. Eric Deeble, a veterinarian, past AVMA Fellow, and now a legislative assistant for Senator Kristen Gillibrand. He gave us what felt like a behind-the-scenes tour of the Capitol Visitor Center and Senate buildings. We even got to ride on the Capitol subway which is the cutest little cart-like transport.
Stay tuned for more adventures thanks to this wonderful opportunity with the AVMA GRD office!
As a girl from a small town who has never lived in a big city, moving to D.C. for a month was a bit intimidating and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Here are a few tips and tricks I’ve learned during my first week of the GRD externship:
- Bring a purse or bag large enough to carry some things with you during the day. You’ll be visiting many different places each day so having a larger bag to carry a notebook, pens, wallet, a light sweater, water bottle, a snack or two, etc. makes your days a bit easier.
- You will be walking a lot between buildings at the Capitol, walking to and from Metro stops, and going on tours during your time here. I can’t stress it enough – bring comfortable shoes! If you plan to wear heels or flats that are a little less than comfortable, I recommend bringing a pair of shoes you can wear to walk between meetings that are easy to toss in your bag. It isn’t uncommon to put in 5+ miles a day of walking. Wearing shoes that aren’t comfortable results in not-so-comfortable blisters (speaking from experience here).
- If you can have some business cards printed before your trip, I highly recommend it! It is very common to exchange business cards within a few minutes of meeting someone so it’s great to have something to hand them when they give you their card. It also gives them something to remember you by if you email them at a later date.
- Your cell phone, equipped with both the D.C. Metro Map and Google Maps, will be your best friend. Not only can it help you find your way, but it can help you find a coffee shop to stop at on the way there (also speaking from experience)!
- If it is at all possible for you to live in the city, I would! I’m living in the Eastern Market area. Not only am I able to walk to the Capitol in the mornings (less than a 20 minute walk and great exercise!), but there are a lot of little shops and restaurants very close by. I’ve not used my car since I arrived last weekend because I’m able to walk almost anywhere, including the Metro stops.
- Keep track of the different offices and people you meet with during your time here in a notebook or Word document. It isn’t uncommon to meet with 5-10 (sometimes even more) people on one visit and by the end of the day, it can be a bit of a blur. It’s a great way to keep track of all you’ve done!
- Attend a OneHealth Academy event. It’s a FANTASTIC way to network and hear about a topic on OneHealth.
- Two words: District Taco. It’s a MUST visit!
- Most of all … ENJOY your time in the city! You’re only here for 4 weeks and trust me it will fly by! Take in as many of the sights and sounds as you can. Don’t hesitate to grab dinner and a drink on a restaurant patio one night during the week, even if you go alone. It’s a great opportunity to reflect on all you’ve learned or to simply sit and people watch.
Until next time!
My eye-opening experience with the Governmental Relations Division is quickly coming to an end. I have enjoyed all the opportunities to meet and network with professionals. I have gained so much knowledge, passion, and feel empowered to embark on my career in public practice. I have learned of opportunities that I would have never thought of such as there are careers in FSIS that don’t require you to work in a slaughterhouse, the Department of Homeland Security hires veterinarians to work in risk management, there is the Public Health Service that you can enlist in while serving in public practice to serve your county, anyone can lobby and have their voice heard, you can run for Congress, and the list goes on and on.
Some tidbits that resonated with me include:
- We are ambassadors of our profession.
- When deciding on the next step in your career, take a breath. Go and do a few things you want to do at that moment. You can always make a change later and seek out new opportunities.
- If you are proud of what you are doing, you are doing it right.
- Work-life balance! Ask for clear deadlines, delegate, don’t be afraid to say no, delegate to others so they have opportunities for growth and feel empowered
- Society has a long way to go in seeing past the idea of 2 veterinarians: the ones in the white coat treating their pets and the ones treating food animals. We must work to broaden public perceptions on the role of veterinarians.
- Drop your degree, ego, and political party at the door. We are all going to work together to solve this issue. Life is all about compromise.
- Bring your skill sets and work well together in all aspects.
- Smile and have a firm handshake.
If there’s anything I’ve learned this past month it’s that veterinarians on The Hill have just an important role as veterinarians in hospitals. Many people ask veterinarians on The Hill if they miss practicing. The truth of the matter is, they are still practicing… politics is just a different animal!
Time and time again I’ve engaged in conversations with staffers on The Hill about the critical role veterinarians play in politics and ensuring the health of our nation. The reasoning behind this is One Health. The One Health concept seeks to create interdisciplinary collaboration with all aspects of human health, animal health and the environment’s health. As veterinarians, we are called to be Ambassadors of One Health. Whether we realize it or not, our training as veterinarians makes us some of the best problem solvers in this country. That’s why our government is seeking veterinarians to solve current disease outbreaks and prepare this country for future attacks on our health. It was explained to me that physicians’ problem solving techniques focus on the individual due to their training. While with veterinarians we are not only trained to focus on an individual patient, but also a herd. This allows us transfer our knowledge about population medicine to groups of humans and address how an infectious disease could affect them.
If you have some time, I encourage to you read through AAVMC’s One Health Case Studies. They provide numerous examples of how veterinarians can play a role in human and environmental health, many of which might surprise you! Additionally, this year, the first ever One Health Day will be November 3rd. By recognizing a One Health Day, various organizations seek to promote current efforts that are uniting human, animal and environmental health disciplines. Check out the link to see if there are any events near you!
You just finished up a 1 o’clock meeting with a staffer in your district representative’s office and have about an hour until your next meeting the next building over. This is a common situation to find yourself in as an AVMA-GRD extern. The “D.C. experience” includes meeting with staffers and Congress members on The Hill, but also immersing yourself in DC culture. Below you’ll find a list of 6 things you can do during these short breaks.
Bonus tip: these experiences can be used as great ice breakers during Hill meetings!
- Library of Congress: Public tours occur on the half hour and last about an hour. If you don’t have enough time for an hour tour, don’t worry! You can do a self-guided tour and just enjoy all there is to see at your own pace.
- Supreme Court of the United States: portions of the first and second floors are open to the public. Make sure to take a selfie with the John Marshall Statue and see the spiral staircase! Additionally, one hour lectures occur on the half hour on the second floor and there are educational videos in the North and South Theatre every 30 minutes
- Capitol Visitor Center: There’s an option to book tours through the website or you can arrange a tour at the office of your Representative or Senator. Some offices also offer staff-led tours to small group of constituents. If you don’t have time for a full tour, you can explore the visitor’s center, including the exhibition hall, on your own.
- Basement Cafeterias in Longworth, Dirksen and Rayburn: Ben and Jerry’s and Dunkin Donuts. Need I say more?
- Review National Journal’s Daybook to see if there is a briefing, hearing or discussion on The Hill. You’ll need credentials to login to Daybook and view these events, but you’ll get them your first day at AVMA-GRD. Thankfully, the website is mobile friendly and easy to use on the go. Make sure to filter the options and include the date and the location as on The Hill. Bonus tip: during the lunch hours briefings and discussions can be catered!
- Have a picnic lunch on the Capitol Hill lawn and keep an eye out for the white squirrel! (She likes the trees across the street from the Supreme Court House)
Of course this list isn’t exhaustive. There’s always so much to do in DC! The best thing you can do for yourself is ask locals the best things to do in the area (yes, that means walking up to strangers or police officers!) and look up from your phone. If something looks interesting, go inside! Close Google Maps and explore a little! Just don’t go too far… staffers and Congress members are on a tight schedule and rely on you to show up on time, if not 10 minutes early. You can even use them as a resource and ask about their favorite things to do in the area. Many are more than happy to share!
To be honest I was nervous about meeting my representatives on Capitol Hill but I found that once I got prepared, the meetings were a breeze. I prepared by reading the issue briefs and finding more information regarding the topics to be discussed. I then scheduled meetings by sending out emails to the staffers of my representatives introducing myself and the topics I wanted to discuss. I usually received a reply within a few days. It is important to confirm the office number when confirming an appointment. Arrive about 10 minutes early for the appointment in business professional attire. Start the conversation with introducing yourself, where you are from, and get to know the person you are meeting. You can also use the opportunity to briefly explain the AVMA. Explain the issue briefs and provide copies for them to review. Make your request – to cosponsor, oppose an issue, or thank them for previous co-sponsorship. You will likely only get 15 minutes or so of their time so it is important to be brief but thorough and leave time for questions to be asked. Relax and enjoy this unique experience!
My name is _________, and I am a veterinary student at the __________. Currently, I am a public policy intern at the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). I would like to meet with you at your earliest convenience to discuss the following issues of importance to the veterinary profession:
• HR. 3095/S. 440, Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program Enhancement Act
• HR. 2775, Remote Transactions Parity Act
• S. 698, Marketplace Fairness
I am available anytime the week of Monday, _____ – Friday, _____. I appreciate your consideration and look forward to hearing from you. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me by e-mail or phone at __________.