September 18, 2017

From A Streetcar Named Desire to Drama with WMATA

By Derecka Alexander

Congress is back in session, and I’m back in D.C. looking for the drama. I’m not talking about the usual left versus right debates on the best station for great reality TV (CSPAN). I’m looking for the drama that is found at any neighborhood pharmacy store: Dramamine. The stop and go of the DC metro is a city experience I was looking forward to. I always had a desire to learn about the different career paths a veterinarian can take within the public sector. Desire is what led me to the Capital City, however, this Louisiana girl is very much use to the easy-going ride of a New Orleans rattle-trap street-car.

Despite dealing with the motion sickness, I walked briskly and made use of my Google Maps app to take advantage of the opportunities presented to me. In vet school, we don’t always hear about how we can use our degree to serve the public. There are veterinarians working on major projects that affect more than the local dog and cat population. From animal welfare issues to vaccine research and sustainable agriculture, public health vets push the profession forward and help make our Nation great.

Last week, I met with Dr. John Shaw, the Executive Vice President of the National Association of Federal Veterinarians (NAFV). Dr. Shaw had an extensive career as a veterinarian in the Veterinary Services division of the USDA Animal and Plant Inspection Service (APHIS). He worked throughout Latin America with an intergovernmental institution known as Organismo Internacional Regional de Sanidad Agropecuaria (OIRSA), which specializes in agriculture and food animal health. As a veterinarian representing the US, Dr. Shaw spent years helping the US implement and enforce regulations geared to protecting animal health, plant health, quarantine services and food safety. This cooperative effort is important in ensuring that goods from across the borders going in both directions are safe. Dr. Shaw is now bringing his years of governmental experience to his new position, where he will work on issues important to the federal veterinarians across the country.

I liked the candor Dr. Shaw expressed when we talked about getting experience in clinical practice versus going straight into working in the public sector. For him, hindsight is 20/20 and he left me with what he believes are the big three experiences one should have for getting a job on the Hill: lobbying, fundraising and networking. Like most non-traditional vets, Dr. Shaw got a little of clinical experience and quickly realized that it wasn’t for him. He left private practice to work in the public sector and never looked back.

Dr. Marvin Meinders, who works for the Office of Health Affairs in the Department of Homeland Security, also decided to not look back after a few years or practice, which included a really bad encounter with a horse. And, I don’t blame him; there are reasons why I take very deep breaths before I check a horse’s digital pulses. #flashbacks. Dr. Meinders left clinical practice to serve our country as a veterinarian for the military. After 20 years of experience, he was offered a job as a Veterinary Medical Officer (VMO) for Homeland Security and is presently serving as the Chief of Food, Agriculture and Veterinary Defense. In his current position, he ensures the security of our nation’s food, agriculture, human and animal health in the face of all hazards. He also oversees 31 working dogs and over 400 horses for the department.

Dr. Meinders talked about the work he did over the years and brought me to the National Biosurveillance Integration Program meeting. At this meeting, I observed how people representing 16 agencies work together to keep track of diseases and outbreaks across the world. It was great experience for any public health fan!

Dr. Meinders touched on something I hear from a lot of veterinarians. He said government work can teach you skills the DVM doesn’t, but the DVM can’t be substituted with anything else. I do understand why governmental agencies and companies employ scientists. They know scientists solve problems in an analytical manner using methodology adopted from the scientific method.

Having a scientific background is definitely beneficial to problem solving. However, the DVM holds a mystical power unseen by some but understood by those who hire vets to get the job done. Dr. Meinders left me with this: he said, those who know one language know that a car is a car, for example, in English, a car is a car. However, those who know more than one way of communicating can identify a car in more than one way. Practicing one kind of medicine is useful in helping solve one kind of problem. Veterinarians must learn how to practice on more than one species in more than one way. While I only have a few months left in school, I know this month will grant me with the experiences I need to fulfill my desire for having the career I want.

 

September 18, 2017

200/100

By Jacob Froehlich, PhD

Have you ever been looking for something but you didn’t know what to call it?

A word that escaped you?
A concept to which you couldn’t put a name?
An animal species which you could describe in several sentences but whose binomial eluded you?
A job description whose title remained unknown?

I’ve been struggling with such an issue for the last, oh, six to seven months. In my cerebrum, I can tell you about a mysterious, nameless job by using the following statements but, until yesterday, could not put a title to it:

A) I want to work with many species of hoofed animal, but I also do not want to be confined to only hoofstock, as I consider myself a future panspecies veterinarian.
B) I want to have patients (like those described above) but I would rather not have to collect currency every time I see those patients.Jacob 200 100 post C) I have long been interested in government service, but being a veterinary food inspector or public policy veterinarian just didn’t seem right.

Yesterday, however, I finally put my finger on that career position for which I was looking: United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Veterinary Services Veterinary Medical Officer (oofda, that was a mouth-full).

Derecka Alexander (the LSU veterinary student extern in our office) and I were lucky enough to spend an entire day with the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Veterinary Services (USDA-APHIS-VS) veterinarians at their offices in Riverdale, Maryland. Throughout the day, we met with wonderful veterinarians who have dedicated their professional careers to preserving animal and human health.

I was most struck with Dr Kate Bowers’ presentation. As a former USDA-APHIS-VS veterinary medical officer (VMO), Dr Bowers gave a presentation on the role of a field VMO. During her entire presentation, I was screaming “THAT’S WHAT I WANT TO DO!” internally. I am rather sure my eyes were as larger as dinner plates.

As a field VMO, Dr Bowers told us about how she participated in one of the largest transocean transportations of Holstein dairy cattle in US history. She showed us pictures of working on the surveillance and eradication of scrapie in black-faced sheep breeds. She spoke about attending the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival (an event that I am committed to attending, hands down) AS A PAID, GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL. Dr Bowers sent my blood pressure to 200/100 (the title of this post) when she explained to me how, in the interests of protecting American mares from contagious equine metritis (CEM), she was “forced” to personally watch a Grand Prix jumping stallion from abroad during the Washington International Horse Show at all times during his stay in the United States to ensure that he did not accidentally (or purposefully, for that matter) breed any mares at the show. AND THEY PAID HER FOR THIS!

The icing was put on the cake when Dr Bowers told me about her work with captive cervid (white-tailed deer and elk) herds in Pennsylvania (fun trivia fact: Pennsylvania has more captive deer within its borders than any other state, save for Texas).

But there’s more! She told Derecka and me about a traveling hedgehog who needed to gain entry into the United States, a wordly canary who needed regular disease testing during his quarantine after his jaunt abroad, the transport of bovine embryos via commercial airlines, and the importation of six rhinoceros from South Africa, all cases in which she was personally involved. For those who know me well, I want to work in South Africa with colicky rhinoceros some day, so this entire presentation - with its references to deer, sheep, Holstein cattle, birds, rhinoceros, and warmblood horses - seemed as if it was written for me personally.

At 8a on September 14, 2017, I did not have a term in mind for the perfect veterinary career for me.

By 11a on that same day, I could think of nothing else than Jacob Michael Froehlich, PhD, DVM, USDA-APHIS-VS VMO.

Nine months, Jacob. Nine months. Granted, my systolic blood pressure may remain around 200/100 until then, but sacrifices must be made.

September 18, 2017

From buzz to fuzz

By Jacob Froehlich, PhD

Jacob honey beeAs an aspiring panspecies veterinarian, I am committed to treating all species to the best of my ability. I am very, very committed to that mission. In fact, my classmates back home at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University have often heard me remark that I will be a “from spiders to Shires” veterinarian. Yes, you read that correctly. Even spiders and other invertebrates deserve (the best) medicine.

When I arrived in Washington, D.C., to begin this externship, one of the first emails I received was an invitation to an event entitled “Honeybees, Pollinators, and One Health – What’s the Buzz?,” a presentation by Terry Ryan Kane, DVM, MS, given at the One Health Academy here in the Nation’s capital. If you haven’t heard, honeybees and other pollinators are in grave danger. From viruses to bacteria to fungus to parasites to climate change to habitat loss, honeybees face many of the same challenges that our more “traditional species” battle on a daily basis. And then there’s colony collapse disorder (CCD), a syndrome where honeybee colonies apparently fall apart, with the majority of worker bees leaving the queen and developing larvae behind. While frustrating because of its effect on honeybees, CCD is even more worrisome currently because no scientist or veterinarian has discovered the true etiology (cause) of this disease. It remains truly a mystery.

Dr Kane gave an amazing presentation for the veterinarian, scientist, and layperson alike. From a brief history of apiculture (the keeping and care honeybees) to the pathogens and diseases facing modern honeybees to the overwhelming importance of honeybees to our food supply, Dr Kane made the case for honeybee medicine quite well. As Dr Kane put it, “if you want to eat, we need honeybees,” plain and simple. Did you know that honeybees are critical to the US almond supply? Did you know that America’s canola and alfalfa supply comes courtesy of our little six-legged friends? Ask any farmer from my home state of North Dakota, and they will talk your ear off about the importance of honeybees to agriculture. Growing up in the Peace Garden State, the sight of trucks moving honeybee hives around the state was as integral to my North Dakota upbriging as fields of wheat and cattle on the range. Agriculture = apiculture. There’s no way around it.

The use of antibiotics in food animal production has recently come under fire, honeybees included. Under a new rule promulgated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), use of antibiotics important to human medicine have been restricted to use with veterinary oversight. Being as honeybees produce honey and propolis (a wax used as a nutritional supplement), the USDA classifies honeybees as food animals, and thus veterinarians are now responsible for guarding the use of antibiotics in this species. Adding medically important antibiotics to honeybee feed will now require a veterinary feed directive (VFD) just it is required for cattle, pigs, and other hoofstock, while adding antibiotics to water consumed by honeybees will require a veterinary prescription.

Dr Kane concluded her presentation with the following statement: “Honeybees deserve the best medicine possible.” They do so, so much for the human populace and yet are so, so underappreciated. I couldn’t agree with Dr Kane more.

Because of this presentation and my growing interest in honeybees, I have decided that I need to change my tagline from “from spiders to Shires” to “from bees to bison.” Ensuring that honeybees have high quality medical care seems like such an easy action to take in exchange for the essential life necessity of food. Don’t you agree?

For more information on honeybee medicine, please visit the AVMA website https://www.avma.org/KB/Resources/Pages/Honey-Bees-101-Veterinarians.aspx  or www.hbvc.org, the official website of the Honey Bee Veterinary Consortium.

(Nota bene: The title of this post stems from a tagline suggested to me by former AVMA veterinary student extern and current AAAS/AVMA Congressional Fellow Dr Matthew Holland. While I prefer “from bees to bison,” given my background as a North Dakotan and graduate of North Dakota State University, I feel it describes this post well.)

September 11, 2017

Hellbenders, Shenandoah and red-backed salamanders, oh my!

By Jacob Froehlich, PhD
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For anyone interested in endangered species conservation, the terms “flagship” or “keystone” species likely sound familiar. Amur tigers, white rhinoceroses, and giant pandas are flagship species because they hold such special places in the hearts of millions of people around the globe. While very important to their ecosystems, they are far from the only species needing protection. Quite frankly, it is (relatively) easy to sell conservation efforts for these animals to the tax-paying and funds-donating public. Who can argue with preserving the Amur tiger? Who is against keeping white rhinoceroses around for the next generation? Who doesn’t want his or her grandchildren to see a live giant panda in the future?

But what about the hellbender? And the Shenandoah salamander? Or the eastern red-backed salamander? These little amphibians are threatened with extinction just as the above animals are and yet I posit that few people (including me) readily think about their plights in the wild or their futures on this planet. Luckily for the American people, the taxpayers of this country, the Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park (NZP) and Conservation Biology Institute (CBI) are on the case.

According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the NZP, the population of the hellbender, America’s largest salamander, is on the decline due to pollution, climate change, and human encroachment. The Shenandoah salamander and the eastern red-backed salamander are facing similar endangerment and extinction, primarily due to climate change. All three of these species have evolved to inhabit cool climates, where gas exchange is more easily achieved. The Shenandoah salamander is such a niche specialist that it lives on only three – yes, 1, 2, 3 - mountaintops in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Why do I even bring this up, apart from the importance of all species in conservation biology? I do so because I was quite impressed with the NZP’s efforts to showcase their work to the general public, the taxpayers who fund their important work. As I visited the many exhibits at the NZP, I was quite excited to see an exhibit devoted to these three salamander species and the work being done by scientists with the NZP and CBI. Just inches away from my eyes were baby salamanders, growing up and thriving under the auspices of the Smithsonian, having no idea how very important each of them is to the survival of their respective species. While I was just as impressed with this exhibit as I was with, say, the Asian elephant habitat, I know that I am in the minority. I venture a guess that, when faced with a choice between the scimitar-horned oryx or the hellbender, most zoo-goers will pick the former. However, I heap praise on the Smithsonian for making their efforts on the behalf of this triumvirate of amphibians freely accessible to the public. Even if five or ten more US citizens are aware of the plight of these tiny animals, the hellbender, Shenandoah salamander, and the eastern red-backed salamander will be better off. As the old adage goes, “every little bit helps,” and these salamanders need every millimeter of that little bit. Bravo to the Smithsonian National Zoological Park and Conservation Biology Institute for making every little bit possible for these animals and so many, many more!

As a scientist, I am Salamanders1 Salamanders2proud of the work of the Smithsonian NZP and CBI. As a US taxpayer, I am even more pleased that my money is being spent well at the National Zoological Park – and all the Smithsonian Institutions.

September 8, 2017

Midwest Nice AKA USA Nice

By Jacob Froehlich, PhD

Growing up in the Midwest, I was often warned about “the Coasts.” I was told by many a Midwesterner that people in these two mysterious lands were not as nice as those living back at home, that they were often rude and harsh. In fact, I remember when my brother and I traveled to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in preparation for President Barack Obama’s first Inauguration, we had prepared ourselves to face what could be potentially be as warm a welcoming as one seen on “Game of Thrones” from House Lannister.

Those back home couldn’t have been more wrong. From Philadelphia to the District of Columbia, we encountered countless kind, fun, and engaging people.

That continues to this day. As I have spent the last three days in my office here at the AVMA Governmental Relations Division, I cannot adequately describe the enthusiasm and excitement that greets me every day via my email inbox. From legislative staff on Capitol Hill to veterinarians working in the ExecutExtern Name Plaqueive Branch to administrators working with non-governmental organizations, every email I have sent, requesting a meeting or a tour, has been met with a degree of “my door’s always open” that anyone from back home would call “Midwest Nice” – and then some. It’s not like I’m POTUS calling upon these individuals. I am a veterinary student of whom they’ve never heard, whom they’ve never met. I am humbled by this kindness to the nth degree.

I propose that we dispense with the term “Midwest Nice” and replace it with “USA Nice.” In the ever hyperpartisan atmosphere of DC – indeed, the nation – it is often easy to forget that we are all people, humans, Americans working to take care of ourselves, our families, and our futures. It’s easy to forget that “those government bureaucrats” of whom you hear on CNN and Fox News are people just like you and me. Most are passionate about their careers and serve their country and its citizens with distinction every single day.

I cannot wait to meet with the Massachusetts Congressional Delegation’s staff on Capitol Hill, veterinarians in the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS-USDA), Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS-USDA), Agricultural Research Service (ARS-USDA), and Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM-FDA), the President and Director of Federal Legislation for the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), among many other people who have dedicated their professional lives to science, medicine, animals, and America.

Stay tuned! This adventure has just started.

June 29, 2017

Winter is Coming

By Kerri Haider
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For all of you Game of Thrones (GOT) fans out there, here is a little treat! At the moment D.C. is hosting a pop-up themed bar after the popular series Game of Thrones. On Saturday evening we biked from a river boat tour to the acclaimed bar… the line was 3 hours long. Even though my colleagues and I were all DIE HARD fans of the series we decided to call it a night. On Tuesday evening we went back to try again- and behold- the line was only 45 minutes! Once we entered the bar there were decorations themed around GOT and renaissance music that made us feel like we were in Westeros about to meet some dragons. There were drinks with names like “The Lannisters Send Their Regards” and “The North Remembers” served in festive glasses and all were in good spirit. After perusing the bar and scenery we made our way back to the iron throne (pictured). There was a fur coat and of course an IRON THRONE to take pictures with (apparently this throne is Insta famous). I felt like a real Khaleesi princess after that evening of fun. I would recommend the bar to anyone in the area … but it will be gone soon so hurry in and get your fix before the new season starts in July.

This last week I also had the chance to meet a few members of congress. On Wednesday morning I had breakfast with MN Senator Al Franken (who started his career as a comedian on SNL by the way) and other Minnesotans (pictured). On Wednesday afternoon I met with Representative Kurt Schrader who was a veterinarian for many years before pursuing his career in politics. Finally, on Thursday morning I met with Representative Erik Paulsen and got to discuss the important issue of the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program Enhancement Act.

Overall this externship has been a great experience and I have met and made connections with so many wonderful veterinarians who have inspired me to think bigger about my career. I want to thank the AVMA Governmental Relations Division for helping make those contacts and providing me with the experience necessary to be confident discussing policy on the Hill. I’m sad to say goodbye to this beautiful city but that’s all for now folks!

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June 29, 2017

Sit Down. Be Humble.

By Merrill Simpson
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We learned this from the wisdom of Kendrick Lamar (or whoever writes his lyrics) but I find it to ring true in many ways. The people I admire most have had these incredible, successful, and fulfilling careers while maintaining a sense of humility. Some veterinarians that come to my mind immediately are Dr. Linda Silvers, Dr. Bernadette Dunham, and Congressman Schrader. You will meet many others I did not list who have had remarkable accomplishments and are following these amazing, diverse career paths.

Unfortunately I had a reality check during my externship when a childhood friend suddenly passed away. My biggest take-away from this month is to have strong connections with other people. Whether that is labeled as “networking” or a “friendship”, it is all the same. Your career and life happiness depends upon relationships with other people. Building on that, having high social intelligence will be of the utmost importance, working in any type of veterinary medicine, from policy to industry and practice.

Mentorship is another incredibly important piece of being successful through veterinary school and afterwards. I have two main mentors back at Colorado State, and, while they have very different careers, what they share is a sense of humility. When someone portrays their successes in a humble fashion, it is easier to envision yourself attaining similar achievements in the future. There are many humbling experiences in D.C., from visiting the monuments, to the museums, and the vast expanse of the house and senate office buildings. My advice is to experience as much as you can in your month and don’t forget to sit down, be humble.

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June 23, 2017

Alphabet Soup

By Merrill Simpson
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This week we visited USDA-APHIS and met with veterinarians working in a variety of roles- from foreign animal disease outbreak prevention to policy and science technology development. The toughest part about the day was keeping up with the acronyms. Vet school only prepared me so much for the onslaught of acronyms. My advice is to study the “Acronyms and Initialisms” list we are given when we arrive at the externship.

Attending the BOD (Board of Directors) meeting this week reminded me of the importance of word choice. There were deliberations over the way policies and recommendations were written. While this may seem tedious, it is extremely important to have correct grammar and ensure proper communication of a stance AVMA takes on policy related to veterinary medicine. While I haven’t sat in to watch a bill being drafted, I can make an educated guess that there is extensive deliberation over sentence structure and word choice.

Language is really powerful, if you want to work in policy, it is important to be articulate and have a good handle on the written word. For certain international relations positions, it would be imperative to be fluent in another language. To give your brain a break from all the acronyms, take some time to visit the U.S. Botanical Gardens and the monuments. D.C. is an incredible place to explore! More D.C. advice is to get comfortable with the word “interesting” because everyone uses it for any situation where they are trying to be PC (one final acronym).

AbeBotanical Gardens

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 23, 2017

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?

By Kerri Haider
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This week Merrill and I headed to the USDA for a day to meet veterinarians in the different APHIS programs. The day started out early- arriving at 7am and going until 5:30pm with a meeting over our lunch hour. Getting up at 4:45am and walking to the bus I felt like I was walking through a scene from The Walking Dead, no one was walking down the usually bustling sidewalks and no cars could be seen. It was an eerie experience but the bus finally came and the trek to Maryland began. Once at the USDA we met with veterinarians from all areas of APHIS such as: Veterinary Services (VS), Surveillance, Preparedness and Response Services, The Avian, Swine and Aquatic Health Center, International Services (IS), Animal Health (AH), National Import Export Services, Office of Interagency Coordination Science, Technology, and Analysis Services, Emergency Management and Diagnostics, National Center for Animal Health Emergency Management, and The Preparedness and Incident Coordination Program. As you can see it was quite the day full of new acronyms and meeting veterinarians with YEARS of experience in many different walks of vet med. We even got to sit in on a Live Animal Imports meeting and learned about the daily struggles that veterinarians in that field have to overcome. One of my favorite meetings involved talking about Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) and the response to the outbreaks that have occurred in the past few years. It was interesting to see the vast number of departments at the USDA with veterinarians who worked on fighting that outbreak. Overall the day was amazing and I still don’t think I could tell you all of the acronyms that were used in each department!

This Friday AM we decided to take a tour of the Capital building through Senator Al Franken’s office. This was a great experience and a fun fact about the image below is the painted mural that lines the top of the capitol rotunda is a painting of George Washington ascending to heaven. It was an amazing building with deep historical roots of American History and I encourage anyone who is in D.C. to check it out! That’s all for now, stay tuned for a recap after our final week in the big city!

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June 16, 2017

A D.C. One Health Epidemic

By Kerri Haider
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This week we had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with Dr. Bernadette Dunham from George Washington University Milken Institute of Public Health. Dr. Dunham has worked in the FDA CVM promoting One Health and she was even an Assistant Director at the AVMA GRD! We met Dr. Dunham at the Milken Institute of Public Health’s new building in the heart of the University. It was a breath of fresh air talking with Dr. Dunham about our profession and the great advancements we have been making in the One Health realm. We discussed an amazing collaboration between human and animal doctors at Colorado State University where doctors looked at the similarities between human pediatric bone cancer and osteosarcomas in dogs. The collaboration was a great success and a huge positive for the One Health movement. Leaving Dr. Dunham’s office left me feeling excited for my future and for the future of veterinary and human medicine. There are great resources online available to all – including the Global One Health Proceedings, the Spillover documentary, the 15 One Health Studies from the AAVMC and much more. Dr. Dunham had a great appreciation for the importance of sharing knowledge and I hope more veterinarians and students will continue to share and grow our profession!
Another Great event that we attended was the Science Breakthrough of 2030 at the National Academy of Sciences. We networked with the board members and others from the scientific community on the proposed projects for agricultural research and development. It was an honor to be a part of such an important event and be exposed to so many talented scientists. We met veterinarians who are passionate about changing the stigmas within the profession and creating more awareness of the importance of veterinarians being involved in food security. After the event I felt inspired to spread the word to other veterinary students about the amazing career options in agriculture and food security and I plan on making a network for students to be apart of such affairs.
On that note, the last two weeks have been AMAZING and I cant wait to see what the next two weeks have in store! Until next time, keep sharing the knowledge!

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