May 27, 2016

Tidbits of Success

By Jennifer Stiles
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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:

  1. We are ambassadors of our profession.
  2. 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.
  3. If you are proud of what you are doing, you are doing it right.
  4. 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
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Bring your skill sets and work well together in all aspects.
  8. Smile and have a firm handshake.













May 27, 2016

One Health

By Stephanie Willney
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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!

One Health








May 25, 2016

D.C. Must Be Explored, Caw Caw Roar!

By Stephanie Willney
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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!

  1. 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.
  2.  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
  3.  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.
  4.  Basement Cafeterias in Longworth, Dirksen and Rayburn: Ben and Jerry’s and Dunkin Donuts. Need I say more?
  5. 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!
  6. 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!

May 24, 2016

Hill visits can be conquered

By Jennifer Stiles
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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!



Meeting Congressman Schrader


Sample email:

Dear _______,

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 __________.



May 24, 2016

The Smithsonian’s

By Stephanie Willney
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When the word “Smithsonian” is said, do pictures of Robin Williams and Ben Stiller galloping down the hallways of a museum come to mind? Surely I can’t be the only one who thinks of this!










The Smithsonian Institution is actually comprised of 19 museums and research centers. Although we have a limited time here at the AVMA-GRD externship, we’ve been trying our hardest to visit as many as possible. 17 of these museums are located on the National Mall, making them easily accessible to those taking public transportation. All are free but you should budget about $15 if you plan on eating a meal there. (Note: most don’t allow outside food into the building). Let’s take a look at them!

1) African American History and Culture Museum: One of the newest museums which will open September 24th, 2016!
2) African Art Museum: A smaller, two story museum with great temporary exhibits. This museum could easily be done in an hour or so.
3) Air and Space Museum: A larger museum with A LOT of exhibits to see. It can be a crowded museum as there are a lot of plaques to read about the exhibits if you want to get a lot out of your visit. This museum also has multiple dining options including McDonalds making lunch cost a little less than the general $15.Air and Space

  • Tourist Tip: The metro stop to get here is L’Enfant Plaza. Make sure you exit on Maryland Avenue or else it’s very easy to get lost (speaking from experience here). L’Enfant Plaza can be a tricky stop to navigate…but they do have some cute paintings of astronaut Weimaraners on the walls!

4) Air and Space Museum Udvar-Hazy Center: located in Virgina, this building houses artifacts that are too large to be displayed in the Air and Space Museum. If you have a car and drive out here, parking is $15 but free after 4pm (the museum closes at 5:30pm daily). The only dining option at the museum is McDonalds. They also offer free 90 minute tours!
5) American Art Museum: There are a lot of galleries to see here. Don’t feel bad if you can’t make it to all of them and be sure to bring a bottle of water to stay hydrated! Again, speaking from experience, it’s easy to get caught up in the galleries and forget to stay hydrated. There are numerous free tours here but if you want to go at your own pace there is an audio tour option. There are booths set up near the entrances that will hold your I.D. in exchange for a flip-phone like device that allows you to dial in numbers and receive information about the artwork you are looking at.
6) American History Museum: This is a decently sized museum that can be done during half of the afternoon. Be sure to see Prince’s “Yellow Cloud” electric guitar, Julia Child’s kitchen, Dorothy’s ruby slippers and all the first ladies’ inaugural gowns on display here!
7) American Indian Museum: This museum has a lot of history to read through. The best part about this museum though? The food! It is expensive, but the meal options here are adventurous!
8) Anacostia Community Museum: This is a smaller museum that’s usually not as crowded and can be done in about an hour or so. Check their website for unique, monthly events!
9) Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and the Freer Gallery of Art: these are two museums of Asian art that are beautiful buildings inside and out. Be sure to make some time to sit outside in the beautiful gardens of these two galleries. Maybe even plan for a picnic!
10) Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden: This sculpture garden houses many exhibits and a big, beautiful water fountain that you can sit around. It’s located right next to the National Gallery of Art making it easy to spend an afternoon exploring a lot of the artwork in DC.

Zoo11) National Zoo: This zoo was built in 1889 but don’t let that fool you! It’s a beautiful place that offers mostly outdoor exhibits but also some exploration. Be sure to wear very comfortable walking shoes and be prepared to pay for parking if you drive ($22). There is a wonderful frozen yogurt and cake pop shop across the street from the Connecticut Ave exit that is a must! There’s even a giant panda in the cake pop shop window so you can’t miss it!
12) Natural History Museum: Must see exhibits: the Hope Diamond, Family Hall of Mammals and the Ocean Hall. This is a medium sized museum with a lot of opportunities to sit down and watch short, educational videos on the exhibits.

  • Tourist Tip: There are A LOT of food trucks that line the entrance to this museum. Can you say endless options for lunch!? (Budget ~$10 if you plan to eat lunch at one of the food trucks)

13) Portrait Gallery: This gallery contains the nation’s only complete collection of portraits of our nation’s Presidents outside of the White House!
14) Postal Museum: Fours words….world’s largest stamp collection.
15) Renwick Gallery: Beautiful building and is located right across the street from the White House so make sure to be a tourist and plan to visit the White House if you go here. The “Wonder” Exhibit is a must see if you go here!
16) Smithsonian Institution Building (The Castle): Smithsonian’s first building serves as headquarters now allowing you to plan your visit to the surrounding Smithsonian museums and learn about Smithsonian Institution’s history!
17) Arts and Industries Building: Unfortunately this museum is currently closed and will reopen late 2016.

May 23, 2016

Words of Wisdom

By Jennifer Stiles
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Non-clinical practice is still practicing veterinary medicine, just in a different way. – Assistant to Congresswoman

We must place ourselves in a species neutral mindset because animals, people, and the environment are all interconnected. – Homeland Security Personnel

Veterinarians are scientists. – Food Animal Veterinarian

Explore and connect with as many different people as possible. Networking is important. – Epidemiologist

Keep an open mind. – USDA Veterinary Services Personnel

Don’t settle for something that won’t make you happy. – Homeland Security Personnel

Demand the best of yourself and your school or company. – Zoo Veterinarian

Don’t be afraid of making a mistake. You will likely make mistakes but it is important to learn from them. – Zoo Veterinarian

Veterinary medicine is versatile and you can work in numerous aspects of this field throughout your career. – National Institutes of Health Personnel

Veterinarians are natural problem solvers and are often very prepared to solve many different problems facing the world. – FDA veterinarian

May 20, 2016

Veterinary Medicine’s Best Kept Secret

By Stephanie Willney
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Veterinary Medicine’s best kept secret does not show you how to get a 4.0 or how to get on the surgery resident’s good side. It doesn’t even show you how to avoid gaining weight while eating a diet consisting of oreos and mac ‘n cheese during finals week. It’s better than all of that! Veterinary Medicine’s best kept secret is… (drum roll, please)… the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. Public Health Service, or Commissioned Corps, is a non-military uniformed service under the direction of the United State Department of Health and Human services led by the Surgeon General. Although it’s a non-military service, they can get deployed (for 2 weeks) most commonly as support to FEMA to care for animals, but can also be asked to assist in foreign governmental aid. Recent examples of deployment include the Ebola outbreak, Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill.

The Public Health Service began in 1798 in a Marine Hospital which was charged with caring for merchant sailors. As the hospital grew, so did the organization’s mission of service. At first only open to physicians, it now includes dentists, clinical and rehabilitation therapists, dieticians, engineers, environmental health specialists, nurses, pharmacists, veterinarians and even other health specialists like physician assistants. For veterinarians specifically, enlisting for the Public Health Services allows you to work for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and in other Federal agencies. Veterinarians in the Public Health Service are most commonly found in the CDC, NIH, FDA, USDA and EPA.


Pros of joining USPHS

Cons of joining USPHS

-You have to wear a uniform to work. Much like scrubs, no decision making has to go into what you wear to work!

-There is a fitness requirement. What good motivation to stay in shape!

-You must stay current on ALL vaccines (even the flu shot!) and they’re paid for by the government

-Great benefits:

G.I. Bill – free instate education for you or you can transfer it to one of your children

Free health and dental care (no co-pays/deductibles) at the VA hospitals for you and low cost healthcare for your familly

Retirement package if you serve for 20 years. You can also extend this for 30 years which would increase your retirement package. Additionally, you can retire, receive you retirement benefits and continue to work at another job.

Housing allowance, subsistence (food) allowance, Loan repayment, paid vacation, sick leave and maternity leave

-Great, supportive network that fosters leadership and continuing education. In fact, most officers get board certified through the G.I. bill

-You don’t have to apply for a federal position through which can be a lengthy process

-Unlike the Army Corps you don’t have move around every two years

-You have to pay for your uniform (However, the uniform is quality material and made to last) and there are strict requirements on how to wear the uniform

- The Public Health Services requires a fitness test once per year

-Applying for promotions is extremely competitive and requires good timing with a whole lot of luck. The Surgeon General decides how many applicants are accepted for a promotion each year and this is not based on your rank as an officer.

-Openings for veterinarians right now can be hard to come by due to need in specific agencies (USDA-FSIS currently has the greatest need for veterinarians)

-You can get deployed to assist with FEMA, but deployments are only two weeks long.

-Lower salary compared to most federal jobs, however, 1/3rd of your salary is non-taxable and the benefits are designed to make up for this

May 20, 2016

National Institutes of Health

By Jennifer Stiles
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The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is the nation’s medical research agency and the largest source of funding for medical research in the world. NIH’s mission is to seek fundamental knowledge about the nature and behavior of living systems… and the application of that knowledge to enhance health, lengthen life, and reduce illness and disability. Some of the impacts on medical research on US health include decreasing cancer rates by 1% per year, decreasing cardiovascular disease deaths >60% in the last half-century, and people with HIV are living to 70+.

NIH supports scientists who perform research in the numerous institutes (intramural research) as well as thousands of scientists in universities, hospitals, and research institutions (extramural research). Intramural research receives 11% of NIH’s budget. Extramural research receives 81% of the NIH budget.


More than 50 veterinarians work in NIH programs. Veterinarians at NIH provide veterinary care, monitor disease control programs, manage surgical support facilities, serve on Animal Care and Use Committees (IACUC), provide diagnostic services, provide advice on regulatory issues, review grant applications, oversee administration of grants or contracts, and conduct research. NIH veterinarians can work in laboratory animal medicine, pathology, grants administration, regulatory compliance, and/or translational research. Employment opportunities include being a commissioned officer in the Public Health Service, General Service as a civilian, Title 42, or a contract employee.

Training opportunities for veterinarians and veterinary students:
1) NIH Comparative Biomedical Scientist Training Program (CBSTP)

  • Interdisciplinary cross-over training in animal and human health
  • Training leads to a Ph.D. and eligibility for certification as a medical specialist in veterinary pathology

2) Summer Internship Program in Biomedical Research for Veterinary Students

  • Focus on comparative molecular pathology and comparative oncology in human biomedical research

3) NIH ORIP Career Development

  • Research career development for veterinarians

4) Summer Programs for Veterinary Students (T35)

  • Work with mentors in active laboratories

5) Pre-doctoral Programs (T32)

  • One year fellowship

6) Postdoctoral Programs (T32)

  • Graduate research training leading to Ph.D.

7) NIH Loan Repayment Program

  • Available to veterinarians participating in clinical research for human diseases
  • Repays up to $35,000 annually
May 18, 2016

Avian Influenza: Concerns and Challenges

By Jennifer Stiles
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Avian influenza outbreaks are of concern in domesticated birds for several reasons. These reasons include the potential for low pathogenic H5 and H7 viruses to evolve into highly pathogenic viruses, the potential for rapid spread and significant illness and death among poultry during outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza, the economic impact, trade restrictions, and also the possibility that avian influenza A viruses could be transmitted to humans.

Low pathogenicity avian influenza can be asymptomatic or can produce respiratory signs such as sneezing, coughing, ocular and nasal discharge, swollen infraorbital sinuses in poultry and sinusitis in domestic ducks, quail, and turkeys. Lesions in the respiratory tract typically include congestion and inflammation of the trachea and lungs. In layers and breeders, there may be decreased egg production or fertility. Acute renal failure and visceral urate deposition (visceral gout) have also been reported. The morbidity and mortality is usually low unless accompanied by secondary bacterial or viral infections or aggravated by environmental stressors.

High pathogenicity avian influenza viruses cause severe, systemic disease with high mortality in chickens, turkeys, and other gallinaceous poultry; up to 100%. In peracute cases, clinical signs or gross lesions may be lacking before death. However, in acute cases, lesions may include cyanosis and edema of the head, comb, wattle, and snood; edema and red discoloration of the shanks and feet due to subcutaneous hemorrhages; petechial hemorrhages on visceral organs and in muscles; and blood tinged oral and nasal discharges. In severely affected birds, greenish diarrhea is common. Birds that survive the peracute infection may develop central nervous signs.

Recently the poultry industry suffered a devastating outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza. Since December of 2014, the Pacific, Central, and Mississippi flyways saw cases of wild birds, commercial turkey, commercial chicken, egg layers, small backyard flocks, and mixed backyard flocks infections. After confirmation of infection, positive flocks were quarantined, depopulated, and disposed of by burial, landfill, or composting. Cleaning (dry and/or wet) and disinfection (chemical and/or heat) was required. Negative premise tests and a fallow period were required before restocking birds. HPAI has impacted 211 commercial and 21 backyard poultry premises. 7.5 million turkeys and 42.1 million egg¬layer and pullet chickens were depopulated resulting in economic and emotional hardship. The value of turkey and laying hen loss was $1.6 billion. The economy suffered an estimated $3.3 billion during this outbreak.

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to be involved in the cleaning & disinfection phases as well as environmental sampling. It was a great opportunity to see how such a large outbreak was controlled. I was able to see some of the challenges faced by the response including limited availability of responders, time constraints on depopulation as well as the entire operation, and biosecurity.

Below is a summary of the outbreak and resources to review.

H5N1 (2 outbreaks)
- Jan 16 2015 – Washington: Wild American green-winged teal duck
- March 5 2015 – Washington: Wild bird surveillance.
H5N8 (22 outbreaks)

H5N8 Outbreak Map












H5N2 (241 outbreaks)

H5N2 Outbreak Map












May 13, 2016

Discovering Your Degree’s Potential

By Stephanie Willney
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USDAOver these past two weeks I’ve truly learned what a great profession we’ve gotten ourselves into. I’ve heard mentors describe a DVM (or VMD!) as one of the most versatile degrees you could possibly get. Turns out they weren’t joking about that!

As I continue to discover different positions veterinarians hold in federal and national organizations the opportunities we have in this profession seem endless. To date, I’ve met with veterinarians in the Army, USDA-APHIS, the Department of Homeland Security, EPA, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges. That’s not all though, in the next two weeks I have appointments to meet with veterinarians who work with USDA-FSIS, the FDA, CDC, NIH and even the National Zoo! Do we have a great profession or what?!

What struck me the most about meeting with these wonderful role models is what they do on a day to day basis. Their official titles may be different and they may work in different agencies, but at the end of the day they all serve our country by protecting people, animals and our nation’s food sources. If you have some time, I encourage you to browse USAJobs and search “veterinarian” or “0701” (the veterinary series). Believe me, you’ll be surprised with what you find!

With all these diverse job opportunities for someone with a veterinary degree, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. As I enter my fourth year, I’m now realizing there is potential to do so much more than I ever thought I could in this profession. For so long my goals revolved around getting into vet school then making it through vet school. Now that I’ve mostly met these goals, I’m faced with the challenge of discovering what my next step will be. As I met with a veterinarian at the Department of Homeland Security he encouraged me to make a list of my professional goals, my personal goals and my values and to revisit it often. While things change, having this list, he described, can help ground you and motivate you to explore job opportunities that truly resonate with your ideals. Keeping in mind though, sometimes we also have to do jobs that aren’t perfect for us but serve as stepping stones to further our career and our personal goals. He also “prescribed” reading The Critical First Years of Your Professional Life by Robert L. Dilenschneider to help discover ways to take charge of career goals.

So what were the credentials of this vet who decided to impart great life advice to me in middle of the Department of Homeland Security’s office? Well, as described by himself, he’s just a vet who’s found a way to do just about everything wrong before he did it right and has learned so much because of that. He strives to share his mistakes with others so they don’t make them and loves to gives tips he’s picked up along the way. As I’ve experienced in this profession already, we are a tight knit group of professionals. There’s reason we say, “Welcome to the vet med family!” when we hear of someone getting their acceptance letter. Not only am I thankful for a degree that opens so many doors for me, I’m thankful to have mentors and peers right alongside me for guidance and support.