In setting up meetings last week and planning my ‘to-do’ list for the next few weeks I came to a startling realization last night; I only have 20 days left in town! That seems outrageous considering the amount I want to accomplish, and how busy I have been.
This weekend I had the opportunity to begin exploring the Smithsonian. The Natural History Museum is fascinating for anyone with an interest in animals. I wandered around there for a good part of Saturday and particularly enjoyed the exhibit ‘X-ray Vision: Fish Inside Out’ which included radiographic images of all sorts of fish. I was interested from an academic standpoint but I was impressed by how the relevant information was presented to the public.
Afterwards I stopped by the American History Museum. The star spangled banner exhibit, the display of the actual flag that inspired the Star Spangled Banner, blew me away. Sunday, I met a friend for brunch, which he recommends to everyone, because “DC is a brunch town” before heading to the Air and Space museum for an overload on aeronautical information.
Today the AVMA-GRD offices are playing host to a group of educators from the Associated Colleges of the Midwest, a consortium of liberal arts colleges, interested in animal welfare and the role of veterinarians in non-traditional or public practice. Dr. Valerie Ragan, with VA-MD Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, Center for Government and Corporate Veterinary Medicine spoke to them first about veterinary public practice. She discussed the broadness of a veterinary education, and how veterinary students are uniquely qualified for a variety of positions that the average person, and even veterinary students themselves, may not consider. Dr. Ragan talked about the ways in which students at VA-MD Regional CVM are trained to think about the public aspects of veterinary medicine and the “alternative” careers they might pursue. She definitely got me interested in looking into completing one of my fourth year rotations there, studying public policy.
Next, the group listened to Dr. Gail Golab, from the AVMA’s Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, as she discussed animal welfare and the role of the AVMA in welfare policy making. Throughout both of these presentations, the group asked many questions, from how veterinary students are selected, to the AVMA’s policy on tail docking. For the later question, Dr. Golab referenced the AVMA website’s policy page [http://www.avma.org/issues/policy/] which is a valuable resource that I wasn’t aware of for gaining information on the AVMA’s position on all sorts of issues.
For me, both of these women did an excellent job of making veterinary medicine relatable to an audience that did not have much background knowledge on the profession. They represented the importance of good communication skills and the necessity for veterinarians to find a common language with which to speak to the public. This is crucial for changing the way the public thinks about what veterinarians can do, a theme I’ve found to be common to most veterinarians in public practice.