Let me start out by saying that this experience has been outstanding. It absolutely has been more than I expected. I have had the chance to interact with so many different people and I now have a much better appreciation for the opportunities that veterinarians have in “non-traditional” careers. At the end of the day, however, I’ve come to realize that veterinarians can do just about anything.
Truth be told, I knew very little about the roles veterinarians played in the federal work force before I started here. And even now, though I’ve spoken with veterinarians in all sorts of different fields, doing all sorts of different things, the role of veterinarians in the federal workforce is still very nebulous to me. However, I think they would all sort-of agree that that is true. What I’ve learned most from this experience is that a DVM is one of the most flexible and applicable degrees you can earn. Therefore, I have to assume it’s one of the most valuable degrees out there, and I feel even more privileged to be achieving mine in two years, regardless of what I end up doing.
Over these past weeks I’ve gotten great advice from a number of veterinarians, and I thank them all for taking the time to sit down with me. However, a couple messages really stuck out. Dr. Michelle Colby, with the Department of Homeland Security, to help me with my career dilemmas, told me to ‘figure out my dream job, and then convince them that you’re the right person for it.’ In other words, don’t restrict my job search to positions looking for specifically for veterinarians. This degree is more flexible than that, and many people may not know that they are actually looking to hire a vet.
Also very helpful was Dr. Ellen Carlin, with the House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security. She encouraged me to use my local resources to find nontraditional connections in the field, and not think that I had to immediately reach out to the federal level, which can be daunting. This idea of “think globally, act locally” is something that I’ve advocated before in other applications, but hadn’t thought of in the veterinary context. I am thankful to her for opening my eyes to my own local networks.
Lastly of course I’m very grateful to the gracious and welcoming AVMA-GRD staff and all the opportunities they’ve allowed me here. I am truly honored to have been selected for this position, and I cannot measure the amount it has enriched my veterinary education. I encourage other veterinary students who are interested in pursuing something other than, or in addition to, private practice to apply for this externship. It may be very eye-opening and invaluable to those students uncertain about their career paths. It has certainly changed my perspective of veterinary medicine, and as I start my third year I will work to apply everything I’ve learned.
Thanks for reading, and War Eagle!