Hello everyone! My name is Dana Koch and I’m a 4th year veterinary student at the University of Pennsylvania and the current AVMA-GRD extern for September-October. I was warned that my time here would fly-by, but I didn’t realize how busy and fun this first week would be! I felt very welcomed by the amazing GRD staff and truly appreciate the opportunity to be down here in Washington, D.C. My fellow extern Kristin and I have been busy making meetings with other veterinarians in the area, state representatives, and attending a variety of hearings, rallies and topic discussions. D.C. is really a wonderful place to expand your knowledge and meet a ton of interesting people with diversified jobs and backgrounds.
On Thursday, I had the opportunity to attend a hearing with the Senate Committee of Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. The topic of this hearing was improving college affordability, which is obviously an issue that hits close to home. The main focus was centered on the actions or measures each individual state could take to improve the financial crisis students are experiencing with higher education. As addressed during the meeting, 11.5% of state governments contribute aid into higher education which has declined almost 3 percent since 1990. In addition, the student debt has reached the one trillion dollar mark and it is imperative that changes need to be made before the cost of college spirals out of control. There were several speakers on the panel including Dr. Muriel A. Howard, President of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities in Washington D.C. and Dr. Camille Preus, Commissioner of the Oregon Departments of Community Colleges and Workforce Development. There were many strategies discussed including incentive funding for both students and institutions for performing well and achieving pre-determined benchmarks, early intervention programs for struggling students, and utilizing technology to reform the learning process. Overall, it was suggested that there needs to be a more structured collaboration and balance between the federal government, the state governments, the institutions and the students. Personally, I know there is no easy solution to this issue and it is a harsh reality that the majority of veterinary students will be entering the workforce burdened by an extremely large amount of debt.
Also on Thursday, I was invited to attend the One Health Academy’s meeting to discuss disaster risk reduction and the importance of utilizing the appropriate tools to combat worldwide emergency threats to public safety and public health. There were two very dynamic speakers, Dr. Gavin Macgregor-Skinner, Assistant Professor in the Department of Public Health and Sciences at Penn State College of Medicine and Carl Taylor, the director of the Center for Strategic Health Innovation (CSHI) and the National Center for Disaster Medical Response. I really enjoyed this event because it brought to light the importance of veterinary medicine on a global level and stressed the correlation between veterinary medicine and public health. Both speakers discussed the importance of proper preparation for any type of disaster, as well as the essential nature of a focused purpose and the impact technological advancements can have in disaster situations. Dr. Macgregor-Skinner spoke of earthquake detectors on Twitter, Africa’s social network Mxit, and cell phone applications used to accurately create disinfectant solutions to eliminate diseases, such as the Avian Flu in Indonesia. He ended with a quote that I thought summed up a great deal of his presentation, “If you cannot predict, then you have to prepare for what you cannot possibly predict.” It was a wonderful experience to be in a room full of veterinarians, as well as other individuals in related fields interested in creating a difference across the globe.
Overall, this week has surpassed my expectations and I have realized two very important things: 1. There is always new knowledge to be gained and taking the time to listen to a variety of individuals is a rewarding experience and 2. The inventor of the comfortable women’s dress shoe would be an extremely rich person.