Hello from the nation’s capital! It is a very interesting time to be in DC. With changes in congress, a new administration, and crazy spring weather there are many things occurring! Throughout the month of March I am serving as a veterinary medical student extern with the AVMA governmental relations division here in Washington. That means I am not working in an animal hospital, but am instead learning all about the intricacies of our federal government, veterinarians who serve, and how the AVMA works to advocate for our profession’s best interest in regards to policy. The first few days have been very busy and engaging.
We began the week with some of the usual first day stuff, meeting new people, discussing goals, but then we jumped right into the issues. There are a variety of issues that the AVMA is constantly tracking at the federal level for the profession. Perhaps most important to students are the cost of education and debt issues. There is a wide variety of legislation regarding this. Other current issues include horse soring, compounding drugs, the veterinary feed directive, wildlife, disease management, funding concerns, and the entire farm bill. It truly is a lot to keep track of.
The week continued with a variety of congressional meetings and correspondence between staff and a number of congressional offices. One example included a meeting with the United States Animal Health Association, the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians, and the AVMA’s DC office. There was a congressional briefing on antimicrobial resistance which included various scientists, doctors, and a patient’s story. This was particularly interesting because there are so many stakeholders and concerns to this issue: there simply is no magic fix.
On Thursday I attended two congressional subcommittee meetings. The first was with the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee which involved a discussion on the use of science in rulemaking. Scientific research is used by a variety of government agencies ranging from the USDA, EPA, FDA, OSHA, and many other fun acronyms. It is important that the research used be accurate, up to date, truthful, and ideally un-politicized. My afternoon hearing included the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture, and Research meeting about the inclusion of specialty crops in the next farm bill.
Between these two committee meetings on Thursday I was able to have a quick visit to the US Botanic Gardens (https://www.usbg.gov/). The gardens are located just a few minute walk from the capitol building on the grounds. The gardens have a long history and were originally an idea of George Washington himself with Congress formally establishing the gardens in 1820. This botanic gardens is the oldest continually operating in the country and has over 10,000 living plants with some being over 150 years old. There are a variety of areas including rare and endangered, desert, jungle, orchids, and Hawaii to name a few. Naturally, my favorite specimen was the chocolate tree! If you ever find yourself in the nation’s capital, the gardens are a must see.
So, it is not all meetings and work here!! In addition to the Botanic Gardens visit this week I had a congressional reception with the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges one evening after their congressional visits. I also had the opportunity to have lunch with Congressman Ralph Abraham from Louisiana, one of three veterinarians in Congress. More on that next time!
Thanks for reading folks! Peace. Love. Tigers.