Our tea is restocked. The schedule is finalized. And the folders are stuffed. Next week about a hundred veterinary students and veterinarians will come to our nation’s capital. They will discuss with their representatives the two issues that Patricia and I have been advocating for these past three weeks: reauthorization of the Higher Education Act and the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program Enhancement Act. The AVMA Legislative Fly-In is a two-day affair that trains participants to effectively convey the issues selected. On the first day, a series of programs are set-up to teach participants about the issues and to familiarize them with etiquette on the Hill. They are given issue briefs as well as some additional guidelines to help educate them on the two topics. Then, on the second day, participants dress-up and go to meet with their Congressional offices.
Last year, both Patricia and I participated in the Fly-In. It was a whirlwind of running from one office to another, but it was so much fun. Actually discussing issues with staffers made the legislative process a lot clearer to me. While I could have drawn diagrams or rattled off facts about the process, actually partaking in it was a very educational experience. And, I learned a lot about the issues. Ultimately, the experience led me to apply to this externship.
This year, participants will be discussing topics that I have grown quite familiar with. I have really enjoyed this externship, but over the past couple weeks it has become increasingly obvious to me that, away from vet school, veterinarians are not a popular breed. In fact, here in DC, even having a first-hand understanding of agriculture is very rare. Thus, I am very excited to be joined on the Hill with so many students and veterinarians who do have that background. Hopefully, next week we will be able help others understand the importance of agriculture and attracting veterinarians to underserved areas as well as our tremendous debt burden.