June 29, 2017

Winter is Coming

By Kerri Haider
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For all of you Game of Thrones (GOT) fans out there, here is a little treat! At the moment D.C. is hosting a pop-up themed bar after the popular series Game of Thrones. On Saturday evening we biked from a river boat tour to the acclaimed bar… the line was 3 hours long. Even though my colleagues and I were all DIE HARD fans of the series we decided to call it a night. On Tuesday evening we went back to try again- and behold- the line was only 45 minutes! Once we entered the bar there were decorations themed around GOT and renaissance music that made us feel like we were in Westeros about to meet some dragons. There were drinks with names like “The Lannisters Send Their Regards” and “The North Remembers” served in festive glasses and all were in good spirit. After perusing the bar and scenery we made our way back to the iron throne (pictured). There was a fur coat and of course an IRON THRONE to take pictures with (apparently this throne is Insta famous). I felt like a real Khaleesi princess after that evening of fun. I would recommend the bar to anyone in the area … but it will be gone soon so hurry in and get your fix before the new season starts in July.

This last week I also had the chance to meet a few members of congress. On Wednesday morning I had breakfast with MN Senator Al Franken (who started his career as a comedian on SNL by the way) and other Minnesotans (pictured). On Wednesday afternoon I met with Representative Kurt Schrader who was a veterinarian for many years before pursuing his career in politics. Finally, on Thursday morning I met with Representative Erik Paulsen and got to discuss the important issue of the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program Enhancement Act.

Overall this externship has been a great experience and I have met and made connections with so many wonderful veterinarians who have inspired me to think bigger about my career. I want to thank the AVMA Governmental Relations Division for helping make those contacts and providing me with the experience necessary to be confident discussing policy on the Hill. I’m sad to say goodbye to this beautiful city but that’s all for now folks!

GOTCapitolMN

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 29, 2017

Sit Down. Be Humble.

By Merrill Simpson
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We learned this from the wisdom of Kendrick Lamar (or whoever writes his lyrics) but I find it to ring true in many ways. The people I admire most have had these incredible, successful, and fulfilling careers while maintaining a sense of humility. Some veterinarians that come to my mind immediately are Dr. Linda Silvers, Dr. Bernadette Dunham, and Congressman Schrader. You will meet many others I did not list who have had remarkable accomplishments and are following these amazing, diverse career paths.

Unfortunately I had a reality check during my externship when a childhood friend suddenly passed away. My biggest take-away from this month is to have strong connections with other people. Whether that is labeled as “networking” or a “friendship”, it is all the same. Your career and life happiness depends upon relationships with other people. Building on that, having high social intelligence will be of the utmost importance, working in any type of veterinary medicine, from policy to industry and practice.

Mentorship is another incredibly important piece of being successful through veterinary school and afterwards. I have two main mentors back at Colorado State, and, while they have very different careers, what they share is a sense of humility. When someone portrays their successes in a humble fashion, it is easier to envision yourself attaining similar achievements in the future. There are many humbling experiences in D.C., from visiting the monuments, to the museums, and the vast expanse of the house and senate office buildings. My advice is to experience as much as you can in your month and don’t forget to sit down, be humble.

MonumentsCapitol CeilingGWMe and Kerri

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 23, 2017

Alphabet Soup

By Merrill Simpson
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This week we visited USDA-APHIS and met with veterinarians working in a variety of roles- from foreign animal disease outbreak prevention to policy and science technology development. The toughest part about the day was keeping up with the acronyms. Vet school only prepared me so much for the onslaught of acronyms. My advice is to study the “Acronyms and Initialisms” list we are given when we arrive at the externship.

Attending the BOD (Board of Directors) meeting this week reminded me of the importance of word choice. There were deliberations over the way policies and recommendations were written. While this may seem tedious, it is extremely important to have correct grammar and ensure proper communication of a stance AVMA takes on policy related to veterinary medicine. While I haven’t sat in to watch a bill being drafted, I can make an educated guess that there is extensive deliberation over sentence structure and word choice.

Language is really powerful, if you want to work in policy, it is important to be articulate and have a good handle on the written word. For certain international relations positions, it would be imperative to be fluent in another language. To give your brain a break from all the acronyms, take some time to visit the U.S. Botanical Gardens and the monuments. D.C. is an incredible place to explore! More D.C. advice is to get comfortable with the word “interesting” because everyone uses it for any situation where they are trying to be PC (one final acronym).

AbeBotanical Gardens

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 23, 2017

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?

By Kerri Haider
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This week Merrill and I headed to the USDA for a day to meet veterinarians in the different APHIS programs. The day started out early- arriving at 7am and going until 5:30pm with a meeting over our lunch hour. Getting up at 4:45am and walking to the bus I felt like I was walking through a scene from The Walking Dead, no one was walking down the usually bustling sidewalks and no cars could be seen. It was an eerie experience but the bus finally came and the trek to Maryland began. Once at the USDA we met with veterinarians from all areas of APHIS such as: Veterinary Services (VS), Surveillance, Preparedness and Response Services, The Avian, Swine and Aquatic Health Center, International Services (IS), Animal Health (AH), National Import Export Services, Office of Interagency Coordination Science, Technology, and Analysis Services, Emergency Management and Diagnostics, National Center for Animal Health Emergency Management, and The Preparedness and Incident Coordination Program. As you can see it was quite the day full of new acronyms and meeting veterinarians with YEARS of experience in many different walks of vet med. We even got to sit in on a Live Animal Imports meeting and learned about the daily struggles that veterinarians in that field have to overcome. One of my favorite meetings involved talking about Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) and the response to the outbreaks that have occurred in the past few years. It was interesting to see the vast number of departments at the USDA with veterinarians who worked on fighting that outbreak. Overall the day was amazing and I still don’t think I could tell you all of the acronyms that were used in each department!

This Friday AM we decided to take a tour of the Capital building through Senator Al Franken’s office. This was a great experience and a fun fact about the image below is the painted mural that lines the top of the capitol rotunda is a painting of George Washington ascending to heaven. It was an amazing building with deep historical roots of American History and I encourage anyone who is in D.C. to check it out! That’s all for now, stay tuned for a recap after our final week in the big city!

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June 16, 2017

A D.C. One Health Epidemic

By Kerri Haider
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This week we had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with Dr. Bernadette Dunham from George Washington University Milken Institute of Public Health. Dr. Dunham has worked in the FDA CVM promoting One Health and she was even an Assistant Director at the AVMA GRD! We met Dr. Dunham at the Milken Institute of Public Health’s new building in the heart of the University. It was a breath of fresh air talking with Dr. Dunham about our profession and the great advancements we have been making in the One Health realm. We discussed an amazing collaboration between human and animal doctors at Colorado State University where doctors looked at the similarities between human pediatric bone cancer and osteosarcomas in dogs. The collaboration was a great success and a huge positive for the One Health movement. Leaving Dr. Dunham’s office left me feeling excited for my future and for the future of veterinary and human medicine. There are great resources online available to all – including the Global One Health Proceedings, the Spillover documentary, the 15 One Health Studies from the AAVMC and much more. Dr. Dunham had a great appreciation for the importance of sharing knowledge and I hope more veterinarians and students will continue to share and grow our profession!
Another Great event that we attended was the Science Breakthrough of 2030 at the National Academy of Sciences. We networked with the board members and others from the scientific community on the proposed projects for agricultural research and development. It was an honor to be a part of such an important event and be exposed to so many talented scientists. We met veterinarians who are passionate about changing the stigmas within the profession and creating more awareness of the importance of veterinarians being involved in food security. After the event I felt inspired to spread the word to other veterinary students about the amazing career options in agriculture and food security and I plan on making a network for students to be apart of such affairs.
On that note, the last two weeks have been AMAZING and I cant wait to see what the next two weeks have in store! Until next time, keep sharing the knowledge!

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June 16, 2017

“What do I want to be when I grow up?”

By Merrill Simpson
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This question became my mid-vet-school-crisis. At the end of 2nd year I realized my diverse interests were muddling my post-graduation path. I became jealous of those who JUST KNOW they need to be equine internal medicine specialists, small animal general practitioners, pathologists etc. While every path is challenging in different ways, there is some solace in knowing your plan. For the first time in my life I was without a plan, and terrified. What I have learned is “what do I want to be when I grow up?” should be rephrased to “what do I want to grow into as I explore the rest of my life?” Recently, I watched a Stanford webinar about applying design thinking to career planning. The webinar advised thinking of a career as a process instead of an end-goal. Meetings this week have solidified that advice as fact when it comes to veterinary medicine.  I have had the opportunity to talk with successful veterinarians working in policy, as professors, as researchers for the NIH and current and past congressional fellows. Some of the veterinarians JUST KNEW they never wanted to work in practice, but almost all of them had some experience in practice. There are important skills to be learned in veterinary school and practice that can be applied to a variety of positions. We had the privilege of attending a boat cruise for Congressman Yoho, a veterinarian and representative of Florida’s 3rd congressional district. When I asked Congressman Yoho about this transition from practice to politics- he said the driving force was his unrest with the state of the government at that time and his desire to make changes. One of my meetings was at the Congressional baseball game. It was heartwarming to see solidarity and bipartisan fun during a contentious time in D.C.  What I took away from this week is that the possibilities are endless and explore all your interests. In this process you learn so much about yourself and the next step in career exploration.  And have fun in the meantime!

Group Picture of Boat CruiseExterns with Dr YohoCongress Baseball

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 9, 2017

“So do you want to be a large or small animal vet?”

By Merrill Simpson
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You’ve probably experienced this as the first question people ask after you tell them you are a veterinary student. “None of the above or all of the above” never seem to be appropriate answers to this question. But that is exactly what this externship is about- discovering non-traditional roles veterinarians can play in public health, policy and industry. I began this externship by attending the Senate hearing on the proposed education budget. During the hearing one senator referred to the budget as “abysmal” but another, in favor of the budget, asked the question why he can’t have 6 different options for his children’s education like he does when he shops for mayonnaise. The proposed budget would be a hard hit for college students, particularly graduate students, in the area of loan repayment. This experience exemplified the intense environment the federal government is in right now, with more division than ever over major issues. This also reminded me of interconnectedness, and that what happens on a federal level will impact the veterinary community. Veterinarians need to step up and advocate for themselves, but the biggest lesson I took away from this experience is that we need to work together. Compromise will be an essential component of progress.  AVMA Assistant Director, Gina Luke, said “when I am representing the AVMA, I do not have a political party.” We cannot allow our personal differences to hinder collaboration.  We attended an event hosted by the Association for Public and Land Grant universities (APLU) targeting the issue of international food security. There were several graduate students in attendance that are doing research to help address the issue of international food security. At the event, some people seemed a little confused about the role veterinarians play in that sphere. My fellow extern, Kerri, brought up the One Health initiative and how veterinarians have a vital role in ensuring food safety and security. Veterinarians that work for FSIS and in other federal agencies play a major role in ensuring food security.  Mariana Barros of the National Association of Federal Veterinarians (NAFV) informed us that there is a 13% vacancy in veterinary jobs within FSIS and they are working to make those positions more appealing to veterinarians. One Health is a major initiative as we recognize the delicate interplay of humans, animals, and the environment. I have met several veterinarians engaged in the One Health initiative and this seems like a burgeoning opportunity for veterinarians interested in public health.

Trumpet HorseMe and Kerri Challenge Change

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 9, 2017

You Had Me At Hello

By Kerri Haider
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This was myself and Merrill Simpson’s first week in D.C. at the AVMA GRD Student Externship, and we are loving it! I was slightly nervous to move to the big city after having been in rural TN for the past three years but was up for the adventure. Having finally settled in and gotten the hang of the metro I am really enjoying traveling the city to Capitol Hill each day for various activities.

I am going to give you a short excerpt from how our first week went and all of the great things we have experienced already.

Day 1: Our first day at the AVMA GRD office, located in the quaint DuPont Circle area off of Sunderland Place, was an introduction into what to expect for the extent of our time here. We started the morning attending the weekly staff meeting and then continued our orientation on all of the objectives for this externship. We eagerly started contacting veterinarians from different federal branches and who work on Capitol Hill to set up meetings for the coming month. We also started to schedule evening events that you will read about below. After our first day we were excited to get rolling with the great opportunities ahead.

Day 2: We started the day off with a bang and headed to Capitol Hill early in the morning to attend the Senate Appropriations Hearing on the Education Budget. If anyone was watching the hearing you would know it got quite heated and interesting right off the bat. We learned about the shortcomings and improvements that the proposed education budget has and watched representatives inquire about their states needs and how the nation would respond to the proposed budget. After the hearing we headed back to the AVMA GRD to meet with Assistant Director Gina Luke to discuss her portfolio and what issues in Congress are important to the veterinary profession. Later that evening, we attended the Challenge Change event with professionals from various backgrounds collaborating on the issue of food security internationally. The event was held in the Rayburn House Office Building and it was a fun time trying to navigate our way around. At this event we mingled with students, congressmen, and professors who have been working on improving food security around the world. I was happy that one of my professors at LMU-CVM had thoroughly prepared me for conversations in such efforts and I was able to represent the veterinary profession in a knowledgeable way, exemplifying the skill set that veterinarians can bring to the table on food security issues.

Day 3: Today we met with the Director of the AVMA GRD, Dr. Mark Lutschaunig. We learned about his career path and what opportunities and hearings we can attend during our externship. We also had a meeting with Assistant Director Dr. Lauren Stump and spoke about the issues in her portfolio. We also picked her brain for good places to eat and what sites to see while in D.C. We rounded out the day with a tour of the Supreme Court. We learned about the process of court rulings and the history behind the building of the Supreme Court. During the evening we decided to try out happy hour at a tapas joint close to the office called Boqueria. It was delicious and we got a whole spread of authentic Spanish cuisine.

Day 4: We started the morning off at the Minnesota Breakfast meeting with Senator Amy Klobuchar. We enjoyed pastries flown in from MN and got to hear about the Senator’s major priorities. The breakfast was in the Hart Senate Office Building, where the famous Comey hearing was about to take place. We walked through the hallway and stood in the line to attend the hearing for about 5 minutes- just to say we were there. From there we headed over to the house side of the Hill and sat in on the Commodity Funding Trading Commission (CFTC) Budget Hearing. Finishing the day, we attended the One Health Academy monthly meeting at the Capital Yacht Club where we networked with other veterinarians interested in one health and learned about the Arctic Circle one health work being done by the US and Arctic Council.

Day 5: This morning I wanted to start the day off with a bang, so I woke up early to attend a yoga class across the street from where I am staying. After that I headed into the office where we had a meeting with Director of State Advocacy Dr. Ashley Morgan where we learned about her career path from equine medicine to policy. It was an uplifting morning discussing the career options for veterinarians and we are looking forward to the three weeks ahead. Later today I will be meeting with the Agriculture LA for Senator Gillibrand. Stay tuned for more updates from your AVMA GRD Externs on the Hill Each Friday!

KlobucharView from Capital Yacht Club

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 2, 2017

National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center

By Erin Holt
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On my last night out on the town in D.C., I attended the National Symphony Orchestra as they played Mahler’s Second Symphony at the Kennedy Center. It was literally the best music I have ever heard. Here are a few things you should know before attending an event at the Kennedy Center. First, you do not have to dress up. My husband and I did dress up, and we did not feel out of place, but many people were dressed pretty casually. Second, it takes a while to get there. The shows are almost always when traffic is heavy, so you may want to leave an hour early or more depending on how far outside the city you are. Third, they lock the doors when the performance starts and they will not let you in. (Side note, the symphony does not have an intermission, so there is no potty break.) If you are like me, then this means some serious advanced planning. I have to drink enough coffee to make sure I stay awake; even a magical performance can lull you to sleep after a full day of sight-seeing or hill visits. On top of that, I have to make sure I am staying hydrated and that I get a bathroom break in before the show starts. That’s a lot to juggle. So of course, I arrived at exactly 7PM, flew to will call to grab my tickets, ran up three flights of stairs with the ticket lady saying, “I hope you make it” just to plop into my seat about two minutes before they locked the doors, and had to hold it for 80 minutes. In spite of all of that, it was a magical night.

The symphony was the best performance. They were able to play music so quietly, so loudly, so accurately. It held my attention the entire time. Also, the opera sat behind the symphony and during the last pieces, they also sang. The music gave me goose bumps, brought tears to my eyes, and made me ponder how humans could create something so much larger than themselves. The orchestra, conductor, and opera performers received at least five rounds of applause before I left the theater. The Kennedy Center is built on the Potomac River, so make sure you stop outside after the performance and take in the river. In the front of the building, where your Lyft driver will drop you off, there are adorable balls of light (I called them jellyfish), check that out too.

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May 31, 2017

The D.C. Food Scene

By Erin Holt
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Most people eat in D.C. based on what is close to their neighborhood. And I can’t say that I blame them. Almost every corner here has fantastic food. Let me tell you about a few great places you can try if you are close by or if you feel like taking a little trek. First, let’s talk fast food. Probably the greatest burger joint on earth is In-N-Out Burger. Unfortunately, there are none on the east coast. The second best burger place is Shake Shack. I have tried everything but the hot dogs and my favorite is the cheeseburger with everything on it add ShackSauce, crinkle fries, and a vanilla shake. Best breakfast here so far has been A Baked Joint. They make biscuits daily with different ingredients cooked into them like ham and cheddar or rosemary and sausage. You can get these biscuits made into a sandwich with egg and mayonnaise (I order mine without the mayo). Also, I did not try it, but the French toast looked amazing.

If you are able to spend a little more money and feel like trying something different, Rasika West End has been called the best Indian food ever. I tried the tandoori chicken and the red snapper and both were excellent. Since D.C. has a large Ethiopian restaurant scene, I checked out CherCher and got the berbere lentils (spicy red sauce that is heavenly), lamb, and the sirloin. If you have never eaten Ethiopian before it is a wonderful experience to share with friends. The food is served on a sour bread that is spongey and soaks up all the flavors (called injera). You also use other pieces of injera to pick up your food and eat it. It is a fun way to eat a family style meal. There are probably a ton of good places for ramen in D.C., but I went to Momofuku CCDC. I recommend the apple kimchi (pictured), soft-shell crab bun, Korean wings, and pork ramen. You might want to bring a friend to help you eat it all. The dessert from Milk is also good, although I am pretty picky about dessert. The soft serve is fun to get as well as the birthday truffles (you may have to walk over to Milk bar to get the birthday truffles, but they are in the same building). My biggest piece of advice is don’t be afraid to try something new while you are here.

apple kimchi