October 3, 2017

The Jive Inside the Hive

By Derecka Alexander

One Health is not a brand new concept, but it is still going through some growing pains as the concept gains some traction in the mainstream. Under the One Health umbrella, different disciplines work together to figure out how to maintain optimal health for people, animals, and the environment. At the One Health Academy in D.C., health professionals interested in One Health dialogue and social engagement meet monthly to discuss issues. I took the opportunity to attend this month’s meeting that featured Dr. Terry Kane, DVM, MS, who talked about the wonderful world of bees.

Confession: I am afraid of bees! I’ve never been stung, but I am too melodramatic about suffering the same consequence the character Thomas J sufferers in the movie My Girl.

Dr. Kane went from private practitioner at a feline veterinary hospital to AVMA Congressional Fellow to currently working as the “A2Bee” vet. Reporters around the country have media outlets talking about how the pollinators of this country are in trouble. It was nice to hear the veterinary perspective on this.

That night, I learned that beekeeping has been in practice for millennia. The Egyptians are recorded as the first beekeepers (shout out to the Motherland, Africa). Scientists know that pollination is essential for an ecosystem’s survival. Farmers rely on pollinators for over 100 different kinds of crops. A threat to bees can lead to a threat to our nation’s food supply and have major effects on a multi-million dollar industry!

Dance is considered a universal language that transcends different cultures and animal species. Despite my fear, I found myself slipping into a space where I envisioned bees busily buzzing around in a synchronized manner. I let my guard down and allowed my love for animals to grow through the connection of dance. Bees dance y’all!

Dr. Kane talked about how uncoded bits of RNA produced by plants are picked up by bees and are used to create their waggle dance. Bees have an internal GPS that allows for them to create coordinates through the form of dance. This waggle dance communicates to the other bees where the flowers are. Researchers are using computer analysis techniques to uncode the waggle dance and figure out where these flowers are, too. All of this is done in hopes of understanding and treating the colony collapse disorder, which is a global issue.

Important research like this is needed to help vets understand how to treat bees on a bee farm. It’s great knowing that there are veterinary schools currently incorporating the latest bee information into curricula to help prepare the vets of tomorrow. I don’t think any veterinarian everThe Jive Inside the Hive- Bee Talk of BEEcoming a vet for bees. This profession never ceases to amaze me.

October 3, 2017

SOAP-ing on the Hill

By Jacob Froehlich, PhD

Every veterinary student knows the acronym “SOAP.” Subjective. Objective. Assessment. Plan. You don’t receive a DVM without writing at least 500 SOAPS (and that number is probably generously low).

Soap1 soap2During one of my meetings with the three veterinarians in Congress – Rep Kurt Schrader, DVM (D-OR-5), Rep Ted Yoho, DVM (R-FL-3), and Rep Ralph Abraham. DVM. MD (R-LA-5) – the Congressman remarked that the SOAP can be applied to Congress and the legislative process. First, when confronting any patient or problem, one needs to first subjectively characterize that patient or problem. Is the patient a three year old castrated male Doberman Pinscher? Is he bright, alert, and responsive? Is the problem that the United States must currently shares its food-and-mouth disease (FMD) vaccine bank with Mexico and Canada? As you continue reading, note that I will be using FMD and the need for a vaccine bank to illustrate the SOAP process of thinking here.

Subjective: Shared foot-and-mouth disease vaccine bank appears inadequate to quickly respond to any future FMD outbreak.

The objective portion of the SOAP is next. Here, the facts are stated. What is the patient’s heart rate? What is the patient’s temperature?  How many vaccines are available? What is the response time for FMD vaccine deployment in the event of an outbreak in the United States?

Objective
O1. FMD vaccines available: 14 strains, with a few million doses each.
O2. Location: Plum Island, NY.
O3. Vaccine manufacturing finished overseas. 
O4. Deployment time: approximately 4 days

Now, with any patient or problem, one must make assessments in order to formulate a plan.

Assessment
A1. FMD not reported in USA since 1929. 
A2. FMD vaccine bank shared between USA, Mexico, and Canada.
A3. Inadequate number of doses, strains available: rule out (r/o) international North American sharing v. poor federal funding v. no apparent need 
A4. Poor response, vaccine deployment time: r/o overseas manufacturing v. international North American sharing v. antiquated disease 

Based on one’s assessment, the patient’s problem list (or, in this case, the issue’s problem list) is then used to formulate a plan. In my example of foot-and-mouth disease prevention and outbreak response, there are currently 60 strains of FMD and 24 known vaccines to provide immunological coverage for those strains. While FMD has not been identified in the United States since 1929, it’s impact on animal health, welfare, and production would be catastrophic, should it reappear after finding its way back into the country. Hundreds of thousands of animals would be slaughtered and burned, and US exports of animal products would slam closed overnight, wreaking financial havoc on ranchers’ bottom lines and our economy as a whole.

Lastly, as foreshadowed above, a plan is made to address the various assessments and rule-outs associated with those assessments in order to make a positive impact on the patient’s health or the issue at hand.

Plan
P1. Request that Congress create a foreign animal disease (including FMD) vaccine bank for exclusive United States use.
P2. Request that Congress direct the vaccine bank to expand the vaccine strains on hand and the numbers of those vaccines available for use. 
P3. Request that Congress fund this vaccine bank adequately in the next Farm Bill.

As you can see from this very simple (but important) example, subjectively and objectively characterizing a problem, assessing that problem, and generating a plan for that problem is not too far removed the process veterinarians use every single day to treat animal patients. As I am sure the Congressmen which whom I met would agree, perhaps Congress would function more efficiently and in a more bipartisan manner if they – the 435 Representatives, 6 Delegates and Resident Commissioner, and 100 Senators – were required to write SOAPs for every problem they faced, just like every veterinary student and veterinarian does for every one of their patients.

Thank you, Congressmen Schrader and Yoho, for taking time out of your very busy days to meet with Derecka and me!

October 3, 2017

701 meets 0701

By Jacob Froehlich, PhD

You’ve probably heard the quote “it’s the little things.” Even in the Nation’s not-so-small capital of Washington, D.C., that phrase has rung true with me over the last month. As I prepare to depart D.C., trading in my suit and tie for coveralls and stethoscope, I’d like to thank several Washingtonians, Virginians, and Marylanders for their “it’s the little things” moments over the last month.

Before coming to D.C., I had often searched for veterinary jobs on the well-known USAJOBS.GOV website. I quickly noticed that putting “veterinary” or “veterinarian” or “VMO (veterinary medical officer)” in the search bar yielded differing results. I was worried that I was missing jobs because I wasn’t entering the right search terms. It turns out that all I really needed was the “code” for veterinarian in the federal government: 0701. This 701 (the area code for North Dakota telephone numbers) boy just needed that 0701, and I was set! Thank you to Dr Patricia Brown of the NIH for giving me this “it’s the little things” tip.

As I worked in basic aquaculture research before deciding to enroll in veterinary school, I have often thought about marrying my veterinary degree to my interest in growing-up fish and other seafood species. While veterinary medicine in the realm of fishes, bivalves, and crustaceans has been sincerely lacking, I must thank Dr Caird Rexroad of USDA-ARS for his “it’s the little things” tip-off to two companies (in Maine of all places, just up the road from my home in Massachusetts) that are investing heavily in aquaculture health! With just four words, new doors were opened to me.

To the United States Capitol Police at the south entrance to Cannon House Office building: thank you for making walking through the metal detector a tad more fun with our discussion of brachycephalic airway syndrome in bulldogs. That’s right – I had a discussion about BAS with two members of the fine USCP! I very much appreciate this “it’s the little things” moment.

Congressman Ted Yoho (R-FL-3), your “it’s the little things” offer of some Florida orange juice at the beginning of our meeting was just what I needed after running around D.C. in the rather warm weather in a suit. Good ol’ OJ never tasted so good!

To Sen Edward Markey (D-MA)’s staffer who wrote me such a thoughtful email following my meeting with him, I must say it is the best feeling in the world, despite however “it’s the little things” it may feel, to know that a staffer has taken such an interest in the plight of veterinary students and their ever-growing debt.

I often like to take walks after dinner. I can tell you that no walk in my 30 year history of walks can compete with my stroll following dinner at the Old Ebbitt Grill. Walking just one block from the restaurant, I was able to witness the White House at night. When I posted that photograph to Instagram, I wrote “no caption needed,” and, boy, was that ever true. An after-dinner breath of fresh air puts winds in your sails when you pass by the White House, in all its ambiance, on that jaunt. Truly, “it’s the little things.”701

Lastly, but most definitely not least, I must thank the AVMA Governmental Relations Staff (GRD) for their incredible support, expertise, and hospitality over the last month. Without you all – Gina, Mark, Lauren, Jamae, Cat, Ashley, Kent, and Patty – this extraordinary 30 days would not have been possible. I cannot even begin to enumerate the “little things” you all have done for me during my September stay in Washington, D.C.

As I close my last blog post as an AVMA veterinary student extern, I’d like to share a quote written by one of the members of the GRD staff in a book I received as a going-away gift.

What you leave behind is not what is engrave in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others. – Pericles 

I know I left a very limited physical mark on this town. I cannot compete with the stone monuments, the Roman column buildings, and aura of history that make Washington, D.C., the city that it is. the But the reverse is not true. This metropolis, with its Congressional staffers, Members of Congress, executive branch veterinarians and scientists, and NGO DVM/VMDs and professionals, has left a very real mark on me. Being in Washington, D.C., one can easily get lost in the hubbub of this city. However, it was the “little things” that made me feel welcome and a very real part of this American experience, that led me to believe that my story and my aspirations were woven into the tapestry that makes Washington, D.C., a city like no other.

Washington, D.C., and AVMA – thank you.

September 28, 2017

Perspectives

By Jacob Froehlich, PhD

“As we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones.  - Former Secretary of Defense Donald H Rumsfeld

I carry this quote with me on a daily basis for a very simple reason: to remind myself to seek the “we don’t know what we don’t know” as often as I can. The unknown unknowns, as the Secretary termed them, are where, I believe, we can really grow, we can really solve problems, and we can really bring about change. That is why, during my month long stint in the District of Columbia with the American Veterinary Medical Association, I have sought to meet with organizations and individuals who are likely to share vastly different outlooks, perspectives, opinions, and thoughts than my own.

Take tackling the ever-growing problem of veterinary student loan debt. The obvious experts on this issue work for the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC). It is their very job to know this issue, brainstorm solutions, and confront this debt head on. But what if I told you that I had a very fruitful and eye-opening discussion with National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA)? That’s right, the association which represents beef producers across the United States. What I took away from that meeting with a vastly different perspective, one from outside the hallowed halls of academia and one that has really changed my ideas about how we can solve the debt, as we veterinary students put it.

Take humane slaughter. One would likely predict that I would meet with an animal welfare group, but I also met with the veterinarians who work with abattoirs on a daily basis. To ensure that food animals – whether you are a carnivore, omnivore, vegetarian, or strict vegan – are treated humanely prior to and during slaughter, we really need to understand the concept of humane slaughter from all sides, across the spectrum, and from vastly different perspectives. It does the animals little good if all of the stakeholders in humane slaughter do not speak with each other.

Perspectives

After my meeting with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, I was presented with a star-spangled cattle lapel pin. Now, if you know me, you can appreciate that I love cows and I am dedicated to the future of this nation, so the pin suits me well. However, I wear the pin now for an additional reason: sometimes, you find answers to questions in places you never thought probable or possible.

Every time I

 

fix my tie or fluff my suit coat collar, I hope it reminds me to continue to seek out perspectives – different, diverse, and dive

rgent perspectives.

September 28, 2017

Searching For Something Different

By Derecka Alexander
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Derecka 3“Stay true to yourself and keep your mind open”

This is the advice Dr. Erin Casey gave me as we talked about her path to veterinary medicine. Like me, Dr. Casey went through vet school knowing she wanted to work in something other than clinical practice and research, but wasn’t quite sure what that different thing would be. It’s very hard to understand how to search for something different when majority of the options presented to you are internships and/or private practice.

 

As an undergraduate, Dr. Casey performed research that focused on the study of salamanders. This experience opened the door to her first research job. She liked what she was doing and didn’t mind the perks of traveling, however,  she quickly realized she would need another degree to advance her career. Dr. Casey said she liked what she could do with a DVM compared to PhD. She understood how pursuing a DVM would provide her with the diagnostic experience employers want, as well as the clinical experience that draws upon understanding how to use technical skills to cater a treatment plan to a particular patient.

 

Although vet school was competitive and stressful for her, she never stopped searching for a veterinary career tailored to her liking. Dr. Casey told me how the AVMA GRD externship opened up her eyes to that different thing she was looking for. She really enjoyed going to the One Health meetings and networking with different vets in the D.C. area.

 

Staying true to herself, she decided to apply for the AAAS Fellowship and landed a position as a veterinarian for the Department of State. Dr. Casey spent almost two years working in the executive branch and enjoyed it, especially when opportunities like traveling to West Africa for the Ebola outbreak were presented to her #publichealthvet. For almost two years, Dr. Casey enjoyed her job and had the chance to travel to West Africa during the Ebola outbreak. However, the bureaucracy of government can put a damper on any government employee’s parade.

 

As her fellowship was coming to an end, Dr. Casey stayed on the non-traditional path and opted for a job that provided her with more autonomy than the bureaucracy of federal work. Currently, she works as a field veterinarian for Boehringer Ingelheim. Her job duties include educating vets in her region on products and regulations pertinent to veterinary practice. Her everyday duties vary from day to day and keeps her interested versus the usual twenty minutes spent working up a patient while educating a client throughout an eight hour workday.

 

Although it was a brief phone call, I really enjoyed getting to know Dr. Casey. It was nice to know that there are vets out there who entered vet school feeling like me, longing for something different. The AAAS program provided Dr. Casey with a lot of networking opportunities and helped her make an easy transition from government work to corporate life. Education, networking, and staying true to herself is what led Dr. Casey to the vet med career she has now.  It’s fascinating knowing that she is very happy about her decisions and open to what the future has in store. Since I think Dr. Casey is cool, I would like to conclude with a quote from the Notorious B.I.G. “Stay far from timid/ Only make moves when your heart’s in it/ And live in the phrase ‘sky’s the limit’.”

 

September 28, 2017

My FELLOW Americans..

By Derecka Alexander
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A fellowship in veterinary medicine is usually associated with being a stepping stone for a vet to eventually become a Diplomate, which is a vet who is board certified in a veterinary specialty area. However, in Washington, D.C., the term fellowship takes on a slightly different meaning. Out here, fellowship programs are associated with many different professional organizations and are designed to provide a variety of work experiences ranging from public speaking, community organizing and media relations to in-depth research and analysis of specific issues for data generation and professional development. These are short-term and competitive experiences that allow professionals to gain unique experiences that are not typically available to someone starting out in an entry-level position.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to have lunch with Drs. Roxann Motroni and Michelle Colby, both of whom are veterinarians working at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). We lunched at the Lincoln and the food was GREAT! That compliment means a lot when it’s coming from a South Louisiana native, because cajun/creole food is KING. Dr. Motroni and Dr. Colby were AAAS Science and Technology Fellows who matched with working for the DHS. I know that the AVMA Fellowship program gets fellows to understand policy and bill writing while working in a Congressperson’s office on Capitol Hill. This fellowship is in conjunction with the AAAS program. The slightly different AAAS Fellowship program matches participants to a governmental agency where they work to understand how research drives public policies.

Who would’ve ever thought a vet could work for the DHS? There’s no surgery involved or radiology rounds discussed. However, the work performed by these vets is probably some of the most important veterinary work being done in this country. Dr. Motroni’s responsibilities relate to managing the agricultural defense programs, which may deal with research pertaining to Foot and Mouth Disease or Classical Swine Fever just to name a few. One of her specific duties includes the development, management and execution monitoring of a 3-10 million dollar budget annually! Dr. Colby has over twelve years of experience in national security policy development, research collaboration and program management. Her duties cater to managing 16-18 projects monthly and maintaining interagency coordination so that they can adequately implement and enforce the policies they make.

At times, Congress has to act as a butcher to the nation’s budget. Although there seem’s to be a lot of unpredictability with the federal government, everybody needs to eat- literally! Agriculture defense must remain a priority so that our nation’s food supply stays protected; eating is a necessity of life! Both DHS vets explained to me how an important part of their job is communicating the science from research to leadership and stakeholders, so that everyone understands how taxpayer dollars are being spent, which helps play a part in directing Congress on how to fund DHS.

Ordinary veterinary practice wasn’t going to satisfy Dr. Colby or Dr. Motroni. And it’s not going to satisfy me. These veterinarians were intrigued by the nexus of problems linked together through international defense, development capacity and interagency communication. I left understanding that I need to not let the unknown career path I will take defer my dreams; I was encouraged to follow my bliss.

 

September 22, 2017

Roo’in and rearin’ to pull: a day with the animals of the Old Line State

By Jacob Froehlich, PhD

Jake6When one imagines Washington, D.C., and the surrounding metropolitan area, I bet you don’t think of sheep and goats. Or alpacas. I definitely would not think of kangaroos, that’s for sure.  This last weekend, however, fellow AVMA veterinary student extern Derecka Alexander and I went on an “epic adventure” to meet the animals and their guardians who call Maryland (the Old Line State) home — and the cast of characters we encountered was nothing short of amazing!

We started our day at Wagon Wheel Ranch in Mount Airy, MD. It was a great place to start! Pulling up in our Nissan Versa rental, we quickly discovered goats and sheep (two of my favorite animals). Hearing rumors that a kangaroo might inhabit the property, we set out to find Mr “Outback.” And find him we did! Who can say he or she started his or her day by scratching the muzzle of a red kangaroo? What’s more, Mr Outback lovingly interacted with one of the piglets in his pen, a sight I will never forget. In addition to Outback and the aforementioned sheep and goats, we also visited with chickens of various breeds, ducks, peafowl (even a leucistic one!), and rabbits. And we met two monkeys too!

Our next stop was Whispering Acres Alpacas, just down the road. Back home at the Hospital for Large Animals at Cummings Veterinary Medical Center in Grafton, MA, I am known as the “cria whisperer” due to my strong affection for baby alpacas. Getting out of our Versa, we were greeted by a completely white, odd-eyed cat. The farmer’s daughter graciously then gave us a tour of the farm which sports not only many very beautiful huacaya and suri alpacas, but a miniature donkey, several sheep and goats, peafowl, French rabbits, and turkeys. I met several alpacas that, provided I had already graduated from veterinary school and had my own ranch, would have arranged to take back with me to Massachusetts in a heartbeat. One of the suri machos was an absolute gem, and one of the angora goats became fast friends with me!Jake5

On to the Charles County Fair! Derecka and I had a great time there. In fact, Derecka remarked that I was “like a little kid in a candy store,” running around meeting all the chickens, rabbits, guinea fowl, turkeys, goats, sheep, pigs, cattle, and horses I could. Frankly, I pondered how I could take a black-pelted wether and ewe home to Boston because I was most certainly smitten with those two. And a rabbit too! I fell in love with a champion miniature rex doe. I mean, I’ve always wanted a house rabbit!

The main attraction at the Charles County Fair was the horse pull. When we walked up to the arena, we were greeted by several teams of Belgians, ready and rearin’ to pull thousands of pounds. These behemoths were so much fun to watch. For these horses, this sport is their life. You can tell how excited they are to pull, as many of them often take off before they are even hitched to the sled! That night, we witnessed history as well, as new record were set by both the light-weight and heavy-weight teams. Like any obsessed sports fan, I was able to meet the athletes after the pulls were over and the champions were crowned. I have always planned to have one or two oxen teams someday, but I am rather sure I will need a team of Belgians, Shires, Clydesdales, or Percherons too.

By the way, nothing beats county fair lemonade either. I likely drank my weight in the stuff that day and

Jake4

I am not ashamed to admit so!Jake1Jake2Jake3

September 18, 2017

From A Streetcar Named Desire to Drama with WMATA

By Derecka Alexander

Congress is back in session, and I’m back in D.C. looking for the drama. I’m not talking about the usual left versus right debates on the best station for great reality TV (CSPAN). I’m looking for the drama that is found at any neighborhood pharmacy store: Dramamine. The stop and go of the DC metro is a city experience I was looking forward to. I always had a desire to learn about the different career paths a veterinarian can take within the public sector. Desire is what led me to the Capital City, however, this Louisiana girl is very much use to the easy-going ride of a New Orleans rattle-trap street-car.

Despite dealing with the motion sickness, I walked briskly and made use of my Google Maps app to take advantage of the opportunities presented to me. In vet school, we don’t always hear about how we can use our degree to serve the public. There are veterinarians working on major projects that affect more than the local dog and cat population. From animal welfare issues to vaccine research and sustainable agriculture, public health vets push the profession forward and help make our Nation great.

Last week, I met with Dr. John Shaw, the Executive Vice President of the National Association of Federal Veterinarians (NAFV). Dr. Shaw had an extensive career as a veterinarian in the Veterinary Services division of the USDA Animal and Plant Inspection Service (APHIS). He worked throughout Latin America with an intergovernmental institution known as Organismo Internacional Regional de Sanidad Agropecuaria (OIRSA), which specializes in agriculture and food animal health. As a veterinarian representing the US, Dr. Shaw spent years helping the US implement and enforce regulations geared to protecting animal health, plant health, quarantine services and food safety. This cooperative effort is important in ensuring that goods from across the borders going in both directions are safe. Dr. Shaw is now bringing his years of governmental experience to his new position, where he will work on issues important to the federal veterinarians across the country.

I liked the candor Dr. Shaw expressed when we talked about getting experience in clinical practice versus going straight into working in the public sector. For him, hindsight is 20/20 and he left me with what he believes are the big three experiences one should have for getting a job on the Hill: lobbying, fundraising and networking. Like most non-traditional vets, Dr. Shaw got a little of clinical experience and quickly realized that it wasn’t for him. He left private practice to work in the public sector and never looked back.

Dr. Marvin Meinders, who works for the Office of Health Affairs in the Department of Homeland Security, also decided to not look back after a few years or practice, which included a really bad encounter with a horse. And, I don’t blame him; there are reasons why I take very deep breaths before I check a horse’s digital pulses. #flashbacks. Dr. Meinders left clinical practice to serve our country as a veterinarian for the military. After 20 years of experience, he was offered a job as a Veterinary Medical Officer (VMO) for Homeland Security and is presently serving as the Chief of Food, Agriculture and Veterinary Defense. In his current position, he ensures the security of our nation’s food, agriculture, human and animal health in the face of all hazards. He also oversees 31 working dogs and over 400 horses for the department.

Dr. Meinders talked about the work he did over the years and brought me to the National Biosurveillance Integration Program meeting. At this meeting, I observed how people representing 16 agencies work together to keep track of diseases and outbreaks across the world. It was great experience for any public health fan!

Dr. Meinders touched on something I hear from a lot of veterinarians. He said government work can teach you skills the DVM doesn’t, but the DVM can’t be substituted with anything else. I do understand why governmental agencies and companies employ scientists. They know scientists solve problems in an analytical manner using methodology adopted from the scientific method.

Having a scientific background is definitely beneficial to problem solving. However, the DVM holds a mystical power unseen by some but understood by those who hire vets to get the job done. Dr. Meinders left me with this: he said, those who know one language know that a car is a car, for example, in English, a car is a car. However, those who know more than one way of communicating can identify a car in more than one way. Practicing one kind of medicine is useful in helping solve one kind of problem. Veterinarians must learn how to practice on more than one species in more than one way. While I only have a few months left in school, I know this month will grant me with the experiences I need to fulfill my desire for having the career I want.

 

September 18, 2017

200/100

By Jacob Froehlich, PhD

Have you ever been looking for something but you didn’t know what to call it?

A word that escaped you?
A concept to which you couldn’t put a name?
An animal species which you could describe in several sentences but whose binomial eluded you?
A job description whose title remained unknown?

I’ve been struggling with such an issue for the last, oh, six to seven months. In my cerebrum, I can tell you about a mysterious, nameless job by using the following statements but, until yesterday, could not put a title to it:

A) I want to work with many species of hoofed animal, but I also do not want to be confined to only hoofstock, as I consider myself a future panspecies veterinarian.
B) I want to have patients (like those described above) but I would rather not have to collect currency every time I see those patients.Jacob 200 100 post C) I have long been interested in government service, but being a veterinary food inspector or public policy veterinarian just didn’t seem right.

Yesterday, however, I finally put my finger on that career position for which I was looking: United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Veterinary Services Veterinary Medical Officer (oofda, that was a mouth-full).

Derecka Alexander (the LSU veterinary student extern in our office) and I were lucky enough to spend an entire day with the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Veterinary Services (USDA-APHIS-VS) veterinarians at their offices in Riverdale, Maryland. Throughout the day, we met with wonderful veterinarians who have dedicated their professional careers to preserving animal and human health.

I was most struck with Dr Kate Bowers’ presentation. As a former USDA-APHIS-VS veterinary medical officer (VMO), Dr Bowers gave a presentation on the role of a field VMO. During her entire presentation, I was screaming “THAT’S WHAT I WANT TO DO!” internally. I am rather sure my eyes were as larger as dinner plates.

As a field VMO, Dr Bowers told us about how she participated in one of the largest transocean transportations of Holstein dairy cattle in US history. She showed us pictures of working on the surveillance and eradication of scrapie in black-faced sheep breeds. She spoke about attending the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival (an event that I am committed to attending, hands down) AS A PAID, GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL. Dr Bowers sent my blood pressure to 200/100 (the title of this post) when she explained to me how, in the interests of protecting American mares from contagious equine metritis (CEM), she was “forced” to personally watch a Grand Prix jumping stallion from abroad during the Washington International Horse Show at all times during his stay in the United States to ensure that he did not accidentally (or purposefully, for that matter) breed any mares at the show. AND THEY PAID HER FOR THIS!

The icing was put on the cake when Dr Bowers told me about her work with captive cervid (white-tailed deer and elk) herds in Pennsylvania (fun trivia fact: Pennsylvania has more captive deer within its borders than any other state, save for Texas).

But there’s more! She told Derecka and me about a traveling hedgehog who needed to gain entry into the United States, a wordly canary who needed regular disease testing during his quarantine after his jaunt abroad, the transport of bovine embryos via commercial airlines, and the importation of six rhinoceros from South Africa, all cases in which she was personally involved. For those who know me well, I want to work in South Africa with colicky rhinoceros some day, so this entire presentation - with its references to deer, sheep, Holstein cattle, birds, rhinoceros, and warmblood horses - seemed as if it was written for me personally.

At 8a on September 14, 2017, I did not have a term in mind for the perfect veterinary career for me.

By 11a on that same day, I could think of nothing else than Jacob Michael Froehlich, PhD, DVM, USDA-APHIS-VS VMO.

Nine months, Jacob. Nine months. Granted, my systolic blood pressure may remain around 200/100 until then, but sacrifices must be made.

September 18, 2017

From buzz to fuzz

By Jacob Froehlich, PhD

Jacob honey beeAs an aspiring panspecies veterinarian, I am committed to treating all species to the best of my ability. I am very, very committed to that mission. In fact, my classmates back home at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University have often heard me remark that I will be a “from spiders to Shires” veterinarian. Yes, you read that correctly. Even spiders and other invertebrates deserve (the best) medicine.

When I arrived in Washington, D.C., to begin this externship, one of the first emails I received was an invitation to an event entitled “Honeybees, Pollinators, and One Health – What’s the Buzz?,” a presentation by Terry Ryan Kane, DVM, MS, given at the One Health Academy here in the Nation’s capital. If you haven’t heard, honeybees and other pollinators are in grave danger. From viruses to bacteria to fungus to parasites to climate change to habitat loss, honeybees face many of the same challenges that our more “traditional species” battle on a daily basis. And then there’s colony collapse disorder (CCD), a syndrome where honeybee colonies apparently fall apart, with the majority of worker bees leaving the queen and developing larvae behind. While frustrating because of its effect on honeybees, CCD is even more worrisome currently because no scientist or veterinarian has discovered the true etiology (cause) of this disease. It remains truly a mystery.

Dr Kane gave an amazing presentation for the veterinarian, scientist, and layperson alike. From a brief history of apiculture (the keeping and care honeybees) to the pathogens and diseases facing modern honeybees to the overwhelming importance of honeybees to our food supply, Dr Kane made the case for honeybee medicine quite well. As Dr Kane put it, “if you want to eat, we need honeybees,” plain and simple. Did you know that honeybees are critical to the US almond supply? Did you know that America’s canola and alfalfa supply comes courtesy of our little six-legged friends? Ask any farmer from my home state of North Dakota, and they will talk your ear off about the importance of honeybees to agriculture. Growing up in the Peace Garden State, the sight of trucks moving honeybee hives around the state was as integral to my North Dakota upbriging as fields of wheat and cattle on the range. Agriculture = apiculture. There’s no way around it.

The use of antibiotics in food animal production has recently come under fire, honeybees included. Under a new rule promulgated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), use of antibiotics important to human medicine have been restricted to use with veterinary oversight. Being as honeybees produce honey and propolis (a wax used as a nutritional supplement), the USDA classifies honeybees as food animals, and thus veterinarians are now responsible for guarding the use of antibiotics in this species. Adding medically important antibiotics to honeybee feed will now require a veterinary feed directive (VFD) just it is required for cattle, pigs, and other hoofstock, while adding antibiotics to water consumed by honeybees will require a veterinary prescription.

Dr Kane concluded her presentation with the following statement: “Honeybees deserve the best medicine possible.” They do so, so much for the human populace and yet are so, so underappreciated. I couldn’t agree with Dr Kane more.

Because of this presentation and my growing interest in honeybees, I have decided that I need to change my tagline from “from spiders to Shires” to “from bees to bison.” Ensuring that honeybees have high quality medical care seems like such an easy action to take in exchange for the essential life necessity of food. Don’t you agree?

For more information on honeybee medicine, please visit the AVMA website https://www.avma.org/KB/Resources/Pages/Honey-Bees-101-Veterinarians.aspx  or www.hbvc.org, the official website of the Honey Bee Veterinary Consortium.

(Nota bene: The title of this post stems from a tagline suggested to me by former AVMA veterinary student extern and current AAAS/AVMA Congressional Fellow Dr Matthew Holland. While I prefer “from bees to bison,” given my background as a North Dakotan and graduate of North Dakota State University, I feel it describes this post well.)