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Could an externship at the AVMA be for you?

Ever wonder what it's like to be a veterinary student extern at the AVMA headquarters in Schaumburg, Illinois? Samantha Palmer from Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine shared her experience with us an was selected as a winner for The Vet Gazette Experiences Category. Thank you for sharing Samantha! 

Wake up, check. Eat breakfast, maybe. Pack lunch, check. Make it to class on time, hopefully. Survive the day, check. Study until you can’t see straight, definitely. Go to bed before midnight, check. Repeat until a school break.

The author at the AVMA HeadquartersI don’t think I’m stretching too far by saying this is a typical day in the life of a veterinary student. However, sometimes we get the opportunity to change that routine. For the last three weeks, I have been participating in the AVMA Headquarters Externship. So I’ve traded my desk in Ithaca, NY for a cubicle in the membership division in Schaumburg, IL. While analyzing the social media platforms used by the student AVMA, I’ve learned more about this organization than I ever imagined there was to know.

Did you know that despite the 9,166 likes on the SAVMA Facebook page, many current students still do not really understand the importance of SAVMA and the many opportunities it has to offer? Or, that one student on the SAVMA Executive Board, the Informational Technology Officer, is functioning as the entire marketing department for SAVMA? I have grown to have an ever-increasing respect for the SAVMA Executive Board and all the duties they undertake while still completing their main priority, veterinary school.

While at the AVMA, I have been overwhelmed by how welcoming that staff have been since my first day. Numerous veterinarians and staff members have taken the time to introduce themselves to me and explain how their jobs here at the AVMA are applicable to the students. For example, the librarian at the AVMA, Diane Fagan, spent an hour with me explaining the resources available in the library. Now some might say, what’s there to learn about this library that’s different from others? It’s not the library that was so interesting, it’s what Diane told me. It turns out that when the AVMA library orders books, sometimes the publisher will send them a second copy for free. Again, who cares? Well, Diane mentioned to me that she never knows what to do with these books and she’d be more than happy to send a book to a veterinary student club with SAVMA members to use as a fundraiser.

Another exciting conversation I had was with Dr. Craig Smith, one of the editors for JAVMA. During a meeting to discuss how JAVMA works, Dr. Smith’s path to become an editor of the JAVMA was revealed. Although he started out as a large animal veterinarian, he then completed a residency in theriogenology, obtained a PhD, and ultimately established himself as an editor for JAVMA where he’s been for 23 years. Dr. Smith’s experience is just one of many unique paths that the veterinarians working at the AVMA have taken before arriving at this incredible organization.

My experience during this externship has been unique. It is not very common for two students to overlap during their AVMA externships, but I’m so lucky it did. During the first two weeks of my externship, I met Eliana Greissworth from Michigan State who was finishing up the last two weeks of hers. We became fast friends. It was refreshing to have someone to bounce ideas off and discuss possible content for posting on social media since she too was a veterinary student. What I have enjoyed the most about getting to know Eliana has been Student extern, Samantha Palmer (author), with Dr. Hall (left) and Dr. Reddish (right)our conversations to and from work every day. While helping me avoid an hour on the train and an Uber ride to the office by picking me up, Eliana has graciously shared with me her experiences leading up to veterinary school, her successes and challenges as a veterinary student, and her opinions on a host of unrelated topics including movie preferences to driving a stick shift. Our shared experience at the AVMA has been one of the many highlights of this externship.

I’ve also had the most amazing mentors. For those of you who do not have Dr. Reddish as your school’s Assistant Directors for Student, I’m sorry. I joke because Drs. Hall and Cantner are equally as wonderful. Dr. Reddish has believed in me from the first time I met her last September. I remember walking up to her after her presentation at Cornell’s SCAVMA meeting, introducing myself, and proceeding to bombard her with a ton of questions and comments about my Instagram account and how I wanted to chronicle my veterinary school journey through a daily photo in order to increase public awareness of the vigorous and academically challenging process of becoming a veterinarian as well as to inspire the next generation of veterinarians completing high school and college (oh, and I likely said that without taking a breath because that whole fast talking New York stereotype definitely applies to me, Long Island accent included).

Since then, Dr. Reddish has been one of the most meaningful veterinarians in my life. She has sent externship opportunities my way and really helped to make my externship experience at the AVMA educational, fun, and exactly focused on my other interests in veterinary medicine. I have been able to create guidelines for posting on social media, organize a resource document for the executive board of SAVMA and the AVMA membership division staff to reference for unique content, and even help write a section of a news article for JAVMA. While Dr. Reddish was working remotely during my first and third week at the AVMA, Dr. Hall was fielding my questions, helping me structure my projects, and advising me on the inner workings of SAVMA. I also worked with Jackie Ross on a social media campaign project idea to boost SAVMA membership and discussed ways to use Facebook to engage early career veterinarians with Dr. Kirk. I cannot thank them all enough for their guidance and support.

Chicago, attending the Veterinary Leadership ConferenceAnd in case you don’t believe how good a time I’ve had, then let me try to summarize the last great opportunity associated with my externship, attending the Veterinary Leadership Conference in Chicago. This was the first year that at least one student from every accredited veterinary school had the chance to participate. Between the networking, workshops, and new friends, I could write a short story about how the VLC was dynamic, unique, engaging, and hopefully not a once in a lifetime experience. Seriously, if you’d like to know more read the JAVMA news article about the VLC conference or message me directly (


I thought I was knowledgeable about SAVMA and the importance of the AVMA and organized medicine, but now I can say that these two organizations are the reason veterinary medicine is where it is today and will be even greater in the future.

For more information about externing with the AVMA check out this link:


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