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Friday
Nov302018

The Veterinary Student Externship You Didn’t Know You Needed

By Dilara Kiran, September 2018 AVMA GRD Extern and Combined DVM/PhD Student at Colorado State University

Have you ever found yourself itching for more, for the chance to make a broader impact on the veterinary profession and to get outside the clinic walls? That’s how I felt when I learned about the AVMA Government Relations Division (GRD) Externship. The externship came highly recommended to me from a classmate and seemed like a great fit. I was disgruntled with the current political climate, was hitting roadblocks in my PhD research, and was tired of sitting in the same veterinary school classroom. I yearned to be able to apply the clinical medicine and basic science I was learning through my combined degree program in a new way. 

Exceeding Expectations
After I was accepted, I looked forward to my externship block for months. I knew I would be spending four weeks in Washington D.C., that I would learn more about policy issues impacting the veterinary profession, and that I would be able to meet veterinarians working in “non-traditional” veterinary fields. I came to D.C. as a sponge, ready to throw myself into all activities and soak up as much new information as I could. Ultimately, this externship exceeded all my expectations. From navigating Washington D.C. (despite the rain and humidity), to drafting documents for members of Congress to advocate for veterinary-related issues, to meeting leading public health veterinarians, I loved every minute. The experience was not just about policy and advocacy, it was about exposing myself to the range of possibilities offered to veterinarians and the many doors that a veterinary degree can open post-graduation.

The Highlight Reel
There were so many incredible things I got to do during my time at the AVMA that I could write a blog post about each one. To keep this post within a reasonable limit, I’ll highlight some of the most impactful moments:

  • Pet Night on Capitol Hill
  • Farm Bill Conference Committee Hearing
  • Meeting about the National Bio and Agro-defense Facility (NBAF)
  • Meeting both of my senator
  • Meeting all veterinarians who are current members of Congress
  • Smithsonian Outbreak Exhibit

All Students Should Apply for This Externship
I believe that this externship is for more than just the student interested in policy. This externship was about building connections and finding passion and meaning in veterinary medicine. It was about being inspired by the veterinary community, learning the importance of my voice, and finding value in being involved and giving back to my profession in diverse ways. I saw the intersection of policy, advocacy, government, and public health in a way I never would have experienced at my own institution. These are the opportunities not found in a textbook, in the classroom, or in a surgery suite.

What Can You Do Now to Have an Impact?
I urge all my fellow students to explore unique opportunities and take chances. You never know who you will meet or how a month of experiences will change your outlook. While the deadline for this year’s AVMA GRD externship application has passed, and while you may not be able to make it to Washington D.C., I would encourage you to be involved. There are outlets such as becoming a member of the electronic AVMA Congressional Advocacy Network, learning about the AVMA Political Action Committee, and attending state VMA Advocacy Training, that can allow you to be more informed on pertinent policy issues in veterinary medicine. There are multiple externship opportunities outside of traditional private practice through government agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control, National Institutes of Health, USDA, and through AVMA, which allow you to gain experiences that are not available within a clinical setting and are valuable for perspective-building, even if you pursue a practice-based career. 

Excitement for The Future
I strive to bridge gaps between veterinary and human medicine through my understanding of clinical practice and basic research science. The AVMA GRD externship expanded my professional network of individuals I can contact for advice and encouragement as I navigate a non-traditional career pathway in veterinary medicine. It opened my eyes to the impact of policy, not only related to animal health, but related to tax, healthcare, and education, on the veterinary profession. This experience exposed me to career opportunities that I had not previously considered and helped solidify that I am following the path I was meant to follow in veterinary medicine. I came back to Colorado excited and energized for my future, and I hope that you, reading this, will be encouraged to pursue opportunities that make you feel the same.

Dilara Kiran, AVMA Extern, in front of the AVMA GRD officeAVMA Externs Dilara Kiran and Erin Beasley with Representative Kurt Schrader (OR), one of three veterinarians in Congress

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The winner of the “cutest dog” contest at Pet Night on Capitol HillLarge mosquito replica at the Outbreak Exhibit at the Museum of Natural HistoryDilara Kiran, AVMA Extern, with the Capitol Building

 

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