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Wednesday
Jan092019

Three Veterinarians in Congress, Two Veterinary Student Externs, One AVMA GRD Externship

By Erin Beasley

Congressional office visits.  Committee hearings.  Bill mark-ups.  More than 40 meetings with veterinarians in federal government.  Three veterinarians in Congress.  Two veterinary student externs.  One AVMA Government Relations Division.  My externship in September 2018 was one to remember in the nation’s capital.

As a fourth-year student from North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine, I am pursuing a career in public health and infectious disease epidemiology.  Interested in the relationship of public health and policy, I was excited and honored to be named an extern at the AVMA GRD.

Although the month of September was mostly cloudy and rainy, the days were still bright by my participation in AVMA GRD activities.  I was fortunate to meet more than 40 veterinarians in federal government, including previous AVMA Congressional Fellows.  I learned about numerous avenues for veterinarians in federal government.  Each veterinarian had a unique, exciting path to his/her current position.  These discussions also helped facilitate my understanding of veterinarians’ roles in different agencies.

During my externship, I gained further appreciation and knowledge about the overall legislative process.  Since AVMA is focused on legislation related to veterinary medicine or animal health, I learned about this process particularly through the 2018 Farm Bill.  I attended the 2018 Farm Bill Conference Committee Meeting, where I witnessed the opening statements of the conferees.  The House and Senate versions of the Farm Bill were discussed throughout September, but the bill ended up expiring without a final vote. Now, lawmakers are hoping to finalize the legislation before the year ends.

One of my favorite parts of the externship was visiting Congressional offices.  As a constituent of North Carolina, I met with staffers in the offices of my senators and representative: Senator Thom Tillis, Senator Richard Burr, and Congressman David Price.  I discussed veterinary-related legislation, such as components of the 2018 Farm Bill and the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP) Enhancement Act.  Furthermore, Dilara Kiran (the other extern) and I met all three members of Congress who are veterinarians.  It was fascinating to hear about their pathways to Congress and how their veterinary training is utilized in their current positions. 

Being in Washington, D.C. during the end of the fiscal year was interesting, as I observed how certain pieces of legislation were moved quickly to pass while other pieces of legislation accrued more debate and/or continuing resolutions.  The atmosphere of Capitol Hill was electric and exciting, especially prior to the midterm elections.  I enjoyed my short tenure in Washington, D.C. at this busy time.

Outside of the externship, it was fun to explore more of the historic city.  Dilara and I visited several museums, including the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History’s “Outbreak” exhibit, which focused on a One Health approach to disease epidemics.  Even though I have been to Washington, D.C. several times, it is always fun to see the monuments and enjoy stellar cuisine.

After attending many events and meetings, I now have memorized most of the Metro map—but more seriously and more importantly, I have gained massive knowledge about the legislative process, current legislation impacting veterinary medicine, and the unique roles of veterinarians in federal government.  I am deeply grateful for the support and advice from the AVMA GRD staff and the collaboration with my fellow extern, Dilara. 

I look forward to advocating for the veterinary profession and contributing to public health policy.  To underclassmen, I strongly recommend this externship, as it will broaden your scope of the profession and recognize how policy affects veterinarians and citizens in general.  Thank you to the AVMA GRD for organizing this valuable externship!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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