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A Student’s Guide to the AVMA Convention

By Lisa Phelps from Ross University

Are you interested in attending the annual AVMA convention as a student? I have, and I think it is a fantastic idea! However, it can be overwhelming, so I would like to share some tips with you that I learned from my own experience.

  1. Know what you want to get out of the experience:  There is an overwhelming number and variety of opportunities at the AVMA convention - wet labs, the convention hall, poster presentations, and so many lectures!  It is easy to get lost in the schedule.  I went to the convention without any idea of what I wanted to do while there.  I recommend that you take some time to sit down and look through the schedule.  What do you want to do the most?  What would you like to learn or experience?  This will help you focus your time so that you get everything that you want out of the weekend.
  2. Don’t be afraid to change it up:  As I mentioned before, I had no schedule going into the weekend. I ended up at a marine mammal husbandry lecture that I never would have normally planned on attending.  This lecture provided a very interesting view into a whole side of veterinary medicine that I normally would not have seen! I am very glad I accidently ended up there.
  3. Don’t get scared!  There are a lot of brilliant Veterinary professionals who attend this event.  As students, we are just beginning.  You won’t understand every lecture topic, or all of the research posters, or even half of the booths in the convention hall.  For example, I got involved in a lengthy conversation in the convention hall about a 3D reconstructing MRI. The salesman started showing me examples of the machine’s work.  At the time I hadn’t taken a diagnostic imaging class yet and had honestly never looked at an MRI before.  I admitted that I was a student, and we hadn’t covered imaging in our classes yet.  He was very nice and gave me a more simple explanation of the machine. His explanation actually helped me in my diagnostic imaging class later in the school year!
  4. Talk to as many people as you can: I know we have heard it over and over again, but the more people you talk to, the better experience you will have.  There are fun events every night (concerts, ball games, etc.) where you have an opportunity to talk with and to get to know your colleagues.   This is what these events are about; it’s good practice for you!  Who knows? You might end up with an exciting externship opportunity!
  5. Don’t forget the swag!  Make sure to leave time to go through the convention hall exhibits.  There were a lot of tote bags, socks, water bottles, collapsible dog bowls, sunglasses, etc.  You name it!  To obtain the items you could play games or do another interactive activity!  I even received a free two month supply of dental wipes for my dog.

Attending the AVMA convention is a wonderful opportunity to dip a toe into the pool of our future careers; however, it is expensive. Between hotels, flights, and time away from your studies, you want to make sure you make the most of the weekend.  I hope my guide can help you. Have fun, and I’ll see you there next year!

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