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Veterinary Students Get Involved in the Legislative Process 

By: Katie Zatroch,

The Ohio State University, Class of 2013


      53 students representing 21 different veterinary schools met at the Doubletree Hotel in Washington, D.C. February 7-8, 2011 for the 3rd annual Student Legislative Fly In. Sponsorship provided by Merial, the AVMA, and SAVMA allowed veterinary students from across the United States, Canada, and the Caribbean to attend. Organized by the AVMA’s Governmental Relations Division (GRD) and SAVMA’s Governmental Affairs Committee (GAC), the program focuses on presenting current legislative issues affecting the veterinary profession, demonstrating the impact that veterinarians can have in the realm of advocacy, and preparing veterinary students for participation in the legislative process.

      On the first day of the program, after an introduction to the program and the city of Washington, D.C. by Dr. Mark Lutschaunig, Director of the GRD, students participated in a panel discussion with current (Dr. Whitney Miller) and former (Drs. Stic Harris and Doug Meckes) participants in the AVMA Congressional Science Fellowship Program. This program allows veterinarians to serve as scientific advisors to Members of Congress for one year. Each participant communicated the personal and professional growth afforded by the challenging and fast-paced lifestyle that comes with the program.

      Participants listened to Dr. Ellen Carlin, a staffer for the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security, and Dr. Melinda Cep, Legislative Assistant for the Office of Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT-3), share their experiences in the legislative process in Washington, D.C. From them, students were able to gain a better sense of what life is like as a professional staffer. The program then delved into the impact that can be made by the efforts of grassroots politics, as presented by Kay Johnson Smith, Executive Vice President of the Animal Agriculture Alliance. Her presentation focused on emerging animal welfare issues and the veterinarian’s role in educating the public. Stephanie Fisher, Grassroots Coordinator for the AVMA, followed with a presentation about staying involved and continuing to make a difference in the political arena as a practicing veterinarian. She stressed utilization of the AVMA Congressional Advocacy Network (AVMA-CAN), a social media outreach project of the GRD. After a luncheon during which Dr. Suzanne Causey, Technical Service Veterinarian of Merial, spoke to the students, Adrian Hochstadt, Assistant Director of the AVMA State Legislative and Regulatory Affairs, gave a presentation on current issues in veterinary medicine and their influence on state politics. He focused upon how the AVMA assists state VMAs and the importance of veterinarians in public policy.

      After this series of presentations invigorated the students about the possibilities that lie ahead, it was time to direct that excitement toward the immediate opportunity to make an impact—the next day’s Capitol Hill visits. Attendees spent the afternoon getting prepped by the members of the GRD. Students were given an overview of how the GRD offices work, and information as to how to navigate Capitol Hill. Gina Luke, Assistant Director of the GRD, presented two advocacy issues that were the focus of the Fly In’s Capitol Hill visits. Students learned the details of the Veterinary Services Investment Act and the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program Enhancement Act, and were given fact sheets to supplement their visits with legislative offices. Participants used these materials to practice delivering information in mock visits.

      After having time to process the information presented throughout Monday’s activities, students and GRD staff gathered on Tuesday morning and departed for Capitol Hill. Once there, Fly In attendees listened to a Q&A session with congressional staffers in the Committee on Agriculture Hearing Room. After a glimpse into the inner workings of Capitol Hill and the importance of informed and enthusiastic young people taking part in the legislative process, the group prepared themselves for an afternoon of advocacy.

      Students met with staffers in their state legislators’ offices and asking for original co-sponsorship of the Veterinary Services Investment Act. This act, which would establish a matching grant program for developing, implementing and sustaining veterinary services throughout the United States. Students also asked for co-sponsorship of the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program Enhancement Act., This act, which would make the current VMRLP, a grant program designed to relieve veterinary shortages in underserved areas, exempt from gross income and employment taxes. Following the day of meetings, attendees gathered at the GRD office for lunch and a discussion of Capitol Hill visits with Dr. Lutschaunig and other members of the GRD staff.

      After a two-day whirlwind of learning and mounting excitement for the coming visits, the students were able to settle in to the concept of presenting ideas that promote the veterinary profession within the framework of their personal experiences as students saddled with debt, anxious about the job search, and eager to maintain the vitality of the veterinary profession. Time will tell how attendees’ effort will be rewarded in this Congressional session, but those who were able to participate already consider the Student Legislative Day a success. With a new sense of appreciation for the legislative process and the eagerness to be at the table where decisions are made, students are now equipped with the tools to have a lifelong influence in the political realm!      


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By: Emily Waggoner

University of Georgia

Class of 2013   



Trivia Results

Here's the Trivia Q and A from this round of Vet Gazette Submission. There were lots of correct answers- thanks to all who submitted!

Congratulations to our winner Amanda Smith from the University of Illinois.

Q:  2 schools were recently granted accreditation by the AVMA Council on Education for the first time.  Which schools are they, where are they located, and for how long does veterinary accreditation last?


1. National Autonomous University of Mexico School of Veterinary Medicine (Universidad Nacional Autonoma de México Facultad de Medicina Veterinaria y Zootecnia Ciudad Universitaria), Mexico City
2. Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine in St. Kitts, West Indies

Their Veterinary accreditation lasts 7 years.


Public Health and Community Outreach- Current Topics 

This is one of a series of articles and links brought to you by the SAVMA Public Health & Community Outreach Committee -- PHCOC aims to educate veterinary students about emerging issues in veterinary medicine, increase veterinary medical service to underserved areas, and encourage youth to consider a career in veterinary medicine.

States Draw Line Against Yellowstone Brucellosis

        The cattle states of Colorado and Nebraska are putting up some defenses over what's going on with brucellosis up in the Yellowstone country of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.
         The two states that share borders with Wyoming are putting stricter animal identification requirements in effect for cattle that have spent any time in the Yellowstone Park area.
Until Texas recently discovered eight head of cattle at Rio Grande City suffering from bovine brucellosis, the area in and around Yellowstone National Park was the only part of the West experiencing the bacterial infections also known as Bang's disease.
         Texas was free of Bang's disease for five years until the Texas Animal Health Commission came back last month with positive tests from R.Y. Livestock Sales at Rio Grande City.
         In animals brucellosis can cause calves to abort, only weak calves to be born, and reduced milk production. Known as undulant fever in humans, a brucellosis infection can come from unpasteurized milk or contact with birthing material of a infected cow or new-borne calves.
Yellowstone -- the flagship of the national park system -- covers 2.2 million acres, making it larger than the states of Rhode Island and Delaware combined.  With populations of bison, moose, elk, pronghorn, and two species of bear, it isn't getting on top of its brucellosis problem fast enough for cattlemen.
The Wyoming Livestock Board's Jim Schwartz is not surprised that states like Colorado and Nebraska are going to be more careful about Cowboy State cattle. He says the neighboring states are just trying to protect their livestock.
        Beginning Sept. 1, Colorado will require that all sexually intact female cattle that have spent any time near Yellowstone carry a Colorado-approved ear. The Wyoming Legislature, which has already adjourned for the year, opted not to go with an animal identification system that might have helped.
Wyoming cattlemen have long opposed animal ID programs. Lawmakers will not return to Cheyenne until 2012.
       Nebraska has published draft rules that could take effect as early as April 1. Cattle account for half of all agricultural sales in both Colorado and Nebraska and total more than $10 billion.
The Yellowstone problem was again demonstrated when initial tests from a five-year study of 100 elk in Ruby Valley came back with 12 animals positive for brucellosis.
Montana's state veterinarian, Marty Zaluski, said the results were disappointing.
The Ruby Valley is adjacent to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem where elk are infected.   
Montana ranchers fear the bison even more than the elk when it comes to Bang's disease.  The state holds more than 500 head of bison that have left the park because of concern they will transmit the disease to cattle.
         But the only proven transmission of brucellosis to cattle so far has been from the elk.  The five-year study is intended to produce information on how to best manage the risk elk pose to livestock.
The bison that migrated to state lands can be hunted down and killed, according to a federal judge.  And Montana's governor has put a ban on bison entering Montana out of concern about brucellosis.
The Montana Senate, by wide margins, has sent bills to the House that would specify that the bison are " a species requiring disease control" and another that would make the Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks Department subordinate to the Department of Livestock. 
        Bison would not be able to roam free any where in Montana, except maybe on Indian reservations.
Dr. Bernard Bang, a Danish veterinarian, first isolated the cause of bovine brucellosis in 1897.
Cattle are tested for brucellosis at least one a year.  Young animals get the "calfhood" vaccination and an ear tattoo with a birth date.



Feral Cat Alliance Megaclinic

By: Jennifer Stecher

Iowa State Univeristy, Class of 2012


Iowa State University Feral Cat Alliance (FCA) is a volunteer, veterinary student organization under the supervision of ISU College of Veterinary Medicine faculty and staff that is dedicated to serving central Iowa communities by humanely controlling the feral cat population.  Our mission is to humanely reduce the feral cat population by using a trap, neuter, and return program (TNR).  TNR programs allow feral cat colonies to be humanely trapped by their caretakers and transported to our ISU facility to be surgically sterilized, vaccinated, receive a topical dewormer, and become ear tipped.  Afterwards, the cats are returned to their caretakers to be released back into the wild (their territory).   

FCA holds monthly clinics and an annual Megaclinic at ISU College of Veterinary Medicine.  On Saturday, September 18, 2010, FCA held their annual Megaclinic.  Over one hundred ISU veterinary students, eleven ISU/local veterinarians and several ISU staff worked to surgically sterilize, vaccinate and deworm one hundred feral cats.

With the help of SAVMA ELC Grant, FCA was able to fund this endeavor to surgically sterilize feral cats and provide education to the local community and veterinary students about the behavior, medical risks, infectious disease risks, and overpopulation issues of feral cats.   Feral cat overpopulation is a huge issue in the central Iowa community and FCA’s monthly clinics and the annual Megaclinic attempt to reduce these numbers through our spaying and neutering efforts.  It was approximated that at the Megaclinic, we prevented about 90-110 pregnancies and 450-500 kittens from being born this year alone.  This was a great accomplishment for the Feral Cat Alliance and Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine.