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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



Wellness Support Fund

Wellness Support Fund
SAVMA's Wellness Committee

The SAVMA Wellness Committee is offering funding to veterinary students and veterinary school organizations that wish to promote physical, mental, and emotional health at their college of veterinary medicine.

In light of the growing body of evidence indicating high levels of stress, anxiety, and depression in the veterinary profession, the committee recognizes that there is a considerable need to transform the culture of veterinary schools into one that is safe, promotes self-awareness, and encourages healthy living habits.  The SAVMA will award up to $2,500.00USD each cycle to student applicants demonstrating the need for assistance with a project, lecture, or event(s) that will foster physical or mental wellness in their respective college, on an as needed basis.

Apply here today! Must be a SAVMA member to apply. The committee will accept applications until December 31, 2018 Applicants may apply either to be reimbursed for a project retroactively or proactively. Fill out completed application form and send additional required materials (receipts, itineraries, etc.) to



Thanks to Liz Wahl from North Carolina State University for the adorable photos of her dog, Jet!

"Jet is a crazy border collie boy who enjoys helping out whenever and wherever he can. He gets electroacupuncture treatments for back pain. He is now fortunate enough to get his treatments at home as I'm studying acupuncture through the Chi Institute."



Hmga2 inactivation suppresses the development of a melanoma phenotype in skin exposed to UVB light

Elizabeth S. Lavin, Leanne R. Donahue, Hyeongsun Moon, Luye An, Andrew C. White
College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA (Elizabeth Lavin), Department of Biomedical Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA

Hmga2 is an architectural chromatin-remodeling factor that is upregulated in many cancers, including melanoma. Previous findings suggest that Hmga2 inactivation may prevent ultraviolet B (UVB)-mediated melanoma development, potentially through changes in inflammatory infiltration. Using murine models, we investigate the role of Hmga2 in skin exposed to UVB radiation to characterize environmental changes in Hmga2 -/- skin that may inhibit early melanomagenesis. We demonstrate that moderate acanthosis occurs in wild type skin within three days following UVB exposure, and loss of Hmga2 significantly attenuates this phenotype. Specifically, time course experiments demonstrate that expansion of the basal Keratin 5 (K5) and suprabasal Keratin 10 (K10) epidermal populations are markedly reduced in Hmga2-/- skin. These findings delineate the role of Hmga2 in modifying the cutaneous microenvironment in response to UVB exposure and in early melanoma formation.

Research Grant: NIH Training Grant
Student Support: Veterinary Investigators Program, Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine


This abstract was submitted by Elizabeth Lavin from Cornell University. Thanks, Elizabeth!


Staggeringly Funny

Thank you to Sophie Cressman from The Ohio State University for the following submissions to the Foot in Mouth Disease section of our blog!


"Story time: I went to a fall festival today and waited in line with 5 year olds to get a free balloon 'for my little sister' that I fully intend to use during my anatomy study session of the lungs tonight."