Entries in Externship (24)


An Externship Unlike Any Other

By Nikki Dowgos, SAVMA Editor in Chief

How do you describe an externship that had such a profound impact on your life and career trajectory? It’s hard to put into words the amazing experience I had during the month of April at the American Veterinary Medical Association Government Relations Division. As expected, I learned so much about legislative process as a whole and about what veterinarians can do to make an impact. What I valued most about this externship, though, is how much I learned about myself and the many veterinarians in Washington D.C.

I was very quickly immersed in the AVMA GRD agenda when I arrived. There was a sense of urgency to everything I was working on as Congress was quickly approaching Easter recess and there were many things that needed to be started before the two-week hiatus. I began working with one of the Assistant Directors, Alex Sands, on her project concerning the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program Enhancement Act (VMLRP EA). The bill was introduced in the 115th Congress, but it did not make it to the final stages. The goal of this project was to do research on specific states across the United States to evaluate how many designated shortages were filled in previous years and how many shortages there are for this current application cycle. By doing this, we were able to demonstrate the need to recruit and retain veterinarians in rural communities and garner support from members of Congress from many states! I found myself very passionate about this research and it was very fulfilling to work on a project that can ultimately improve the lives of rural veterinarians and their communities.

My time in Washington D.C. was a good balance of work and play. The peak cherry blossom bloom was occurring simultaneously with my first few days there, so I was able to walk around the Tidal Basin and see the beautiful Dr. Seuss-esque foliage after I completed some meetings on Capitol Hill one afternoon. I visited the United States Botanic Garden Conservatory and took a tour where I learned about medicinal plants as well as many plants endemic to different regions around the world. I explored the Library of Congress where I learned about the history of baseball and Central America through some of their temporary exhibits. One of my favorite places that I was able to go was the National Portrait Gallery and the Hall of Presidents. It was so incredible to observe such beautiful art as well as the portraits of all the presidents up to now. Many of them were so realistic that it appeared the subject could walk right out of the portrait! I really enjoyed being able to see some of the historic sites in Washington D.C. while on my externship.

One of the most exciting things about the AVMA GRD Externship is the fact that, as an extern, you have the flexibility to truly choose what you want to get out of the experience. Due to the two-week Congressional recess during my four-week externship, I decided to front load my experience with congressional hearings, meetings, and briefings. I spent the final two weeks meeting with as many veterinarians in D.C. that I possibly could. I met with veterinarians in a variety places throughout the executive branch like the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine, Defense Health Agency, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). I also met with veterinarians from the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC), the Animal Health Institute, Merck Animal Health, and a professor from George-Washington University. They all had unique and interesting stories to share about how they came into their current position; I am looking forward to one day working in government and calling them my colleagues!

The AVMA GRD Externship was the highlight of my clinical year thus far. I thoroughly enjoyed taking a step back from the clinical side of veterinary medicine to see how decision-making and policies enacted at the governmental level can affect the everyday lives of veterinarians and pet owners. Coming into this externship, I knew that I would seek out ways to be involved in organized veterinary medicine upon graduation whether that be at the local level with my state Veterinary Medical Association or the national level like the American Veterinary Medical Association. This externship allowed me to fully explore the many different avenues I may be able to pursue to stay involved and I am truly grateful for the opportunity that the AVMA Government Relations Division provided. I highly encourage anyone with any interest in the nuances of policy and organized veterinary medicine to apply for this invaluable externship opportunity!






If you are interested in applying for this externship experience, applications are now being accepted for the 2020 AVMA Government Relations Externship Program. More information is available on the AVMA Website!


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!




















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



AVMA GRD Externship


AVMA Government Relations
Student Externship Program
AVMA Government Relations Division 

Are you a veterinary student who wants to impact public policy and expand your professional network? You may be interested in the AVMA’s 2019 Government Relations Student Externship Program!

During the four-week program, students live in Washington, D.C. and learn more about public policy issues facing the veterinary profession. Externs will work with AVMA’s government relations team to perform tasks such as educating congressional staffers on the AVMA’s legislative priorities, attending congressional hearings and briefings, and meeting with a variety of veterinarians in sectors of the federal government and nonprofit organizations. During their externships, students will discover the scope of veterinary medicine in government and expand their understanding of the legislative process.

Applications are due October 12, 2018. Please visit the AVMA website for application information and if you have any questions please email externship@avma.org or call 800.321.1473.


AVMA Headquarters Externship

Get a new perspective on veterinary medicine with an AVMA student externship opportunity. The deadline is quickly approaching on January 18th for the AVMA Headquarters Externship, so apply soon here.