March 14, 2018

Week 1

By Sonja Perry
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The first week of any veterinary externship is always full of firsts. For me, it is usually the first time I jump into an ambulatory truck with a stranger, well before dawn, as we head to a dairy farm to begin a herd check. With the AVMA-GRD Externship, it was the first time I put on a suit and was shown the office where I would work. At first, I was nervous. The sights and sounds of Washington D.C. are quite different from those of Washington, Missouri. The “flight zone” of Congressional staffers and lobbyists are different from those of beef cows. Luckily, the staff at AVMA Government Relations Division are welcoming, passionate and eager to serve our profession in the most effective ways possible. Over the past week I have learned a great deal about issues facing the veterinary profession, agricultural industry and everyday citizens. Here are just two of the many lessons I have learned so far:


  1. The AVMA-GRD Cares
    I was once amazed after watching a demonstration of how a guard dog will protect sheep from predators. How they lay quietly and attentively between their flock and the unknown knowing what is going on and watching for how events around them could affect their sheep. The AVMA-GRD puts that dog to shame. The staff at the GRD works similar erratic hours to some of the food animal veterinarians to wade through a different type of manure, the federal budget. They comb through looking for ways that federal spending will affect veterinarians and then advocate the position of the AVMA. It is as detail oriented work as reviewing lab results of a difficult internal medicine case. The difference is instead of one horse being affected, thousands of veterinarians across the US are. I have already seen how seriously they take their work and I am so thankful to be a small part of the team over the next few weeks and to be able to learn from them.
  2. Mentorship is only one ask away
    A few weeks before our externship, Jennie (the other extern) and I were given a list of veterinarians who were working in D.C. On our first day we sat down and began reaching out to these veterinarians who work for a variety of organizations including the US Government, the United States Senate, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges and many more. Each person to whom I reached out not only agreed to meet with me, but offered advice, personal stories and encouragement. Each meeting not only ended with a list of other people to reach out to, but recommendations of other opportunities to seek.


As you can tell our first week has been busy and I have learned so much. Over the next three weeks, I hope to dive deeper into the policy that affects members of the AVMA and continue to expand my horizons on potential avenues to help positively influence the profession and animal ag industry after graduation.

March 14, 2018

FIRST EXTERNS OF THE YEAR: Lessons for those to come

By Jennie Lefkowitz
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I’ll be honest with you, as excited as I am to share this experience, I’ve never written a blog post and I rarely use social media. (Pretty sure I made a Twitter account whilst bored in freshman chemistry that I’ve forgotten about until this moment.)

However, I do love making Instagram stories and Snapchats of my pupper. I write in my journal weekly. I’ve seen plenty of YouTube videos to know what “vlogging” is and I follow a few fashion and skincare blogs. So now you know my lameness and hopefully between those and Oxford writing skill sets [aka my fiancee that checks every essay ever made by me], you’ll enjoy reading about this time in DC.

Some lessons I’ve learned from week one as an AVMA GRD extern:

  1. The Dawg community is EVERYWHERE! If you graduated from UGA and you choose to ever go anywhere outside the Georgia state lines, pack something to represent Georgia. If you’re running away from GA, I’d advise against this because fellow UGA grads will see you from across the street and will shout out Go Dawgs to you. Even in the formalities of meeting people, when you give your status, “I’m at the University of Georgia,” the instant response is a professionally stated, “Go Dawgs”.
  2. Go to a reception/dinner/social hour where you know absolutely no one and give your business card to at least 5 people. Make it a personal challenge. If you are naturally an extrovert, then this will not intimidate you in the slightest but if you are the opposite, this is a great exercise to get more confident in the DC networking ways. I sit somewhere in the middle: I’m used to traveling to places I know zero people and then naturally meeting people or scheduling meetings. However, something about a business card and walking up to a person randomly took some personal coaching. This challenge was suggested by former fellow and friend, Dr. Taylor Winkleman.
  3. If you want to meet the Congressmen that are veterinarians, call them first because they are busy! 99.9% likely the other extern has them on their list so go together. You’ll probably be grouped together if you call individually anyway. Sonja and I tried with one of them. Is that a #FAIL moment?
  4. The fellows are a great place to start. Whether you’re interested in the AVMA Congressional Fellowship Program, AAAS Program, both or neither. Every fellow has a unique background and interest and thus a each has a unique network in DC they could connect you, if your interests are evenly remotely similar.
  5. Speaking of unique and different interests: Attend hearings on any subject you personally find interesting. And/or what your mentor is going to. Each extern has a unique background, and you’re ability to start making what may seem a random connection, is only random because it hasn’t been thought of before. For example, I attended a subcommittee hearing titled “China in Africa: The New Colonialism?”. I’ll elaborate on my thoughts of this hearing in the next blog post but I bet you read that title and thought What the heck does that have to do with veterinary medicine or animal health or anything animal related for that matter?! If you didn’t think that, why are you in veterinary medicine? JOKES! But seriously- you’re my new best friend. Animal health is not the first thing to come to mind when mentioning international affairs. New Best Friend: I bet you’ve heard of One Health! #highfive  <– Did I use that appropriately? #yes
  6. Download the Citymapper App. Plug in your destination and it will give you all the city smarts to get you where you need to go. – Walk, bus, metro or a combination. Also gives you average Uber and Lyft prices so you can compare the cost of travel for all the ways possible.
  7. The staff at the AVMA GRD are truly invested in you making this experience what you want it and need it to be. Their doors are pretty much always open and some of their drawers are filled with chocolate. They encourage you to experience DC to the fullest – that means networking, attending hearings, seeing the monuments and museums, visiting with legislative staff, state departments, industry, and wherever your meetings take you.
  8. Say yes as much as possible. **Do not use Jim Carey in Yes Man as a reference.


November 10, 2017

A Farewell to the District

By Matt Kuhn

It’s truly amazing how quickly six weeks goes by in a city like DC. As I write this, trying to think of how to structure a summary of so many diverse experiences, all of the names and faces I’ve come across keep flashing through my mind. I met congressmen from around the country, both of my home-state senators, and a past speaker of the house. I saw the Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, speak several times and Senator Al Franken make his well-known jokes during a senate hearing. I heard senators grill the pharmaceutical industry over drug pricing and farmers stand up for themselves to mis-informed representatives. With staffers, I discussed issues related to student debt and a bill incentivizing veterinarians to practice in rural America where they are needed most. I educated on the impending fallout faced by agriculture that would be caused by withdrawing from NAFTA and the necessity for mandatory funding of a foot and mouth disease vaccine bank in the upcoming Farm Bill. I met with veterinarians, lawyers, legislative aides, and lobbyists to discuss the intricacies and nuances to life in DC, to better understand how this city works and what all goes into the decisions that are made on Capitol Hill.

I’ve come to appreciate the city and all those that work in it. It is no easy task forming and managing policy. While I’d like to think I’m beginning to perceive the considerations that go into legislation, I know that I have only scratched the surface of understanding. Working in DC is taking on the ultimate problem-solving challenges. It is the diabetic addisonian dog of the veterinary world.

Nearing the end of my time here, those I spoke with began asking what the best part of my externship was or what specifically I’ve learned while here. It is honestly hard to pinpoint any one moment, skill, or subject. The most valuable aspect of the externship is simply being immersed in DC life. My understanding of the legislative branch of government prior to this externship was incredibly naïve and understanding how decisions are made and the inter-working of DC is incredibly complex. I had thought coming in that I may see lobbyists schmoozing and the dark side of DC, and I’m not so blind as to think it does not happen, but for the most part, our representatives are normal people. Their offices are staffed by intelligent, grounded, well-reasoning folks who are more than willing to take all sides of a story into consideration. Unfortunately, there are a great number of factors that may alter an office’s ability to become involved in particular legislation.

DC is a truly magical place. It is an open and airy city, lacking skyscrapers and centered around the expansive National Mall. It is steeped in history and pride for our country. It is uniquely American. I feel so fortunate to have spent six weeks here and encourage any veterinary student, whether you are contemplating a career in policy or not, to consider applying for the Extern on the Hill program next fall. It is an opportunity unlike any other afforded to us as veterinary students. I’ll leave that as my final message and want to thank everyone here at the GRD office for such an unforgettable experience.

Twitter: @MattKuhnDVM18

Final Blog Pic












November 9, 2017

An Adventure to the Library

By Matt Kuhn
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Around DC

One of the many benefits to an externship on The Hill is just being in Washington, DC. Now, I’ve visited most of the museums and art galleries in previous trips to Washington, and I’ve seen all of the monuments on the National Mall innumerable times, so one of my main personal goals for this trip was to get on to the floor of the main reading room of the Library of Congress.

Yes, I know, you’re probably thinking “well that doesn’t sound fun at all.” Well, I’m a history buff and a bit of a bookworm, so for me, the Library of Congress, the world’s largest library, is my nerdy Disneyland. The last time I visited DC, I finally made it a point to visit the library. The entrance itself is mesmerizing. A large hall completely covered with tile mosaic and a ceiling that could have come from Rome. And while there are exhibits with artwork and literature that flank this gallery, the real draw is the main reading room. Members of the general public are not allowed to go into the main reading room; rather, they can look down into it from a balcony through a pane of glass. As I stood there staring into one of the most beautiful rooms I had ever seen, I knew, I had to find a way to get down there.

When I arrived this Fall, it was then my mission to figure out how I could get access to that room. It took a little bit of looking around on the internet for instructions, but eventually, I had my library card, and I was on my way to the library. I had chosen the book “Every Man a Cattle Doctor,” written in 1815, to be my chosen book to read while there. Books at the Library of Congress are ‘checked out’ but may not leave the reading room to which they are assigned. I entered the library via an underground tunnel from a building across the street so as to skip the line to get in, which made the whole ordeal feel very National Treasure-esque. I should say that anyone can do this; all of the buildings of the library, as well as the supreme court, capitol, house, and senate buildings, are all connected via tunnels, some of which the public can use.

The main reading room was magical. A circular room surrounded by books with a high rising rotunda painted with figures representing countries that most significantly contributed to western civilization. I could never do it justice with my written word, but being able to sit in there and just read for a little while was an experience I’ll never forget. The book I had chosen only added to my excitement. Reading about veterinary medicine from the early 1800’s was quite humbling. Almost every ailment could be solved with bleeding away 3-6 quarts of blood and giving the cow a home-made tonic of various herbs and spices.

This little jaunt was a fantastic way to spend an afternoon in DC and one that I won’t soon forget. It was an experience that very few have had and I feel very fortunate to have been able to take advantage of. I would urge anyone considering this externship to get on to the reading room floor or seek out experiences that one can only have while in DC for a lengthy period of time. They may take a little bit of preparation but the payout is unforgettable.










November 2, 2017

The Resistance is Coming

By Matt Kuhn

Some of the best experiences afforded to us as Externs on the Hill are completely spontaneous. As I looked at my twitter feed two weeks ago, I noticed a posting by the USDA advertising a live-stream for an upcoming conference on the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS). As I looked into the event, I noticed the conference itself was being held at none other than USDA Headquarters, a ten-minute metro ride from our AVMA GRD office.

NARMS is a system formed jointly by the FDA, CDC, and USDA in 1996 to monitor isolates of bacteria from sick humans (CDC), retail meats (FDA), and farm animals (USDA) to detect and track the spread of antibiotic resistance. It has been one of the most successful inter-agency collaborations in the US government and has maintained its high regard from the scientific community through the years by continuing to be innovative and transparent, providing much of their raw data directly to the public to spur further research. Having such a unique event so close by was very fortunate, so I took advantage of the two days of presentations and discussions revolving around various topics effected by NARMS.

Over the course of the conference, a couple of trends emerged from those speaking, representing not only the three sponsor organizations, but others from academia, animal and plant trade organizations, and other governmental entities. The first trend was an emphasis on whole-genome sequencing. Previous to the mass use of whole genome sequencing, studying antibiotic resistant organisms relied heavily on phenotypic responses, meaning how an isolate of bacteria responded to treatment with various antibiotics. With whole genome sequencing, we can begin to match those phenotypic responses with specific genetic changes. This allows NARMS to track the spread of specific genes, cluster outbreaks based on similar genetics, and better predict how, when, and where future outbreaks may occur. Much of the first day delved deep into this topic as its full potential is only beginning to come to light.

Another obvious motif of the conference was the need to better measure and track antibiotic use to understand its impact on resistance. Currently, one of the tasks of the FDA is to collect antibiotic sales data from industry, which is many times used in a negative light against animal agriculture. The current means of measuring antibiotic use is based upon a total mass of product sold, which does not consider potency of the drug nor how it was used, both of which make it difficult to tie these data to any substantial conclusions about their impact on resistance. Further, antibiotics sold for human medicine are not reported in the same manner making comparisons between the two industries indirect and problematic.

Everyone at the conference agreed that we can do better when it comes to preventing antibiotic resistance, but almost all emphasized that this does not mean straightforward decreases in antibiotic use or further use restrictions as many law-makers not well-versed in science have proposed. Reducing resistance means using antibiotics judiciously. Using them after culture and susceptibility rather than as a means of diagnosis. Following the correct dosage, route, and duration of therapy. And this is not all confined to food animals. Speakers voiced concerns over more strict employment of these methods in companion animal and human healthcare as well.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue was kind enough to stop by and leave us with some kind words. He emphasized the great advances made in antibiotics over the past eighty years as well as the recognition and fight against antibiotic resistance there since. While he held everyone in the room and within our field in very high regard, we all can still improve and must improve on our antibiotic use and resistance monitoring if we hope to continue our dependence upon these antimicrobials into the future.










October 26, 2017

Pride for Michigan

By Matt Kuhn

These past two weeks, I finally had the opportunity to meet with my senators, Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters. Senators certainly have their hands full with their constituents, taking on their entire state rather than the smaller portions that the house members represent. This can make finding time to meet with them considerably, and understandably, more difficult. Fortunately, each of my senators have a ‘Morning with the Senator’ event each week that the senate is in session. I’ve noticed that many other members of the senate from across the country hold this event or one of a similar nature as a means to set aside specific time to meet with their constituents.

It really is a rarity, on either side of The Hill to be able to personally meet a representative or senator and have time to talk about the issues that concern you most. Most conversations pertaining to political matters occur through a member’s staff member, or ‘staffer,’ on behalf of the congressman or congresswoman. I’ve become well acquainted with these meetings during my externship and in past visits to The Hill, so being able to actually meet the person with their name on the door really means a lot. Now I can imagine that much of the year their mornings are much busier than late October, well past DC’s peak tourism season, so my experience may have been a little more laid back than most.

Stabenow PicturesI’m very lucky to have one of my senators as the ranking member of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee. Senator Debbie Stabenow has not only been a powerful member of the senate for many years, but a strong supporter of veterinary medicine and agriculture. In fact, she is a sponsor of the Veterinary Medical Loan Repayment Program Enhancement Act (VMLRPEA) that I spend most of my time advocating for. Our meeting was a nice change of pace as her office’s views parallel those of the AVMA for the most part, giving me time to thank her for all she has done.

This is not to say that Senator Peters has been anything but helpful as well; he simply has a different committee assignment and thus different priorities. That’s why it’s my job as a constituent to bring to light important topics such as the VMLRPEA and student loans related legislation. I was extremely appreciative of his and his aids’ attentiveness throughout the morning and active engagement over my concerns. I look forward to continuing to work with Peters Photohim and his staff in the future to continue to garner his support for Michigan’s agriculture and veterinary communities.

Prior to my meetings, I have been very proud of both of my senators. They are both fellow alumni of Michigan State University, both very passionate about protecting Michigan and the Great Lakes, and are both willing to stand up for their constituents and work side by side for the sake of our state. After these meetings, and their willingness to take to heart my message and worries, my pride has only grown.

At a time when congress needs to hear the wants and needs of their constituents the most (not to mention entering an election year), taking advantage of opportunities to meet with our national representatives is very important to keeping Washington grounded. I strongly encourage anyone visiting the DC area to always check ahead of time and see when these events are being held. Even if you don’t have a specific bill to talk about, find something that you are passionate about. Their job is to represent you and the only way they can do so is to understand what fires you up, what gets you out of bed in the morning, and what concerns you have.

October 26, 2017

Now say it five times fast

By Matt Kuhn

The Extern on the Hill program is multifaceted. During our brief stint in DC, part of the externship is to network and meet many veterinarians and scientists in the area, which I touched on in a previous blog post. Another aspect that we spend a significant amount of time on is meeting with congressmen and congresswomen from our home state, and at times other states, to discuss some of the topics and bills that are impactful to veterinary medicine.

At the moment, one of the most opportunistic bills to discuss is the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program Enhancement Act (VMLRPEA). My externship coincides with a very pivotal time in the course of this bill, as it has been introduced in several sessions of congress now, not yet having the support or timing to get passed through each house. As a well-supported, bi-partisan bill introduced in both the house and senate, it has the potential to be moved along and with tax reform and the 2018 Farm Bill both looming on the horizon, there are potential vehicles to do so. This is a moment where both support and timing come together to give a bill the best opportunity possible to become law. The key for me, at this opportune moment, is to bolster the support side of the equation.

The VMLRPEA looks to improve a program that has been successful in bringing primarily food animal veterinarians to areas of rural America that need them most. Currently, this program identifies regions in each state that are in critical need of food animal veterinary services and entices veterinarians to come and fill those voids through a $75,000 loan repayment program paid out over three years. The program is a win win for all those involved. Veterinarians have a means to pay off a portion of their student loans and receive a stable position in the community while farmers and their animals receive the veterinary care they desperately need. While hundreds of veterinarians have taken advantage of this program, there are still many unfilled positions every year, and not due to lack of applications. One of the reasons for this is a 39% tax that is placed upon the award given to veterinarians. Thankfully, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) who runs the program picks up this tax so that veterinarians may still receive their full loan repayment amount. The pitfall to this is that of the money appropriated to the USDA for the VMLRP, over a third of it is now going straight back to the government and limiting how many positions can be awarded.

My home state of Michigan has been fortunate enough to have several of our critical areas of need filled through this program over the past few years. That being so, several slots have also been applied for but remain unfilled; the same story told over and over again in every agricultural state. This bill is good for veterinarians, good for farmers and ranchers, and most importantly good for the animals, who deserve proper veterinary care.

If you would like to support this effort yourself, I encourage you to visit the AVMA’s Congressional Advocacy Network page to learn more about the this bill and the AVMA’s efforts in its passage. Additionally, information on how to contact your representatives is available on this website. If you would like to make it more personal, write a hand-written letter or better yet, meet them in person; all representatives have offices in their home state and are always happy to meet with constituents when in town.

October 17, 2017

It’s not what you know…

By Matt Kuhn
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We’ve all heard the phrase “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” I can’t imagine a city where this phrase holds true more than Washington, D.C. I heard an adage related to this saying this past week that goes “It’s not what you know, but who you know, and not necessarily who you know, but who knows you.” It’s easy to have contacts, but harder to have relationships.

A significant portion of our time as Externs on the Hill is spent meeting with other veterinarians and scientists on The Hill and surrounding area. Building relationships with those whose path we hope to emulate is likely more important than learning the nuances to policy and legislation in DC. This past week I had several meetings with veterinarians whose names you have likely heard before if you read this blog regularly, and some who have not been mentioned before.

20171005_151031731_iOSDr. Sarah Babcock was the first veterinarian I was fortunate enough to meet. A fellow Spartan and also a lawyer, she has been involved with animal law and a relief veterinarian for a number of years. Much of her sage advice stemmed from how to make the transition from a university into city life and simply, how to live. It’s a silly thing to read, but so much of our time is spent thinking about how we may do our jobs, sometimes we forget about the other half of our lives and how we balance the two.

Next was Dr. Eric Deeble, a legislative assistant for Senator Gillibrand of New York. Eric emphasized the advantages to becoming involved in politics at a local level. To become comfortable being an extrovert and having discussions about politics with everyday people. After Eric was Dr. Rachel Cumberbatch who hails from the Animal Health Institute and had great advice as to how to grow writing skills, an asset in a city that lives and dies by the memo and white paper. Additionally, she was a valuable resource regarding talks, discussions, and presentations relating to science that are held around the city every day when you really start to look for them.

At the Department of Homeland Security, I met Roxann Motroni, a program manager for agricultural defense research. She, like me, comes from an educational background based in food animal medicine. Roxann had many pieces of advice on how to stay sharp as a veterinarian and where to find relief work with food animals around a city devoid of agriculture. Lastly, Dr. Elise Ackley now works with Pew Charitable Trusts, a non-partisan organization helping humans and animals around the world through policy. Elise expressed the bond that veterinarians share around DC and across the country. With relatively so few veterinarians in non-traditional careers, it become close-knit a very close-knit community.

Each meeting with a past AVMA Fellow had similar themes; ways to prepare for application to a fellowship program, advice for on working on The Hill, tips for living the ‘DC Life,’ and yet each one carried its own spin. Each fellow had little bits of advice that were unique with thoughts I had never considered before. Each offered insights to the nuances of politics and how legislation is carried out in Washington. Each meeting was invaluable and could not be replaced by any other. I think that is what makes building relationships so valuable in this city. The little differences we all carry with us are what make each person fit a different niche. Everyone I spoke with was a DVM, yet each had developed a very different approach to influencing policy and infusing science into politics. This is what makes this externship so valuable. No other experience in veterinary medicine opens you to meeting so many successful, non-traditional, veterinarians who are so willing to open up and invite you into their world. I truly hope each of them known how valuable their opinions are to the students they speak with.

Remember to follow @AVMACAN on twitter for updates about what you can do to influence policy and @MattKuhnDVM18 for more on my externship here in DC.

October 10, 2017

An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure

By Matt Kuhn

This past week I had the opportunity to see past Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle speak as a part of the Blue Ribbon Panel on BioDefense (BRPB). The BRPB began in 2014 as a privately funded, bipartisan, entity with panel members composted of former Representatives, Senators, and Governors among other high ranking federal positions. The goal of the panel was to evaluate the ability of the United States to prevent, detect, and respond to biological outbreaks, whether they be natural or by way of bio-terrorism. Their findings suggested that the United State is woefully unprepared to detect bio-threats in a timely manner nor to appropriately respond to such threats. Their conclusions reveal the underappreciated fragility of the American economy and nuanced ramifications faced by Americans due to foreign pathogens causing disease outbreaks.

20171004_021346738_iOSThe AVMA, alongside several veterinary and agricultural-trade organizations, have recognized this insufficiency in American agri-defense for many years and have recently bolstered their pressure on the federal government to establish a national animal vaccine bank with a priority on Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD)  to protect American livestock. Speaking purely from a monetary standpoint, creating a vaccine bank is more than worth the expense. Consider this: the current ask of the federal government is 750 million dollars for the establishment of the vaccine bank and coordination of vaccine production. Compare that to the 34.5 billion dollars the United Kingdom economy lost due to the islands FMD outbreak back in 2001. If an outbreak in the UK can disrupt an economy to that scale, it is hard to put in perspective what could happen to the US.

Despite this strong argument, there is many more aspects to this discussion than purely maintaining economic stability. As I mentioned previously, there are many nuances to a disease outbreak that are hard to account for. As a veterinary student having worked with those in the agricultural sector for many years, the concern that I have from an outbreak is not the cost to the American economy, but the direct impact on animals and those that care for them. Without the ability to manage disease outbreaks with vaccination, we are left with depopulation; the approach taken by the UK in 2001 and found to be devastating.

When managed depopulation is carried out, farmers are forced to go against everything they’ve ever learned and worked for. While they may be compensated to a certain extent by the federal government for losses, the reimbursement will never make up for the true costs of such an undertaking, such as years of on farm genetic selection, young and growing stock’s future potential, and an abrupt cessation of likely their only income for a long period of time. This significant loss of livelihood would be the end of the road for many of our countries small family farms. And more difficult even than this, many of these caregivers must face the reality of euthanizing their animals, their life’s work. Farmers and ranchers put their heart and soul into their animals. They are their lifeblood and such action would take an incalculable emotional tole.

As negotiations over the 2018 Farm Bill continue, it is ever important that our nation’s decision makers fully understand the consequences of potential bio-threats facing our country today. In Tom Daschle’s closing remarks, he pressed for the need for leadership in Washington. Leadership willing to stand up for bio-defense and for the protection of our people and animals. The AVMA and those representing beef and pork industries have certainly taken a leading role in this regard, now it is time for congress to listen. As Benjamin Franking said “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

October 4, 2017

The Name Game

By Matt Kuhn

It’s fairly standard procedure to begin each new rotation during clinics with a little round robin of names, future interests, and probably a fun fact or two with your rotation mates and new clinicians. I’ll start off this rotation with all of you in lieu of my peers.

My name is Matt Kuhn. When I grow up, I want to work in public policy focusing on advancing science based legislation and regulation. I have a four-year-old pit bull who is a blood donor and has now donated almost two gallons to the university hospital. And it took me 24 years of life to finally see the movie Hocus Pocus.
And unlike most students who’s follow up questions revolve around their fun facts, I consistently get the question, “you want to go into what?”

From day one of veterinary school, students are told about various non-traditional careers for veterinarians and yet we become so entrenched in clinical medicine that many students, veterinarians, and the public never think about the other opportunities open to veterinarians. The skill set we acquire during our didactic and clinical years makes veterinarians a jack of all trades, able to quickly adapt to any number of careers. We are educated not only in medicine, but basic biology, epidemiology, research principles, and food safety, all with a one health perspective. We are taught to be leaders, yet work well within a team. In talking with clients and peers, we learn to speak to a broad range of audiences, allowing anyone, from scientist to laymen, to follow the conversation. Some of these skills can simply be taught, but many of them are the soft skills. Skills that can only be gained with experience and practice. Skills that are very sought after in a city that runs on communication and influence.

This opens the door for veterinarians to fill positions in almost every sector of government from the obvious, in the USDA or FDA, to more unknown roles, such as those in the Department of Defense or White House. While veterinarians working in government do so across the United States, there is a reliable need for them on The Hill. Now, more than ever, we need to bring science back into policy. Decisions need to be made based upon peer-reviewed research and widely accepted basic understandings of science. Specific to veterinary medicine, those with a non-science background need to be informed of the threats facing our country and its food supply and how legislation they pass (or don’t pass) can impact veterinarians both large and small, as well as farmers, ranchers, and pet owners.

Over the next six weeks, I will be meeting with a number of individuals who have taken on non-traditional careers as veterinarians as well as others actively involved as non-veterinary scientists on The Hill. I am elated to be able to hear their stories and share their experiences; to learn from their mistakes and emulate their successes. I hope that you can follow along with me and not only learn about careers open to veterinary studentsFirst Post Pic but what you can do right now to influence legislation both nationally and in your own state. Make sure to follow @AVMACAN on twitter for updates on legislative priorities and me @MattKuhnDVM18 for updates on my externship, animal health, and upcoming blog posts.