April 17, 2009

A Whirlwind… So Far

By admin

Week 1: “One ticket for Union Station, please.” This was the usual way I started the morning in the Baltimore BWI train station in preparation for taking the MARC commuter rail train into Washington DC. As I gazed at my ticket expecting to see the cost read $6 instead I noticed the ticket read $18. Confused that I had spent this morning three times my usual, I asked the stranger standing next to me if they had raised the price. She looked at my ticket and said, “I think you are supposed to get onto that train,” and pointed to the Amtrak businessclass train sitting on the track in front of us, exclusively collecting passengers. I asked an Amtrak employee that stood alongside the train if my ticket was for his train. He said, “No, your ticket is for the train that is two trains behind us, but I will take you to DC, hop on!”

I was thrilled! Compared to the MARC train, this was the essence of luxury. Smooth ride, silent, dim lights, comfortable seats, and quickest route to DC (the Amtrak train does not make local stops like the MARC). (A girl could get used to this!) I caught my redline Metro train to Dupont Circle, walked the one block to Sunderland Ave, and rang the doorbell at the AVMA GRD office building. I had arrived!

I was ushered into a room where I quickly met my superstar extern counterpart, Kirk Breuninger. (By the way, if you cannot remember how to spell his last name, he recommends you think of it this way, “Bud-wise-er” instead “Breu-ning-er.” Worked for me! He doesn’t mind me saying that his beads of sweat, goofy smile, and eyebrow bar glimmered in the room light.

After orientation, Ashley Shelton DVM, assistant director for AVMA-GRD, and I were assigned to work together. Ashley covers: food safety, antibiotic usage in food producing animals, Food Animal Residue Avoidance Databank (FARAD), the FDA Feed Ban Enhancement, the National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN), and the National Animal Identification System, among many other issues.

That afternoon, we attended a luncheon meeting with the Coalition for Animal Health regarding legislation restricting antibiotic usage in food producing animals. Specifically, we discussed strategy for opposition to PAMTA (S 619/H.R. 1549).

We ended our first day with delicious cupcakes at a birthday/going away celebration for some of the AVMA-GRD staff. Kirk and I sang the birthday song confidently until we got to the part of naming the individuals “Happy Birthday dear…..” and sadly feel silent as we did not know their names at that time. Oh, well, we know and love them now, and the food was great!

The remainder of the week was a blast:

  • Attended the Farm Foundation Forum on Food Safety. I watched as representatives from the meat and consumer industry (stout, middle-aged gentlemen vs. petite white haired lady) argued over whether our food safety system needed to be reformed.
  • Attended the meeting of the Codex Committee on Food Labeling
    (It seemed to be life changing for those involved, i.e. The United States’ position on food labeling was almost as important as our position on illegal immigrants.)
  • Met with a fellow Republican and anti-organic, John Goldberg, House Agriculture Committee Minority Staffer
  • Participated in a conference call with AVMA leaders in Schaumburg regarding the upcoming Antibiotic Coalition Meeting
    (Yes, I have spoken briefly with Dr. Ron DeHaven, AVMA CEO, over the phone, I’m sort of a big deal)
  • Worked on finding a place for the National Animal Health Laboratory Network in current food safety bills. (We definitely have some great ideas.)
  • Finally spent the morning at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association office discussing our response to the FDA Feed Ban enhancement additional window for comment on whether the deadline for compliance should be extended 60 days. (I love that the door to the conference room looked like a wooden version of the sliding door into a sale barn floor that allows animals in and out of the arena, how clever.)

Whew! It’s been a whirlwind and a blast so far! Can’t wait until next week, but I am going to enjoy Easter weekend with family!