June 14, 2012

Southerner in the City

By Elise Ackley

Hello all!

My name is Elise Ackley and I am a third year veterinary student at Louisiana State University, where I am tracking public practice. For those of you who know me, you know that aside from veterinary medicine, political affairs are my life. I eat, sleep, breathe, and (to the chagrin of my boyfriend) obsess about what is going with the role of veterinary medicine on the Hill. So imagine my delight when I was accepted to be an AVMA-GRD extern for the month of June!

The first week here at the externship started off with a bang! Joe, my co-extern and former SAVMA HOD member, and I have been hitting the ground running since we started last Monday. Our first day began with an orientation into the world of the GRD office, followed by meetings with individual staff members to get to know them and to gain better understanding of the issues they are diligently working on—the staff are all phenomenal by the way! It sounds crazy, but it felt as if I blinked my eyes and the first day was over.

Tuesday night was a treat because Joe and I got to attend an EcoHealth Alliance reception at the Cosmos Club, right off of the famous Embassy Row. The event was to address, and raise awareness for, the shocking decline in frog and honey bee population. While we were making the rounds and introducing ourselves to the attendees, we happened upon a former GRD extern and current AAAS/AVMA Fellow who offered up great advice for our time here at the externship…I’m starting to notice that DC is a small world stuck in a big city, so be prepared to run into people!

The rest of the week was spent in preparation for the AVMA Executive Board meeting coming into town Thursday and Friday. I was very much looking forward to observing the exec board meetings since, as your SAVMA President-elect, I will one day sit on the board. The first day of the board meeting was spent on Capitol Hill speaking with our state members of Congress about H.R. 1406, the Postal Service Act, and Appropriations for USDA and APHIS. Before we stormed the Hill in force, the GRD staff put together a lunch reception at Johnny’s Half Shell where they served some mighty delicious Cajun food of all things! I’m a sucker for good Cajun food being from Louisiana. That’s the one thing they do not tell you about this externship…they feed you, and feed you well! Several members of Congress attended the lunch reception including Rep. Kurt Schrader who is currently our only veterinarian serving in Congress. He is a strong champion for the AVMA, so it was nice to sit down and talk to him about issues going on in our profession and thank him for all of his support.

Friday I attended the business sessions of the AVMA Executive Board meetings, where the topics ranged anywhere from animal welfare issues to governance issues. It was interesting to see public policy woven throughout each of the subjects debated and it was great to see the GRD staff in action keeping the members of the exec board up-to-date on the issues facing our profession. The day concluded with a spectacular dinner at A La Lucia in the beautiful Old Town Alexandria with members of the executive board…again, they feed you well!

I have possibly gained 15 pounds from all of the great food by the end of this first week; nonetheless, I have gain a whole new perspective on how untiringly the members of the GRD staff work for our profession. I am thrilled to be here learning from them and I am excited to see what these next few weeks hold in store. I cannot wait to share it all with you so stay tuned!