March 7, 2013

Veterinary Students Charge Capitol Hill With a Mission

By Stephanie Fisher

Sixty-five veterinary students from around the country gathered this week in Washington, D.C., to let their elected officials know about important legislative issues that impact the veterinary industry. The two-day student fly-in, hosted by AVMA’s Governmental Relations Division, taught the students how to effectively hold briefings with congressional staff and gave them an inside look at how laws get introduced and passed in Congress.

“I thought it was a great opportunity to be able to interact with Congressional staff,” said Emily Sabo, a second-year veterinary student from Cornell University. “I have been disappointed in the elections lately, but it was great to see how approachable my congressperson is outside of when he is trying to get people to the ballot box.”

While on Capitol Hill the students briefed congressional staffers on the damaging effects that soring has on horses and urged U.S. House members to pass the Horse Protection Act Amendments, which will strengthen penalties against people who conduct the illegal practice of soring and give the U.S. Department of Agriculture more authority to enforce the law. The students also talked to both chambers about the importance of making tax-free the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program, a program that places veterinarians in rural areas of the country where there is a need for veterinary services in exchange for student loan reimbursement. By eliminating the 39 percent tax burden on the program, the USDA could award more veterinarians the opportunity to serve in these shortage areas without adding Congressional appropriations.

“It was funny because I am not normally good at speaking to people—I always say the wrong things—but I was proud of myself for being able to conduct the meetings with Congressional staff,” said Jillian Chase, a first-year veterinary student from Michigan State University. “The conversation flowed naturally and I was able to talk to issues that I care about—like student loan debt. It was also nice to see how open and accessible our congressional leaders are, for instance, I did not realize that I could make appointments and talk to them about issues that are of concern to me.”

Before heading to their Hill visits on the second day of the fly-in, the students met two veterinarians in Congress—Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) and Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.). The congressmen talked to the students about the importance of staying involved in public service and being leaders in the veterinary field.

This year’s student fly-in is the fifth year that AVMA’s Governmental Relations Division has hosted the event. Learn more about the 2013 student fly-in in the April 15 issue of JAVMA.

Veterinary students who are interested in participating in next year’s program should contact AVMA’s Stephanie Fisher, program manager and policy analyst, at