October 19, 2015

Year of the Pulses

By Maria Romano

Wait, what?

You read that correctly. The FAO and the United Nations have declared 2016 as “The International Year of the Pulses“, which aims to raise public awareness of the nutritional benefits of pulses as part of sustainable food production aimed towards food security and nutrition. Pulses are annual leguminous crops. The term ‘pulse’ is limited to crops that harvested solely for dry grain (i.e. lentils, beans, peas and chickpeas) and are rich in protein, minerals, vitamins and dietary fiber.

Why am I talking to you about legumes and pulses? Because it illustrates the diverse topics that are discussed on the Hill and how those who are interested can use their scientific/veterinary expertise to get involved. Sarah and I (along with many young, house staffers) attended a seminar hosted by the National Coalition for Food and Agriculture Research (C-FAR) at the Longworth House Office Building (see pic below).


The Longworth House Office Building is one of three office buildings used by the United States House of Representatives.

The Longworth House Office Building is one of three office buildings used by the United States House of Representatives.

The seminar was entitled ‘Can Staple Food Crops Reduce the Incidence of Chronic Disease in Humans’ and was presented by Dr. Mark Brick, a plant breeder and geneticist from CSU. His research has shown that human consumption of pulse crops (beans) can reduce the risk of cancer (colon and mammary), type 2 diabetes, obesity and heart disease.  The message of the lecture was that agriculture needs to become an instrument of public health to  save lives through dietary intervention. He feels that one way to accomplish this is through genetically selecting beans for nutritional properties.

Again, the reason that I bring this up is because the C-FAR meeting is an example of a gathering that brings together individuals involved in agriculture, policy, conservation, health, science (etc. etc.) to discuss relevant topics. Veterinarians should to be involved in these discussions. The goal with my posts is to show readers the scope of what is out there and how easy it is to become involved if that is what you want to do.

If any of this interests you, you want to become involved with policy, or you want to explore different options then continue reading…

Policy and Government Opportunities post-graduation:

– The AAAS Fellowship Program which provides opportunities to learn first-hand about policymaking while contributing their knowledge and analytical skills in the federal policy realm. This fellowship is a very common starting point for young health professionals in D.C.

– The AVMA Fellowship Program (in conjunction with the AAAS Fellowship): Fellows serve for one year in D.C. as scientific advisors to members of Congress, and play pivotal roles in shaping and influencing key legislation ($79,000 salary!).

– The Epidemic Intelligence Service offered through the CDC supports over 100 public health investigations each year in the U.S. and worldwide. Health professionals learn to apply epidemiology to solve public health problems through a 2-year, on-the-job training and service fellowship. This is more public health-related, but I know many professionals in policy careers that got their start via EIS.

– The United States Public Health Service: Officers work on the front lines of public health – fighting disease, conducting research, and caring for patients in underserved communities and serve in 15 careers in a wide range of specialties within Federal agencies. The tricky aspect regarding the USPHS is that you must find a job FIRST, and then apply. Nonetheless, it’s a good option if uniformed service interests you.

– The FDA’s Commissioner’s Fellowship Program: Fellows combine rigorous graduate-level coursework with the development of a regulatory science research project and explore specific aspects of FDA regulatory science.

– The NIH has a few different fellowships available; however, a fellowship related to policy is offered by the Department of Bioethics where fellows have the opportunity to learn many aspects of bioethics. Fellows participate in the activities and the intellectual life of the department, and study ethical issues related to conduct of research, clinical practice, genetics, and health policy.

Stay involved:

Being active in social media and professional groups centered on health and the veterinary profession is another way to stay up-to-date on positions that are available or different areas to explore. You don’t necessarily have to join FaceBook if that isn’t your thing, but I highly suggest creating a Linkedin Account. There, you can post your work experience, join and follow groups of professional interest, and network with individuals in your field (or desired field). A few groups that I follow: Am Assoc of Public Health Vets, Am Public Health Association, One Health Initiative, Uncommon Veterinarians, and the Women’s Veterinary Leadership Development Initiative. Individuals are posting job opportunities every week.

There is so much out there, and I am sure that I missed some, but keep your eyes (and mind) open to new possibilities!