July 25, 2016

“Whose office is this?” “The Speaker’s.”

By Samantha Scholz

These are the events through the week of July 10, 2016.

On Monday, we briefly attended a meeting for the AVMA-Political Action Committee Board. It was interesting to hear the different points of view and how different ideas can come together to better the PAC. After that, we went to another meeting discussing the Freedom of Information Act and how that has impacted research in every single field. After yet another meeting, we decided to tour the Library of Congress. It was breathtaking. I highly recommend it to anyone visiting D.C. My favorite exhibit had paintings of beautifully feathered birds that explorers saw in the new lands.


Samantha Scholz, Miss Illinois Jaryn Franklin, and Matthew Holland

On Tuesday, we went to the office of Rep. Schrader (D-OR). Julia, one of his staffers, was fantastic and coordinated a joint meeting involving both Rep. Schrader and Rep. Yoho (R-FL). They are both veterinarians by training but are currently serving as Congressmen in the House of Representatives. So we met Julia and she led us to the Capitol media room. In order to get to the Capitol, we walked through tunnels connecting the Rayburn, Longworth, and Cannon House Office Buildings. We talked for a bit with her while we waited for her Boss. Unfortunately, she had prior obligations and had to take off but not before one of Rep. Yoho’s staffers, Larry, arrived and we spent the remainder of the time with him. Finally, the Congressmen entered after a round or two of voting. So we all chitchatted for a short time then they had to go vote again, and again.

We did have the pleasure of spending this “vote-o-rama” with Larry. I say “vote-o-rama” because they had to vote at least five times but these votes had two minute intervals. While the Congressmen were voting, we met Miss Illinois! She was in town for her political training. One conversation really highlighted how pertinent it is to have people with a veterinary background involved with policy making. Someone suggested that the wild horses out West should be rounded up and then the horses should be darted to manage the herd versus rounding the horses up and castrating them once. The Congressmen brought the issues to light but I could understand how someone unfamiliar with certain procedures would suggest certain ideas! I am very glad that they are in their position in the House to represent their constituents and veterinary medicine. I’m sure immediately after that conversation, another buzzer went off and they had to go vote again. Before we all parted ways, Rep. Davis (R-IL), who is my Representative was nearby so we had a nice photo op! Larry offered to walk us out of the Capitol and was escorting us to the exit when we heard the overhead announcement of “Lockdown. Lockdown. Please go to the nearest office.” So we went with some other staffers and visitors to a staircase and then rode in an elevator and found ourselves in someone’s office. When I asked whose office we were in, they promptly told me it was Speaker Ryan’s office. They were very friendly and I imagine it was a good office to be in during a lockdown of unknown cause. Once it was lifted enough for us to leave the office, we were able to take the tunnel to Dunkin Donuts to get some iced coffee.

We attended the Inaugural American Humane Lois Pope LIFE K-9 Medal of Courage Awards hosted by The American Humane Caucus on Tuesday. It was held in the Longworth Foyer. The event was well attended and there were dogs scattered throughout the audience with their partners and handlers. I always just ignore the urge to pet working service dogs; however the people at this event took advantage of their presence and rushed to the canines to give them a good petting. Congressional members of the caucus spoke for a few minutes to express their gratitude to these human and animal warriors. Eventually, a brief history regarding each dog and their handler came to light. One of the dogs, Bond, suffers from combat trauma and actually knocked out his own teeth trying to chew himself out of his crate during a thunderstorm. But there we were, clapping for him. Once Matt and I heard about his history, we silently clapped for each of the remaining handlers and dogs. We did go up to Bond and spoke to his caretaker and she said that he was getting anxious during the ceremony. I teared up at this event, but how could you not? I was honored to attend this inaugural ceremony.

The Inaugural Public Health Fair was also interesting. There were many associations in attendance which provided us the chance to discuss veterinary medicine and what veterinarians can bring to the table.

The Senate Hearing on the risk to the Western Hemisphere from the Zika Virus humanized some of the Senators for me. Their frustrations with the House’s inaction on the Zika Bill were evident. The expert panel included Thomas Frieden from the CDC, Judith Garber from Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, and Irene Koek from the U.S. Agency for International Development. I am happy to report that the Senators on the Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights, and Global Women’s Issues Subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee were able to compromise and pass a bill with the goal to combat the Zika Virus.


Samantha Scholz and Representative Yoder

On Thursday, I had the pleasure of attending a reception for Congressman Yoder at the Capitol Hill Club. For a 4th year veterinary student at the University of Illinois, the location of the Lincoln Presidential room couldn’t have been more appropriate! Rep. Yoder joined the Congressional Veterinary Medicine Caucus, co-sponsored some of the AVMA’s top priorities including the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program Enhancement Act (HR 3095), PAST Act/Prevent All Soring Tactics Act (HR 3268), and the PACT Act/Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act (HR 2293). Rep. Yoder has also led congressional efforts to increase funding for food and agricultural research. Congressman Yoder is a friend of veterinary medicine. Some people on the Hill seemingly look right through you; however, Rep. Yoder is not that way. He was looking forward to seeing his family during the Recess and I am looking forward to seeing my husband and pets come August! However, all evenings come to an end and sometimes the universe even sends you a sign. The sign for the evening was the fire alarm and then the entire building was evacuated. End scene.

Soapbox for the week: In this political climate, compromise is basically seen as a weakness. The ability to “play well with others” is not a priority. That perspective does not help the people in this country. I have seen some extremely frustrating things here over the past few weeks that could have been avoided, or at least alleviated, with some of the communication facets that Dr. Garrett teaches us at Illinois: utilize empathy statements, participate in reflective listening, ask open-ended questions, and to send, receive, and recognize non-verbals.

Over the weekend, I was able to meet up with my Aunt, Uncle, and cousins. I love to kayak so I was thrilled to go out on the Occoquan River with my cousin, Sarah, who is a skilled multi-tasker. She kayaked and caught some Pokemon on the water.