June 9, 2017

“So do you want to be a large or small animal vet?”

By Merrill Simpson

You’ve probably experienced this as the first question people ask after you tell them you are a veterinary student. “None of the above or all of the above” never seem to be appropriate answers to this question. But that is exactly what this externship is about- discovering non-traditional roles veterinarians can play in public health, policy and industry. I began this externship by attending the Senate hearing on the proposed education budget. During the hearing one senator referred to the budget as “abysmal” but another, in favor of the budget, asked the question why he can’t have 6 different options for his children’s education like he does when he shops for mayonnaise. The proposed budget would be a hard hit for college students, particularly graduate students, in the area of loan repayment. This experience exemplified the intense environment the federal government is in right now, with more division than ever over major issues. This also reminded me of interconnectedness, and that what happens on a federal level will impact the veterinary community. Veterinarians need to step up and advocate for themselves, but the biggest lesson I took away from this experience is that we need to work together. Compromise will be an essential component of progress.  AVMA Assistant Director, Gina Luke, said “when I am representing the AVMA, I do not have a political party.” We cannot allow our personal differences to hinder collaboration.  We attended an event hosted by the Association for Public and Land Grant universities (APLU) targeting the issue of international food security. There were several graduate students in attendance that are doing research to help address the issue of international food security. At the event, some people seemed a little confused about the role veterinarians play in that sphere. My fellow extern, Kerri, brought up the One Health initiative and how veterinarians have a vital role in ensuring food safety and security. Veterinarians that work for FSIS and in other federal agencies play a major role in ensuring food security.  Mariana Barros of the National Association of Federal Veterinarians (NAFV) informed us that there is a 13% vacancy in veterinary jobs within FSIS and they are working to make those positions more appealing to veterinarians. One Health is a major initiative as we recognize the delicate interplay of humans, animals, and the environment. I have met several veterinarians engaged in the One Health initiative and this seems like a burgeoning opportunity for veterinarians interested in public health.

Trumpet HorseMe and Kerri Challenge Change