October 17, 2017

It’s not what you know…

By Matt Kuhn

We’ve all heard the phrase “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” I can’t imagine a city where this phrase holds true more than Washington, D.C. I heard an adage related to this saying this past week that goes “It’s not what you know, but who you know, and not necessarily who you know, but who knows you.” It’s easy to have contacts, but harder to have relationships.

A significant portion of our time as Externs on the Hill is spent meeting with other veterinarians and scientists on The Hill and surrounding area. Building relationships with those whose path we hope to emulate is likely more important than learning the nuances to policy and legislation in DC. This past week I had several meetings with veterinarians whose names you have likely heard before if you read this blog regularly, and some who have not been mentioned before.

20171005_151031731_iOSDr. Sarah Babcock was the first veterinarian I was fortunate enough to meet. A fellow Spartan and also a lawyer, she has been involved with animal law and a relief veterinarian for a number of years. Much of her sage advice stemmed from how to make the transition from a university into city life and simply, how to live. It’s a silly thing to read, but so much of our time is spent thinking about how we may do our jobs, sometimes we forget about the other half of our lives and how we balance the two.

Next was Dr. Eric Deeble, a legislative assistant for Senator Gillibrand of New York. Eric emphasized the advantages to becoming involved in politics at a local level. To become comfortable being an extrovert and having discussions about politics with everyday people. After Eric was Dr. Rachel Cumberbatch who hails from the Animal Health Institute and had great advice as to how to grow writing skills, an asset in a city that lives and dies by the memo and white paper. Additionally, she was a valuable resource regarding talks, discussions, and presentations relating to science that are held around the city every day when you really start to look for them.

At the Department of Homeland Security, I met Roxann Motroni, a program manager for agricultural defense research. She, like me, comes from an educational background based in food animal medicine. Roxann had many pieces of advice on how to stay sharp as a veterinarian and where to find relief work with food animals around a city devoid of agriculture. Lastly, Dr. Elise Ackley now works with Pew Charitable Trusts, a non-partisan organization helping humans and animals around the world through policy. Elise expressed the bond that veterinarians share around DC and across the country. With relatively so few veterinarians in non-traditional careers, it become close-knit a very close-knit community.

Each meeting with a past AVMA Fellow had similar themes; ways to prepare for application to a fellowship program, advice for on working on The Hill, tips for living the ‘DC Life,’ and yet each one carried its own spin. Each fellow had little bits of advice that were unique with thoughts I had never considered before. Each offered insights to the nuances of politics and how legislation is carried out in Washington. Each meeting was invaluable and could not be replaced by any other. I think that is what makes building relationships so valuable in this city. The little differences we all carry with us are what make each person fit a different niche. Everyone I spoke with was a DVM, yet each had developed a very different approach to influencing policy and infusing science into politics. This is what makes this externship so valuable. No other experience in veterinary medicine opens you to meeting so many successful, non-traditional, veterinarians who are so willing to open up and invite you into their world. I truly hope each of them known how valuable their opinions are to the students they speak with.

Remember to follow @AVMACAN on twitter for updates about what you can do to influence policy and @MattKuhnDVM18 for more on my externship here in DC.