October 3, 2017

Louisianians Love LunchMEATings

By Derecka Alexander
Around DC

The Carving Room is where lunch meetings turn into lunch MEATings. Today, I met Dr. Will McCauley and Dr. Rachel Cumberbatch, two veterinarians following the unbeaten path with their current employer the Animal Health Institute (AHI). I was under the impression that AHI is a consulting firm, and I was wrong. AHI is a non-profit membership organization that represents companies with an interest in veterinary health. It’s considered a trade association and participates in public relations activities, with a focus on collaboration between clients and the governmental agencies regulating their clients’ activities.

Both Dr. McCauley and Dr. Cumberbatch started out their veterinary careers in private practice. After five years, Dr. McCauley decided he wanted a change and was led to AHI where he serves as the Director of Regulatory Affairs and Veterinary Biologics. Dr. Cumberbatch was a AAAS Science Policy Fellow for the EPA and a AAAS/AVMA Congressional Fellow for Senator Al Franken’s office. She’s now the Regulatory Affairs Manager for AHI where she integrates clinical expertise and policy experience to protect the health of humans, animals and the environment. These vets work together with other teams at AHI uniting stakeholders in the pet, agriculture, veterinary and public health communities with the common goal of addressing issues at the center of human and animal health.

I asked them about what skills they thought are helpful for jobs like the ones they have. They stressed that their work is based mainly on the use of soft skills rather than the technical stuff vets work so hard on mastering before graduation. The work they do has a heavy focus on the regulatory side of the Legislative branch. They spend a large portion of their time monitoring CFRs and communicating changes to clients via memos. Much like how a vet has to break down complicated cases to pet owners, the vets at AHI have to soup the issues important to their clients and translate that information to team members and clients who may not have a strong science background. For them, the balancing of key interests is crucial; so, negotiation skills definitely help them serve as liaisons between regulatory bodies like FDA or USDA and stakeholders. There’s a lot of human to human interaction taking place when you’re working in the middle of manufacturers of veterinary health products and the governmental agencies that regulate them.

I think what the vets do at AHI is super cool! I would never have heard any of my professors talk about doing this kind of work. Listening to them talk about their super cool jobs had me wonder about how a vet can position his/herself into getting this kind of job. Then Dr. Cumberbatch talked to me about creating good elevator speeches. She said that if I can’t translate what I want to do at a job for a boss or a family member to understand, then I’ll miss out on amazing career opportunities.

I would like to thank Dr. Cumberbatch and Dr. McCauley for introducing me to a cool lunch spot. Good food mixed with great throwback 90’s hip hop/pop music is always a good time. Y’all know this Louisiana girl loves good food and music! I’m so grateful that the vets in D.C. take time out of their busy schedules to talk to vet students like me who are searching for a “that something different” kind of career in veterinary medicine.