October 4, 2017

The Name Game

By Matt Kuhn

It’s fairly standard procedure to begin each new rotation during clinics with a little round robin of names, future interests, and probably a fun fact or two with your rotation mates and new clinicians. I’ll start off this rotation with all of you in lieu of my peers.

My name is Matt Kuhn. When I grow up, I want to work in public policy focusing on advancing science based legislation and regulation. I have a four-year-old pit bull who is a blood donor and has now donated almost two gallons to the university hospital. And it took me 24 years of life to finally see the movie Hocus Pocus.
And unlike most students who’s follow up questions revolve around their fun facts, I consistently get the question, “you want to go into what?”

From day one of veterinary school, students are told about various non-traditional careers for veterinarians and yet we become so entrenched in clinical medicine that many students, veterinarians, and the public never think about the other opportunities open to veterinarians. The skill set we acquire during our didactic and clinical years makes veterinarians a jack of all trades, able to quickly adapt to any number of careers. We are educated not only in medicine, but basic biology, epidemiology, research principles, and food safety, all with a one health perspective. We are taught to be leaders, yet work well within a team. In talking with clients and peers, we learn to speak to a broad range of audiences, allowing anyone, from scientist to laymen, to follow the conversation. Some of these skills can simply be taught, but many of them are the soft skills. Skills that can only be gained with experience and practice. Skills that are very sought after in a city that runs on communication and influence.

This opens the door for veterinarians to fill positions in almost every sector of government from the obvious, in the USDA or FDA, to more unknown roles, such as those in the Department of Defense or White House. While veterinarians working in government do so across the United States, there is a reliable need for them on The Hill. Now, more than ever, we need to bring science back into policy. Decisions need to be made based upon peer-reviewed research and widely accepted basic understandings of science. Specific to veterinary medicine, those with a non-science background need to be informed of the threats facing our country and its food supply and how legislation they pass (or don’t pass) can impact veterinarians both large and small, as well as farmers, ranchers, and pet owners.

Over the next six weeks, I will be meeting with a number of individuals who have taken on non-traditional careers as veterinarians as well as others actively involved as non-veterinary scientists on The Hill. I am elated to be able to hear their stories and share their experiences; to learn from their mistakes and emulate their successes. I hope that you can follow along with me and not only learn about careers open to veterinary studentsFirst Post Pic but what you can do right now to influence legislation both nationally and in your own state. Make sure to follow @AVMACAN on twitter for updates on legislative priorities and me @MattKuhnDVM18 for updates on my externship, animal health, and upcoming blog posts.