November 10, 2017

A Farewell to the District

By Matt Kuhn

It’s truly amazing how quickly six weeks goes by in a city like DC. As I write this, trying to think of how to structure a summary of so many diverse experiences, all of the names and faces I’ve come across keep flashing through my mind. I met congressmen from around the country, both of my home-state senators, and a past speaker of the house. I saw the Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, speak several times and Senator Al Franken make his well-known jokes during a senate hearing. I heard senators grill the pharmaceutical industry over drug pricing and farmers stand up for themselves to mis-informed representatives. With staffers, I discussed issues related to student debt and a bill incentivizing veterinarians to practice in rural America where they are needed most. I educated on the impending fallout faced by agriculture that would be caused by withdrawing from NAFTA and the necessity for mandatory funding of a foot and mouth disease vaccine bank in the upcoming Farm Bill. I met with veterinarians, lawyers, legislative aides, and lobbyists to discuss the intricacies and nuances to life in DC, to better understand how this city works and what all goes into the decisions that are made on Capitol Hill.

I’ve come to appreciate the city and all those that work in it. It is no easy task forming and managing policy. While I’d like to think I’m beginning to perceive the considerations that go into legislation, I know that I have only scratched the surface of understanding. Working in DC is taking on the ultimate problem-solving challenges. It is the diabetic addisonian dog of the veterinary world.

Nearing the end of my time here, those I spoke with began asking what the best part of my externship was or what specifically I’ve learned while here. It is honestly hard to pinpoint any one moment, skill, or subject. The most valuable aspect of the externship is simply being immersed in DC life. My understanding of the legislative branch of government prior to this externship was incredibly naïve and understanding how decisions are made and the inter-working of DC is incredibly complex. I had thought coming in that I may see lobbyists schmoozing and the dark side of DC, and I’m not so blind as to think it does not happen, but for the most part, our representatives are normal people. Their offices are staffed by intelligent, grounded, well-reasoning folks who are more than willing to take all sides of a story into consideration. Unfortunately, there are a great number of factors that may alter an office’s ability to become involved in particular legislation.

DC is a truly magical place. It is an open and airy city, lacking skyscrapers and centered around the expansive National Mall. It is steeped in history and pride for our country. It is uniquely American. I feel so fortunate to have spent six weeks here and encourage any veterinary student, whether you are contemplating a career in policy or not, to consider applying for the Extern on the Hill program next fall. It is an opportunity unlike any other afforded to us as veterinary students. I’ll leave that as my final message and want to thank everyone here at the GRD office for such an unforgettable experience.

Twitter: @MattKuhnDVM18

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