March 14, 2018

Week 1

By Sonja Perry

The first week of any veterinary externship is always full of firsts. For me, it is usually the first time I jump into an ambulatory truck with a stranger, well before dawn, as we head to a dairy farm to begin a herd check. With the AVMA-GRD Externship, it was the first time I put on a suit and was shown the office where I would work. At first, I was nervous. The sights and sounds of Washington D.C. are quite different from those of Washington, Missouri. The “flight zone” of Congressional staffers and lobbyists are different from those of beef cows. Luckily, the staff at AVMA Government Relations Division are welcoming, passionate and eager to serve our profession in the most effective ways possible. Over the past week I have learned a great deal about issues facing the veterinary profession, agricultural industry and everyday citizens. Here are just two of the many lessons I have learned so far:


  1. The AVMA-GRD Cares
    I was once amazed after watching a demonstration of how a guard dog will protect sheep from predators. How they lay quietly and attentively between their flock and the unknown knowing what is going on and watching for how events around them could affect their sheep. The AVMA-GRD puts that dog to shame. The staff at the GRD works similar erratic hours to some of the food animal veterinarians to wade through a different type of manure, the federal budget. They comb through looking for ways that federal spending will affect veterinarians and then advocate the position of the AVMA. It is as detail oriented work as reviewing lab results of a difficult internal medicine case. The difference is instead of one horse being affected, thousands of veterinarians across the US are. I have already seen how seriously they take their work and I am so thankful to be a small part of the team over the next few weeks and to be able to learn from them.
  2. Mentorship is only one ask away
    A few weeks before our externship, Jennie (the other extern) and I were given a list of veterinarians who were working in D.C. On our first day we sat down and began reaching out to these veterinarians who work for a variety of organizations including the US Government, the United States Senate, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges and many more. Each person to whom I reached out not only agreed to meet with me, but offered advice, personal stories and encouragement. Each meeting not only ended with a list of other people to reach out to, but recommendations of other opportunities to seek.


As you can tell our first week has been busy and I have learned so much. Over the next three weeks, I hope to dive deeper into the policy that affects members of the AVMA and continue to expand my horizons on potential avenues to help positively influence the profession and animal ag industry after graduation.