April 27, 2018

Tying It All Together

By Hibah Abuhamdieh

It’s hard to believe that 4 weeks have already gone by since we started the AVMA GRD externship! Looking back at the past month, I have met such inspirational people, both veterinarians and non-veterinarians, who left me with valuable lessons.

Leaving DC, I feel like I have acquired a new level of knowledge of the different career opportunities available for veterinarians; I got familiar with legislative issues concerning veterinary medicine; and I got reinvigorated through the panels and events that I attended concerning the Middle East, to tie everything back to helping achieve justice to those who are facing inequality.

During my last week, I attended a fundraising event for a Boston-based, non-profit organization: 1for3. 1for3 has partnered with a local nonprofit, the Lajee Center, in the Aida Refugee camp of Bethlehem, and with joint efforts amongst engineers, health professionals, architects, entrepreneurs, water experts, education consultants, and many more (hopefully a veterinarian in the near future), they have successfully set up sustainable projects in the Aida refugee camp to ensure better-quality water, better access to health care, and enhanced educational opportunities. They have been so successful with sustainable projects implemented by the local population, such as setting up water cisterns and rooftop gardens throughout the camp, that they were contacted by the U.N. with a request to expand their outreach to other areas.

In the end, I would love to be involved in such a project. What I hope to do is to touch the lives of as many people as I can who have been neglected by most of the world. I have been privileged to pursue my education for my lifelong dream of becoming a veterinarian; following my education, I hope to pay back what the world has given me by helping make others’ dreams a reality.

During a conversation that Laura and I had with Dr. Valerie Ragan, a wonderful veterinarian who is now the director of the Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine at the Virginia-Maryland CVM, we got two helpful pieces of advice that I will carry with me with everything that I do:

  1. It is important to take into account personal interests and skills when considering a position. One will find happiness with what they do when they are able to use their natural abilities in their everyday lives.
  2. Take into consideration the aspects of a job that will ensure your comfort/happiness. For example, the weather; the ability to spend time outside; the ability to be active; is traveling an option (if desired); does the position allow for a leadership role if that is sought after?

By working through our passions; by truly listening to our motifs and drive, I think we can excel in anything that we do. It is important to find the right fit and it is important to be happy in order to be the best person you can be and to have the most success, and as a result, maximize the positive change and energy on the people (and animals of course) around you.

Many of the veterinarians who we met working within non-traditional veterinary medicine have come from a practice background, and recommended getting a few years of clinical or mixed animal experience. They saw the experience as valuable in enhancing interpersonal skills, becoming better at working in a high-stress environment, and developing a basis and degree of knowledge in detecting and responding to diseases with which we may be working with in a different manner in the future (whether that is through surveillance, developing vaccinations, or regulations).

The advice that we heard and the tips that we got all fell back to the same main themes:

  1. Much of what you do depends on the environment, or the climate of the workplace; which of course, comes from the people who work there.
  2. There are tremendous opportunities out there and there is no reason not to take the liberty to explore multiple things.
  3. Make connections, maintain those good relationships, and help others out. Networking, finding people out there who are doing the type of work you are interested in, and offering them suggestions or your unique skillset, is key in getting involved in the type of work you want to do.
  4. Do something good for the world. Everyone has a different way of doing so, but in the end, there is a deeper purpose where we can choose to make the world a better place.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time in DC and walked away with an enhanced knowledge of the role of politics in veterinary medicine and the ways in which veterinarians can play a role in protecting our profession, students, and animals affected by legislative agendas. I also walked away with a better idea of the magnitude of work that veterinarians can be involved in through meeting veterinarians within the National Institute of Health (NIH), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), USDA APHIS, and Department of Defense. I am thankful for the many wonderful opportunities offered through this externship and look forward to using what I learned to make a positive change through our wonderful career.