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Pindin’ Bidness

or those of you that don't speak Texan, that is "Pending Business."  And if you want to learn to speak Texan, I suggest you sit in the Texas House Ag Committee hearings for a couple of days.  You can hear the chairman call for "pindin' bidness" as he places his cowboy hat on the table while another starts gnawing on a big cigar in the back of the room.  I have never felt the spirit of Texas stronger (or had a thicker accent) than in that moment.

I'm sure you are wondering why I was in this mecca of cow punching politicians (that means cowboy) soaking up the Lone Star Spirit while I should be in class learning pathology and toxicology.  I was attending congressional hearings concerning pindin' equine dentistry legislation, sorry can't help myself.  The practice of equine dentistry has been the source of major contention for many years.  In Oklahoma, the legislative pendulum has swung drastically and quickly from one extreme to the next.  At the root of the issue are two simple questions.  One, what defines equine dentistry, and two, who can perform equine dentistry.  I could spend a whole blog going into all the arguments, but frankly, I am tired.  I got back from my second trip to Austin in the past week at 11 last night after testifying on behalf of Texas A&M veterinary students only to cram for a toxicology test.  (Toxic agent of Datura anyone? No seriously, I don't remember).  I went along with 11 other students last week to testify in front of the House Ag Committee, and three more yesterday to testify before the Senate Ag Committee.  We were simply there to provide insight into the education veterinary students receive on equine dentistry and to answer any questions concerning our experience.  I won't go into any more details because, like I said, I'm tired.

My sense of exhaustion is not tied to the weight of the debate on equine dentistry.  No, I'm just a second year vet student doing my best to get through the last 5 weeks of class before my last glorious summer is upon me.   I've had test after test, and quiz after quiz, and I think it is all just starting to catch up, but I digress.

I want to spend my time with you this week exploring the impact veterinarians and veterinary students can have on the world around us.  Veterinarians are always quick to point out that they are the advocates for the animals.  It is our job to promote animal health and welfare and preserve the highest standards of care.  That usually conjures up images of a white-coated veterinarian carefully examining a dog or a James Herriot individual working on a calf out in the open pasture.  In this case, I saw veterinarians and students striving to improve animal health wearing suits without a single animal in site.  No one at the committee hearings spoke more eloquently on the issue at hand than the students.

I was concerned before the first hearing that our student voice wasn't going to matter.  We left College Station at 4:30 am yet we weren't called to testify until after 4 pm.  By this time, the committee had heard hours of testimony from both sides, and the mood in the room was a little tense.  As a student, I worried that the committee would write-off our testimony or that we wouldn't have anything new to bring to the table.  So I frantically started re-writing my statement when the committee started calling students.  I was the second in line to speak, and the chair said "Now, I've noticed that y'all have been patiently sitting over in the corner all day.  I sure do hope you students are getting some extra credit for being here today."  I replied, "Well, actually sir, we are missing two tests today, but our Toxicology professor is a big Texas history buff.  We were going to take a picture outside after the hearing, and maybe he might give us a couple points on the next test."  The seasoned crop duster/chairman fired back, "As soon as the students are finished, we'll stop the hearing and we will all get our picture taken!"  Whoop!

From that moment on, as each student stood and testified, you felt the mood in the room change.  Then the last student spoke; he ended his statement by simply asking the committee to keep the horse's welfare as the top priority when deciding this issue.  All of a sudden there weren't two sides fighting over an issue.  We were now partners trying our best to advocate and provide the best care for the animals that we love.  That unifying mood carried over into the Senate hearing as both sides inched oh so close to a compromise.  I have no doubt that it was the students' passion, understanding, and knowledge that changed the entire climate of the debate.

We, the students, made a huge impact that day.  That is the power of involvement.  12 students stood up that day and made a difference.  (Call it the power of the 12th Man, Whoop!)  As veterinarians it is our duty to advocate for the animals whether it is in an exam room or in a Senate hearing.  That is what I learned that day, and I even have the picture to prove it.  Next up in pindin' bidness, pathology!

Ag Committee Students-Blog 5