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Veterinary Medicine in Places You Wouldn’t Expect

Howdy everyone!  I am finally back.  This is my first blog following our summer away, and my first blog since returning from my MBA program.  For those of you new to the blog, I took a year off between my second and third years of veterinary school to earn my MBA.  We have a fantastic arrangement between the vet school and business school that allows students to graduate in five years with their DVM and MBA degrees.  If you would like to learn more, see some of my older blog posts, but for today I want to focus on all the cool new areas I found veterinary medicine this summer.

So … I tried to do too much this summer.  I know, surprising.  I have never been known to bite off more than I can chew (please note the sarcasm in this statement).  Over the course of the summer, I was finishing up my MBA performing a consulting project in conjunction with the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospitals, I spent a month externing at the AVMA's Government Relations Division in Washington, D.C., I spent 10 days in Germany supporting my sister at an international equine competition where I somehow signed-on the be an assistant manager for Team USA, and I was getting ready to return to veterinary school.  Yeah, I didn't spend more than about 10 days at a time at my apartment in College Station.  It was quite a ride.  At the outset, I didn't know how Lauren and I were going to make it through, but looking back, I am certainly glad I took it all on.

I want to focus on my time at the AVMA GRD office in D.C.  I spent a month on an externship (named as such since veterinary internships are post-graduation) learning all the in-and-outs of veterinary medicine in our nations capital.  I had a fantastic experience meeting veterinarians who work as lobbyists, Congressional staffers, food safety experts, international aid distributors, agricultural import/export officials, and so many more.  I will focus on one high profile and one very unlikely area of veterinary involvement.

The highest profile jobs in Washington have been, and probably always will be, jobs for which you cannot apply, you must be elected.  Representatives, senators, and of course the President, are the definition of the in-crowd in D.C.  Did you know we have a veterinarian currently serving in the House of Representatives? Dr. Kurt Schrader proudly represents the people of Oregon; trust me he will let you know just how honored he feels.  He is just as proud to be a veterinarian and former practice owner.  The first day I met Schrader, we were at a luncheon hosted by AVMA thanking legislators who are supportive of veterinary issues.  In the middle of a group of other Congressmen, Schrader immediately started talking veterinary medicine with my extern mate and I as soon as he realized we were vet students.  At one point, we were discussing Caslick's procedures in equine reproductive medicine.  We had to explain what that was to our other Congressional guests, after which I am not sure they really wanted to hear about it over lunch.  Such is the conversations of veterinarians.  Over the course of the month, I ran into Schrader on several other occasions, and he was just as nice as our first encounter.  Just what you would expect from your favorite vet, even if they have been elected to Congress.

The other veterinary role catches most people by surprise.  Did you know that there are many veterinarians working every day to protect our safety?  I am not just talking about food safety either.  I met several veterinarians who work for the Department of Homeland Security and the House of Representative Homeland Security Committee.  They work to prevent and prepare for biological, chemical, and nuclear attacks.  They oversee the many animal assets, mostly dogs, who work to protect our safety, they brief policy makers on threats and scenarios, and they prepare contingencies should the worst happen.  Why veterinarians?  As veterinarians, our training includes population medicine (treating groups not just individuals) and the simple fact that 75% of emerging diseases are zoonotic.  Therefore, veterinarians are at the front lines to protect the United States homeland.  Wow, what a job!

Reinforced was the idea that veterinary medicine is everywhere, and can take its practitioner almost anywhere.  And it is only expanding.  As one veterinarian put it, there are a lot of jobs out there that may not have DVM in the job description, but they are perfect roles for veterinarians.  We just have to educate people on our skills and training.  In my humble opinion, these other roles are vitally important to the future of veterinary medicine.  In fact, one Texas Congressman looked at me and said more vets need to be involved in what is going on in Washington.  He says our help is needed.  Even if you are only ever interested in clinical medicine, you can still have an effect in the policy realm.  If you are interested in non-clinical work, you are only limited by your imagination.