AVMA’s traveling, mobile exhibit on an 18-wheel truck, “Animal Connections: Our Journey Together,” made a big splash Oct. 26-29, when it stopped in the nation’s capital to teach D.C. locals, congressional and federal staff, and policymakers about the complex bond between humans and animals and the role of veterinarians.
The exhibit, presented in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service and sponsored by Zoetis, launched at AVMA’s Convention in Chicago this past July to mark the association’s 150th anniversary. It uses a dynamic combination of interactive learning stations, films, touch-screen videos and 3-D settings to explore topics about animals in the home, on the farm, in the wild, at the zoo and in the veterinary clinic.
Approximately 2,000 people visited the exhibit during its four-day trip to Washington, D.C., including eight local veterinarians who volunteered their time to interact with the public, answering their questions and giving them insights into what it’s like working in the profession and treating animals of all shapes and sizes. Below are a few of their observations:
“I felt like I was a part of the display with my white coat and stethoscope,” said Dr. Rebecca Owens, a veterinarian at a Banfield in Bowie, Md. “I found it interesting that the veterinarians interviewed for the display echoed what I felt about becoming a veterinarian. We all seemed to have known from a very young age that this was what we wanted to do. … I would recommend that other veterinarians volunteer at this display.
“As a volunteer, I answered a lot of questions that people had about their own pets,” said Dr. Julie Maul, a veterinarian at Spay Now in Laurel, Md. “My favorite one was, ‘Why does my dog yawn so much?’ My answer was, ‘You need to be more exciting!’ And there were a few questions about being a vet. My favorite one was, ‘What’s the craziest thing you ever saw a dog eat?’ And I had a lot of answers for that one, as most vets do!”
“The public was very responsive to the exhibit and seemed to learn something new with each exhibit, especially the section about training the zoo animals,” said Dr. Nancy Suska, medical director at VCA Beacon Hill Cat Hospital in Alexandria, Va. “I enjoyed looking at the different aspects of animal health and playing the interactive games, and was relieved to find out that my ideal pet is a cat—especially since I’m a cat vet and have several at home!”
“Visitors clearly loved the exhibit,” said Dr. Cyndie Courtney, an associate veterinarian at Animal Medical Centers of Loudoun in Ashburn (Va.) Farm. “I heard ‘wow’ a lot and every piece of the exhibit was interactive, which made it fun for both young and old.” Dr. Courtney wrote a blog piece, “A Living Exhibit,” recounting her time as a volunteer.
“I had the opportunity to interact with young children and their families,” said Dr. Rachel Cumberbatch, AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). “‘Why would you give a cow a magnet?’ ‘Why doesn’t the dentist file down my teeth?” and ‘Why on earth would you need to wear that plastic glove?’ were only a few of the questions that I fielded that day.”
“I would highly recommend that other members volunteer,” said Dr. Karl Reichardt, a retired veterinarian whose former practice is now called the Greater South River Animal Hospital in Mayo, Md. “It was a fun way to educate people about the profession and after 41 years of practice, still made me proud to be a veterinarian.”
AVMA would like to thank its volunteers for helping to make the D.C. event such a success:
- Dr. Cyndie Courtney, Animal Medical Centers of Loudoun in Ashburn (Va.) Farm
- Dr. Rachel Cumberbatch, AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow at the EPA
- Dr. Michael Gilsdorf, National Association of Federal Veterinarians
- Dr. Julie Maul, Spay Now in Laurel, Md.
- Dr. Rebecca Owens, Banfield in Bowie, Md.
- Dr. John Polk, VCA MacArthur Animal Hospital in Washington, D.C.
- Dr. Karl Reichardt, retired veterinarian
- Dr. Nancy Suska, VCA Beacon Hill Cat Hospital in Alexandria, Va.
Since July, the mobile exhibit has traveled to Chicago, New York City, and Newark and Morris Township, N.J., and has had roughly 13,000 visitors. Washington, D.C. was the last stop on the truck’s 2013 tour before it is stationed in Detroit, Mich., throughout the winter. The 2014 tour schedule has not yet been announced.
For more information, including videos and photos of the exhibit during its 2013 tour, visit the Animal Connections website. Be sure to follow the exhibit on social media to learn more about upcoming tour dates.