Nothing can describe the feeling I had the first time I walked up the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, standing in exactly the same place where Martin Luther King Jr. stood several years before me, and looking back toward the National Mall at the U.S. Capitol. This beautiful city of Washington, D.C., with its monuments and historic sites, is not just for our elected officials to make laws, but it’s something more. It’s a place where every American has a right to stand up for what he or she believes in and truly shape what the future looks like.
I guess you could say that I picked up the “D.C. bug” that August day back in 2006, but I have never quite gotten over my fascination of how this city works or my amazement of the people—from the interns to the president—who make a difference on behalf of Americans. Watching as other people get that same spark of curiosity and fascination is one of the main reasons why the AVMA Legislative Fly-in is one of my favorite weeks to work in the AVMA’s Governmental Relations Division (GRD).
This year, the GRD had the privilege of hosting 100 veterinary students and veterinarians who came to our nation’s capital seeking to make a difference for their profession. Many of them had never been to the capital before or ever contacted their members of Congress, so they were nervous for their meetings on Capitol Hill.
The GRD spent the first day of the workshop briefing the participants on many of the high-priority bills that they would be speaking about to members of Congress and their staff, and then, set them loose on Capitol Hill the second day. Among the highlights of the fly-in, the participants had the opportunity to hear from U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.), a veterinarian who is co-chair of the House Veterinary Medicine Caucus, and U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), whose daughter Alex is studying veterinary medicine at Kansas State University.
“As veterinarians, we always look at things a little bit differently,” Rep. Yoho told the participants. “In Washington, I often see Congress giving an aspirin to a brain tumor and not treating the underlying cause, but as veterinarians, we understand how to identify and diagnose the problem so we can treat it effectively. I encourage all of the veterinarians who are participating in AVMA’s Capitol Hill day to stay engaged and get involved in politics because you can help to make America a better country and leave more opportunities for Americans and veterinarians in the future.”
With 71 of the participants being students, it was exciting to see representation from nearly every veterinary college in the United States. The remaining participants included members of the AVMA Executive Board and veterinarians from throughout the country.
AVMA President Dr. Clark Fobian said, “We are very excited to see so many veterinary students and veterinarians step forward to take part in the political process and help shape laws for the future of veterinary medicine.”
I could not agree more.
As Dr. Mark Lutschaunig often says in his blog posts for The AVMA Advocate, it’s not always easy explaining what government affairs is all about, but the AVMA Legislative Fly-in is a unique opportunity for veterinarians and veterinary students to get involved, and hopefully stay involved, in federal advocacy.
We would like to thank all of the people who participated in this year’s fly-in for their work on behalf of the profession and for animal health and welfare. You have done your part not only as veterinarians, but as Americans, and we hope you continue to stay involved in your local, state and federal politics in the future.
For pictures from the event, see the AVMA Congressional Advocacy Network’s Facebook page.
This year’s legislative fly-in was sponsored by the AVMA, the Student Veterinary Medical Association and Banfield Pet Hospital. See AVMA’s website for more information about the legislative fly-in and the association’s legislative priorities.