Neither snow nor ice could stop 66 veterinary students from heading to the nation’s capital this week, where they were on a mission to tell their elected officials about several issues that impact the future of the veterinary profession and U.S. agriculture.
Hailing from 26 veterinary schools from around the country, these students participated in AVMA’s seventh annual legislative fly-in. The two-day event, hosted by AVMA’s Governmental Relations Division, allows students the opportunity to learn about the federal legislative process and current political landscape, as well as advocate for bills within the association’s legislative portfolio.
“It is always exciting for us to see so many young people come to Washington to share their views on issues that impact the veterinary profession and animal health and welfare,” said AVMA President Dr. Ted Cohn. “The rising cost of student debt is on a lot of these students’ minds as they plan for their future careers, and opening up more opportunities for veterinarians to serve rural communities in need of public health or food animal medicine is also critical to our nation’s agricultural community.”
The students focused their meetings with elected officials and their staff on a couple of high-priority pieces of legislation for the veterinary profession: the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP) Enhancement Act (S. 440) and the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. As part of their visit, they also heard from three veterinarians in Congress, including co-chairs of the House Veterinary Medicine Caucus Reps. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) and Ted Yoho (R-Fla.), as well as freshman Congressman Ralph Abraham (R-La.).
Rep. Yoho commended the students for taking the time out of their busy schedules to participate in the fly-in.
“You guys are setting yourselves apart from the masses. You are doing today, what others won’t, so that you can do tomorrow what others can’t,” said Rep. Yoho. “Success is not built on convenience—if it was, everyone would be successful. Success is built on inconvenience, and it might have been easier for you guys to stay at home or be doing something else right now, but it’s by inconveniencing yourself today that is helping set up for your future.”
After hearing from the veterinarians in Congress and AVMA’s current and previous congressional fellows, many students said the event opened their eyes to the various ways in which they can use their veterinary degrees to shape public policy. Many also said that they plan to stay engaged with governmental advocacy in the future, either through other AVMA governmental relations programs or at the state level, and that the experience helped elucidate their future career paths.
We would like to thank all of these students for their time in coming to Washington and advocating on behalf of the profession. We would also like to thank our sponsors—Banfield Pet Hospital, the Student American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Veterinary Medical Foundation—who we rely on to make this event possible.
Visit the AVMA Congressional Advocacy Network’s Facebook page to view additional pictures from the event.