Former AVMA fellows reflect on Capitol Hill experience

Former AVMA fellows Dr. Chase Crawford (left) and Dr. Elise Ackley (right) at the Hart Senate Office Building. Not pictured: Dr. Carrie La Jeunesse

Former AVMA fellows Dr. Chase Crawford (left) and Dr. Elise Ackley (right) at the Hart Senate Office Building. Not pictured: Dr. Carrie La Jeunesse

Drs. Elise Ackley, Chase Crawford and Carrie La Jeunesse spent the past year working on Capitol Hill as staff to members of Congress. As they move onto the next chapter of their careers, they reflect on their time as AVMA Fellows.

Dr. Elise Ackley served her fellowship year in the office of Sen. Richard Durbin, the assistant Democratic leader and senior senator from Illinois. She worked on a variety of policy issues including public health, consumer safety, food safety, nutrition and animal welfare.

“This past year has been one of the most challenging, but rewarding years of my life,” said Ackley. “It was thrilling to gain hands-on experience in shaping policy. For anyone who is questioning whether or not to apply to the Fellowship Program — don’t hesitate, just do it!”

Highlights of Ackley’s time on the Hill include drafting and introducing legislation to address the growing problem of child exposure and toxicity to liquid laundry pods; fighting to ensure robust funding for hospital preparedness against zoonotic disease such as the Ebola virus and kick-starting a Senate National Institutes of Health (NIH) caucus to highlight the cutting-edge research being performed by NIH scientists.

Ackley has since joined the AVMA Governmental Relations Division as an assistant director covering the animal welfare legislative portfolio.

Dr. Chase Crawford served in the office of U.S. Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.), where he worked across a wide variety of issue areas, advising the senator on agricultural, environmental, energy and global health policy. Not surprisingly, his veterinary training has proved to be quite an asset to the office. In addition to his work advancing Sen. Franken’s One Health initiatives, Crawford also served as the team leader for the senator’s work to assist farmers affected by the avian influenza outbreak that decimated Minnesota’s poultry industry.

Crawford described his year as “a truly rewarding experience and an opportunity to have a broader impact — one that every veterinarian should consider.”

Crawford has recently joined the staff of the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities as director of their Antimicrobial Resistance Initiative.

Dr. Carrie La Jeunesse served in the office of Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.-1), where she worked primarily on policies and programs aimed at fighting global hunger, poverty, disease and wildlife trafficking. During her fellowship, Dr. La Jeunesse organized an Ebola Congressional Forum, spoke in Geneva on a panel associated with the World Health Assembly and advised nongovernmental organization and U.S. government agency leaders.

“The AVMA Fellowship provided a unique opportunity to collaborate with world political, development and global health leaders on the One Health Initiative,” said La Jeunesse. “We made progress toward fostering truly sustainable capacities for response and resilience for communities, such as those in West Africa, faced with poverty and future epidemic disease threats.”

Dr. La Jeunesse is continuing her work in the international field with Veterinarians International, an organization that partners with groups worldwide to train local people to develop sustainable solutions to animal care.

The AVMA Fellowship Program is sponsored through the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which works to place qualified, scientific experts in congressional offices where they are needed. To date, more than 65 veterinarians have participated in the program.

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