Veterinary students visit Capitol Hill as part of AVMA Fly-In


Matt Holland, Lynsee Melchi and Matt Shockey, members of the Class of 2017 at the University of Illinois.

Maggie Chu, a third-year veterinary student at Cornell University, attended the 8th AVMA Legislative Fly-In because she wants to get more involved with her future profession.

“I want to shape my profession to be better than what it is. Maybe that won’t end up being a full-time career, but I want to be involved in order to be able to make an impact,” she said after returning home from the Feb. 28-March 1 event in Washington, D.C.

The annual Fly-In brings veterinary students to Washington to introduce them to the legislative process. Students meet with the AVMA’s Governmental Relations staff to learn about legislation that impacts the veterinary profession, and they also have an opportunity to meet with elected officials.

Being on Capitol Hill “demystified” the legislative process for Lynsee Melchi, a third-year student at the University of Illinois who also attended this year’s event. Melchi said she has always been interested in advocating for the profession and has experience at the state level, serving as the Class of 2017 representative for the Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association.

“People think we can’t change things,” Melchi said. “I don’t think our time on the Hill will change things tomorrow, but it’s an investment in a process.”

Matt Holland, a fourth-year veterinary student at the University of Illinois and the current president of the Student American Veterinary Medical Association (SAVMA), described the Fly-In as an “irreplaceable and invaluable learning experience. “ The Fly-In inspired him to apply for AVMA’s Congressional Fellowship program.

“It was really cool to talk with staffers and connect with them,” Holland said. “To go to D.C. and see the process of talking about policy and legislation was such a good educational experience – you can’t Google that.”

The Fly-In gave the students a chance to understand the legislative process much better than they did before. Chu said her experience helped her learn more about the way Congress works.

“In history class in high school, you go through how the government works, but before this I don’t think I understood how elected officials interact with their constituents,” she said.

The students had an opportunity to meet with some elected officials: U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) and U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.), both veterinarians and members of the House Veterinary Medicine Caucus. In his talk to the students, Rep. Schrader focused on his path from veterinary medicine to Congress, and Rep. Yoho spoke about policy.

Getting to see Schrader and Yoho “is just another reinforcement of the idea that veterinarians are in places you don’t expect them to be, which is very cool,” Melchi said.

Melchi added she appreciated the opportunity to be exposed to a non-traditional path in veterinary medicine, and just to be in Washington.

“It was exhausting, but it was worth every minute,” she said.

Students attending the Fly-In received stipends for travel and lodging expenses, generously contributed by Banfield Pet Hospital. We thank them for their continued support of this great effort. 

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