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Blog: Policy future looks bright with new generation of veterinary students

Boots on the ground makes a big difference in Congress.
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Feb 11, 2014

More than 65 U.S. veterinary students took two days off from classes this week for a good cause. These representatives of accredited U.S. schools met in Washington, D.C., with AVMA's leadership and its Governmental Relations Division to learn how to be effective in advancing the policy agenda of America’s veterinarians. Banfield Pet Hospitals served as event sponsor to defray travel costs for the students.

After an advocacy “boot camp” on Feb. 10, the students and AVMA leaders hit Capitol Hill on Feb. 11 to meet with senators and representatives. A prime topic was the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act, previously discussed here, in addition to equine soring and transportation issues.

I know from experience that when students engage in one-on-one lobbying with their elected leaders, it gets officials’ attention. If a veterinary student from Oklahoma State takes time during the semester to meet with an Oklahoma member of Congress in his or her office, the member will look at animal health issues in a different way.

There’s no better explanation for veterinarians’ recent success with their political agenda in Congress and state legislatures than their willingness to put boots on the ground (or send e-mails or make phone calls). This puts elected officials and their staff in direct contact with professionals held in high esteem by the American public. Not every profession—certainly not this blogger’s legal industry—can make this claim.

But success requires veterinarians to step up and engage, and we saw a great example of this in D.C. this week by the AVMA and participating students. Job well done!

Mark Cushing, JD, is founding partner of the Animal Policy Group, providing government relations and strategic services for various animal health, veterinary and educational interests. He maintains offices in Portland, Ore., and Washington, D.C., and is a frequent speaker at veterinary conferences.

The Veterinary Policy Notes blog on dvm360.com helps veterinarians and other animal health professionals keep abreast of the growing number of issues, political challenges and regulatory initiatives affecting the veterinary profession, animal health industry and animal welfare movement.