Western University of Health Sciences’ College of Veterinary Medicine Assistant Professor Suzie J. Kovacs, MSc, PhD, is an inaugural selection of the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges’ (AAVMC) new Public Policy Faculty Fellows Program.

Kovacs joins Sarah Allison from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine as the first two fellows selected for this prestigious international program. They were chosen based on their demonstrated and potential leadership in advocacy and government.

Kovacs teaches the College of Veterinary Medicine’s (CVM) Veterinary Issues course, which focuses on social change and public policy in the veterinary profession.

“I felt in a way this would be a perfect fit for the course I teach,” she said. “My main emphasis is to bring back skills and knowledge I can transfer into the classroom.”

The faculty fellows program is designed to bring AAVMC-member institutions’ faculty representatives to Washington, D.C. to develop leadership skills in the advocacy arena, explore the implications of public policy decisions on the profession, and gain overall knowledge of the legislative and regulatory process at the federal level.

During the six to eight-week program, fellows will work with the AAVMC’s Advocacy Committee and with Director of Governmental Affairs Kevin Cain to interact with federal agencies and policymakers and attend congressional hearings and coalition meetings. Kovacs said she is tentatively scheduled to work in Washington, D.C. from June 1 to July 17, 2015.

“There are so many changes happening within the profession now. It’s really become a necessity for veterinarians to take a seat at the table and get involved in the legislative process,” Kovacs said. “I understand not every student will become politically active, but I think it’s important for every veterinarian to understand the process, because this affects them.”

The selection committee consisted of Athena Abdullah, director, government relations, Physician Assistant Education Association; Gina Luke, assistant director, government relations, AVMA; Lauren Inouye, associate director of government affairs, American Association of Colleges of Nursing; Dr. Joan Hendricks, dean, University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine; and Dr. Glen Hoffsis, dean, Lincoln Memorial University College of Veterinary Medicine.

“This is a crowning compliment to the work of Dr. Kovacs in developing such an important course with her peers that addresses professional issues and develops graduates that are as interested in societal and professional issues as they are capably trained in veterinary medical health care," said CVM Dean Phillip Nelson, DVM, PhD. "It is a tribute to the forward thinking of the founders of our college curriculum. We look forward to the benefits expected of such an experience and appreciate AAVMC for providing such an opportunity for veterinary faculty members throughout the nation.”

“We’re thrilled to kick off this important program, and we were very pleased with the quality of the applicants,” said Cain. “I look forward to working with the fellows to bolster the influence of veterinary medicine in the governmental arena and to help develop leaders who will be strong voices for veterinary medicine now and in the future.”

The Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) is a nonprofit membership organization working to protect and improve the health and welfare of animals, people and the environment by advancing academic veterinary medicine. Members include all 35 veterinary medical colleges in the United States and Canada, eight departments of veterinary science, seven departments of comparative medicine, 14 international colleges of veterinary medicine, and six affiliate colleges of veterinary medicine.