Two Western University of Health Sciences veterinary students, Colleen

Tansey and Terence Krentz of the DVM class of 2008, were selected for the

2006 American Veterinary Medical Association – Governmental Relations

Division externship. Each year, 10 students are selected from AVMA-

accredited colleges and given a $1000 stipend to travel to Washington, DC

to work the AVMA-GRD staff and members of the Executive and Legislative

branches of the government on legislation affecting veterinarians.

AVMA-GRD externs are given the opportunity to participate first hand in

the legislative process, starting with the bill’s inception, to lobbying

members of the Congress for support and then tracking the legislation as

it gets introduced and passes through both the House of Representatives

and the Senate. They are also given access to the large numbers of

veterinarians that work in Washington, DC. Veterinarians fill a wide

range of roles, filling positions in the US Department of Agriculture,

the Food and Drug Administration, as AVMA Fellows in the offices of

various Senators and Representatives, and as advisors to the President in

the Office of Science and Technology.

“”I hoped to gain an insider’s view of how Washington really works,”” said

Terence Krentz. I’ve been involved in politics on many levels, but after

seeing it from the inside; I think I am beginning to truly understand

what it is like to be in the political arena.

Students worked on two important pieces of legislation, including the

Veterinary Workforce Expansion Act (VWEA) and the Pets Evacuation and

Transportation Standards Act (PETS).

The VWEA is a competitive grant program that is designed to address the

growing shortage of veterinarians working in public health practice areas

such as bioterrorism and emergency preparedness, environmental health,

and food and feed safety. These funds will allow veterinary schools or

other related academic programs that best demonstrate how to employ these

funds to build infrastructure, including expanding facilities and

providing ongoing support for faculty and programs focused on veterinary

public health. As a first line of defense for America’s people, animals,

and economy, this legislation is necessary in order to prevent and manage

domestic and foreign animal disease threats. The legislation was

introduced by Senator Wayne Allard from CO, a veterinarian, and is

currently referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and

Pensions.

The PETS is an amendment to the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and

Assistance Act to ensure that State and local emergency disaster

preparedness operational plans address the needs of individuals with

household pets, and service animals following a major disaster or

emergency. Given recent events including Hurricanes Rita and Katrina,

and another busy hurricane season predicted for 2006, this legislation is

designed to address the concerns that forced a number of residents to not

follow evacuation orders, citing concerns of abandoning their pets. Many

disaster relief shelters would not accept pets when their families were

forced to evacuate due to state health and safety regulations, which lead

to a large number of abandoned animals in the affected areas. This bill

was introduced by Representative Tom Lantos and is currently referred to

the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

The AVMA-GRD externships provide an invaluable opportunity for students

to learn about careers for veterinarians outside the mainstream arena of

private practice. Veterinarians play a pivotal role in the drafting of

policy and governmental affairs at the federal, state, and local levels.

“”I did not realize the enormous role that Veterinarians play in

government work, the safety of our country and the impact of people both

nationally and internationally,”” said Colleen Tansey. “”Veterinarians are

everywhere; in the FDA and USDA, in the U.S. Senate – there are two, in

the Office of the President, at the state level, acting as lobbyists for

the welfare of animals and so many more places. During the externship,

Dr. Bobby Nichols, who formerly practiced in California, was one of my

advisors. He gave me some enlightening words as we parted, ‘We are

privileged enough to be a part of such a wonderful profession and if

there is any legacy to be left behind, it is that one person can make a

difference in improving the welfare of animals, so go out and do it'””

To learn more about the AVMA-GRD externship program, or to learn how to

work with your congressional representatives and about the current

legislation that is affecting veterinarians, please contact the GRD

office at (800) 321-1473, or go to the AVMA website at:

http://www.avma.org/advocacy/default.asp#get_involved.