June 01, 2003


 Students stage successful SAVMA Symposium

Georgia veterinary college hosts educational, collegial event

As veterinary students began to arrive at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine in Athens for Student AVMA Symposium 2003, rainy weather and tornado warnings prevailed. Despite the initially foreboding weather in Georgia and flight-delaying snowstorms across the country, students came ready for a good time and a first-rate learning experience, if somewhat waterlogged.

This year's SAVMA Symposium was attended by just over 1,400 veterinary students from throughout the United States, Canada, and abroad. Fifty-five sponsors, 65 exhibitors, and 113 speakers supported the event. A rich and diverse educational program was offered, including 119 lectures and 45 wet labs on a wide range of topics, allowing students to find enrichment opportunities no matter what their area of interest in veterinary medicine.

SAVMA Symposium 2003 kicked off on Thursday, March 20, with Casino Night, sponsored by Nestle Purina. Students played traditional casino games—blackjack, roulette, craps, and poker—with chips that could be cashed in for raffle tickets at the end of the evening. Over 30 students walked away with prizes including veterinary textbooks, stethoscopes, gift certificates for personal digital assistants, T-shirts, and more.

The tug-o-war competition, a perennial favorite, also took place that evening. In true Vegas style, guests used their play money to make bets on the game. The winning team was from Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine.

On Friday, the rain finally cleared, and Athens' beautiful spring weather became the envy of residents of colder climes. In the morning, students filtered into lectures and wet labs, notebooks and coffee in tow, beginning at 9 a.m. Lectures covered an array of topics ranging from animal behavior to practice management to international veterinary medicine. One of the most popular lectures was "Who Says You Can't Earn $100K+ Your First Year?" given by Dr. Richard Lanier, Warren, Mich. Students listened amid a standing-room-only crowd to hear secrets of successful veterinary practices.

Another favorite, given by Dr. Corrie Brown from the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine, was on bioterrorism. This timely lecture focused on the responsibility veterinarians have to public health and agriculture in the face of terrorist activity.

A few of the more popular wet labs were devoted to wildlife necropsy, large animal emergency rescue, equine dentistry, and small animal bandaging. Each of the wet labs gave students hands-on experience in areas that they not may see enough or may not encounter at all in their veterinary school careers. Meg Carriere (GA '06) said of the small animal bandaging wet lab, "It was a great lab—very practical, and from what I hear, we don't get a lot of that information in clinics."

On Friday night, students were given the opportunity to unwind after a long day of academic stimulation and mingle with students from other veterinary colleges. A Night on the Town, sponsored by Bayer Animal Health, was a chance for students to experience Athens' nightlife and relax with their peers. Students were given a downtown tour by way of a photo scavenger hunt. Those who preferred a more relaxing evening went to the veterinary college to enjoy a double-feature movie showing and popcorn.

Side trips on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday included educational tours of the Merial Vaccine Plant, Yerkes Primate Center, and the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For fun, students could trout fish in north Georgia, shop in downtown Atlanta, visit the World of Coca Cola museum, or hike in scenic Helen, Ga., or Stone Mountain Park.

This year's symposium featured the traditional SAVMA academic competitions, including the SAVMA Challenge, Research Competition, Freshman Anatomy, and Equine Aging. A new competition, The Weakest Link (based on the hit television show) was also included. This game of fast-paced veterinary trivia and good-humored teasing was hosted by Dr. Corrie Brown. The winner, Josh Anderson (WSU '04), won a $500 scholarship, courtesy of Hill's Pet Nutrition.

The second annual Research Competition was won by Kelly M. Still (COR '05), who took home a $1,000 prize. Oklahoma State University won the microbiology/parasitology team competition.

Lee Palmer (WSU '06) and Matt Nelson (WSU '06) took home the gold for their school in first-year anatomy. Auburn University came in first place in the equine aging and bovine palpation team competitions.

The two-part annual SAVMA Challenge, sponsored by Nestle Purina, consisted of eight teams that first took a case-based written examination. The top two teams, Washington State and North Carolina State universities, went on to compete in the oral competition. The North Caroline State team, comprising Osbone Wilder (NCU '04), Jennifer Small (NCU '06), Jenny Marin (NCU '04), and David Brewer (NCU '05), took first place.

Soggy fields drove athletic competitions indoors, where school teams played indoor soccer, volleyball, basketball, and a leisure sport competition that included pool, foosball, and pingpong.

The weekend commenced with the Saturday Evening Gala, sponsored by Hill's Pet Nutrition. This event consisted of a banquet dinner followed by the awards ceremony and keynote address. The keynote speaker was Dr. Baxter Black, the self-proclaimed cowboy poet and philosopher who "thinks up stuff." This former large animal veterinarian delivered a comical and moving keynote address that touched on many aspects of veterinary medicine. The crowd was in stitches when he gave humorous accounts of calvings (from the calf's point of view) and replacing uterine prolapses big enough to fill a flatbed trailer.

Jessica Robertson (GA '05) said of his performance, "Baxter Black gave me the perfect taste of inspiration and motivation that I needed so close to the end of the school year. I left that night feeling very proud of my chosen profession." According to Meggan Ballowe (GA '04), the symposium general director, he made the students "really feel the compassion that pervades our profession."

The evening concluded with an authentic Athens toga party. Dressed as Greek gods and goddesses, people said goodbye to newfound friends.

SAVMA officers serving during the symposium were Lisa Parshley (COL '03), president; Dustine Reppuhn (TEN '03), secretary; Michael Balke (MO '03), treasurer; Cory Breen (MSU '03), Intervet editor; and Elizabeth Nix (FL '04), international exchange officer-elect.

Ernie Martinez II (OKL '03), information technology officer; Blythe "Martina" Waters (FL '03), international exchange officer; and Dr. Rebecca Stinson-Dixon (GA '02), past president, finished their terms on the SAVMA Executive Committee at the conclusion of the SAVMA House of Delegates session in Athens.

Officers elected at the symposium are Timothy Paul (TEN '04), president-elect; Amy Poulin (UP '04), secretary-elect; Jennifer Burggraf (ILL '04), treasurer-elect; Terri Sympson (MO '04), international technology officer; and Lillian Su (CAL '04), Intervet editor-elect.

In the aftermath of SAVMA Symposium 2003, the response from attendees has been overwhelmingly positive. The symposium was an unforgettable experience for the students at the University of Georgia who worked so hard and who were able to witness this event come together. Ballowe said, "The two years of planning that went into the symposium brought a sense of cohesiveness to students, faculty, college administration, and the local veterinary community that I have not witnessed another single event doing." In the same vein, Beth Monte, executive director of the Georgia VMA, writes of the student organizers: "The sense of common purpose, coupled with true enthusiasm, was wonderful to see. Bravo! And congratulations on a huge success!"

The symposium also provided an excellent opportunity for the College of Veterinary Medicine to showcase its academic programs and research.

The University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine will have the same opportunity next year as it hosts SAVMA Symposium 2004 from March 11-13.