October 01, 2012


 SAVMA wants a seat at the table

​Stronger ties to veterinary organizations being formed

Posted Sept. 19, 2012 
The Student AVMA House of Delegates has been hard at work strengthening its connections with other veterinary organizations. And SAVMA leadership has demonstrated that integrating student opinion with organized veterinary medicine will continue to be a main goal in upcoming months. Students are ready to get more involved in the tough conversations affecting the profession, and the SAVMA HOD is stepping up as the voice for its members. 

The SAVMA HOD met Aug. 5-6 during the AVMA Annual Convention in San Diego. SAVMA President Bridget Heilsberg (COL ’13) presided over the meeting and emphasized the importance of SAVMA’s strong bond with the AVMA. She reminded fellow veterinary students that they not only are the future of the profession, but also have the ability to bring fresh ideas to the field and should be looked on as a resource for such.
The Student AVMA House of Delegates is visited by Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), a veterinarian who encouraged students to get involved in the political world; veterinarians need to be at the table when legislation affecting animal health and the veterinary profession is under consideration, he said. Rep. Schrader told the SAVMA HOD that veterinarians have a great background for political involvement because of their ability to persuade people to be part of the solution and for having the transferable skill of reading body language—like knowing when one is going to be kicked, bitten, or scratched. (Photo by R. Scott Nolen​)

Heilsberg addressed the AVMA House of Delegates to share SAVMA’s positions on legislation regarding student debt and bankruptcy, workforce surveys, and AVMA policies. Issues such as economics and workforce demand are omnipresent concerns for most veterinary students, she said.

Nathaniel Vos (COL ’14) spoke to the SAVMA HOD as veterinary economic issues liaison. Vos reported on the connections made earlier this year with key allies such as the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges’ Student Debt Advisory Group, the AVMA Veterinary Economics Strategy Committee, and the Veterinary Business Management Association.

Caitlin Pohlit (OSU ’14), chair of the SAVMA Economics and Professional Development Committee, shared with the SAVMA House the AVMA’s current focus on economic issues, including devoting $330,000 for a veterinary workforce study to assess current and future supply of and demand for veterinary services, as well as the creation of the AAVMC Student Debt Advisory Group. The committee then brought forth a motion to create a veterinary economics ad hoc position as a source of advice for the SAVMA HOD and SAVMA Executive Board. Pohlit explained that the committee wanted SAVMA to step up and create its own voice, as veterinary students and recent graduates are acutely feeling the effects of rising debt-to-income ratios and shifting workforce demands. The motion was approved.

Another topic of discussion was the increasing interest in the 2+2 system of veterinary education. This system has students complete two preclinical academic years at a satellite campus. They then transfer to the campus of a partner veterinary school to complete their academic course work and clinical rotations. As an example, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln partners with the Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine; the program began in 2006 and graduated its first students in 2010. Ben Schmidt (ISU ’14) made a motion to create a new class of nonvoting membership for delegates from these satellite campuses, so that they can contribute a voice to SAVMA discussions. The motion passed, and two Nebraska veterinary students were welcomed as the first satellite chapter delegates to the SAVMA House. 

Guests who addressed the SAVMA HOD included AVMA Congressional Science Fellows Reid Harvey, Richard Smiley, and Matt Doyle, who serve as scientific advisers to members of Congress; Dr. Cheryl Eia, assistant director of the AVMA Scientific Activities Division, who gave a presentation on disaster preparedness materials that the AVMA is making available to student chapters; and Michael Cathey, executive director of the American Veterinary Medical Foundation, who shared the success of the scholarship program through which the AVMF partners with Pfizer Animal Health; 331 students from the 28 U.S. veterinary schools were awarded scholarships totaling $827,500 in 2012. Frederic Lohr, president of the International Veterinary Students’ Association, spoke on the benefits of being an IVSA member (which all SAVMA members are) and enumerated some of the partner organizations in research and medicine to which the IVSA gives its members access.

The SAVMA House also welcomed Dr. Walter R. Threlfall as the incoming AVMA vice president. Dr. Threlfall addressed the delegates and named student debt, salaries, and demand for veterinarians as top issues. He wanted students to know that he is a vessel for them to bring their concerns to the AVMA.

In other business, the SAVMA Executive Board welcomed newly elected members Caitlin Pohlit, secretary-elect; Al Claiborne (TEN ‘14), treasurer-elect; Kyle Donnelly (FL ’14), The Vet Gazette Editor-elect; Chase Crawford (TEX ’14), information technology officer-elect; and Nate Vos as the first veterinary economics ad hoc officer.

The SAVMA House of Delegates will next meet March 21-23, 2013, during the SAVMA Symposium at Louisiana State University.