The 2003-2004 AVMA Congressional Science fellows have been busy influencing the work of the 108th Congress. Each of the three veterinarians is working in a congressional office where they lend their expertise in veterinary medicine on a variety of issues.
Dr. Michael Q. Bailey has been serving his fellowship in the office of Rep. Edward Markey of Massachusetts. A 14-term member of the House of Representatives, Markey sits on the Energy and Commerce, Resources, and Homeland Security committees.
Dr. Bailey, a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Radiology, is a professor of veterinary clinical science and the director of diagnostic imaging at Tuskegee University School of Veterinary Medicine. While with the Massachusetts congressman, Dr. Bailey's primary responsibilities have been in health care and agricultural issues.
"(The veterinary profession) must be a strong member in forming public policy," Dr. Bailey said. "If we are not involved, we will be lost in a crowd of others who want to take our seat at the table. We in the profession have to realize that in many cases, the practice of medicine is public policy."
Dr. John A. Herrmann has been spending time away from his Freeport, Ill., practice to work in the office of Illinois Sen. Richard Durbin. This is Durbin's second term in the Senate, where he is a member of the Appropriations, Governmental Affairs, Judiciary, Rules and Administration, and Select Intelligence committees.
Dr. Herrmann holds a master's degree in public health and is a diplomate of the American College of Theriogenologists. This training and experience have prepared Dr. Herrmann to advise Durbin on a number of policy matters, including bovine spongiform encephalopathy, stem cell research, and long-term care for the elderly and infirm.
"Veterinarians have so much to offer in policy development because of our broad-based understanding of medicine, public health, zoonoses, environmental determinants on health, and population medicine," Dr. Herrmann said.
"Even if I do not make a career change into a more policy-oriented position, I still can apply much of what I learned here in my practice, my community, and in organized veterinary medicine," he added.
Dr. Rebecca Walton resigned as executive director of Relief Veterinary Services Inc., in Springfield, Va., to serve in the office of Sen. Herbert Kohl of Wisconsin. Kohl is a third-term senator and sits on the Appropriations, Judiciary, and Special Aging committees.
Dr. Walton has earned master's degrees in public policy and science. She works on issues for the senator pertaining to tax reform, unemployment, health care, education/vocational training, trade, and currency.
"I do not believe most members of Congress, along with the general public, understand the full potential of veterinarians as an invaluable resource," Dr. Walton said. "However, I feel the responsibility for changing this perception rests on the field of veterinary medicine and veterinarians."
The Congressional Science Fellowship is a yearlong program commencing annually on Aug. 1 and ending July 31. As the current fellowship year approaches its end, the participants are looking ahead to life after Washington.
"One cannot imagine what it is like until you are here," Dr. Bailey said. "The fellowship has opened doors that may never be open again and would not have been opened without the fellowship."
About his plans after completing the fellowship, Dr. Herrmann observed, "I am open to new possibilities. However, at the present time, I plan to return to my private practice. I would like to continue on in a policy development position in public health, veterinary medicine, or industry."
"This fellowship," Dr. Walton said, "has greatly expanded my horizons. My wish is that new and different doors will open as I increase my expertise working on these various issues."
For information on the AVMA Congressional Science Fellowship Program, or to apply for the 2005-2006 program, contact Robert Hay, program and administrative coordinator, at the AVMA Governmental Relations Division, at (800) 321-1473, Ext. 3208, or rhayavma [dot] org.