Military experience invaluable to SAVMA president

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The way Bridget Heilsberg tells it, she did not choose the position of Student AVMA president, it chose her.

Heilsberg, pictured here with Dr. Jan K. Strother, AVMA vice president, at the April AVMA Executive Board meeting, felt compelled to join the ranks of the SAVMA House of Delegates after a presentation by her college’s delegates during orientation week. The third-year veterinary student at Colorado State University later ran for the position and won. She eventually became the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges’ liaison with SAVMA. Heilsberg also chaired the SAVMA subcommittee that created guidelines for duty hours during clinical rotations for fourth-year students. Both positions meant a lot of time in front of the microphone, which translated into suggestions from peers that she run for president and, later, a victory.

Heilsberg credits her service as a patrol leader in the United States Navy Reserve with honing her leadership skills. She deployed for two tours to Kuwait and Iraq from November 2006 to July 2007 in support of operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. The 31-year-old was medically discharged from the service in 2009. A horse she had been training flipped over and landed on her knee, breaking it in three places. Heilsberg describes the recovery process as long and slow, but she hasn’t ruled out re-entering the military. Currently, she is focusing her energy on college and representing SAVMA.

SAVMA recently has concentrated its efforts on the economic situation of veterinary students, and she looks for the association to continue to deal with this issue at its next meeting during the AVMA Annual Convention in early August in San Diego. Heilsberg also anticipates SAVMA working more closely with the AAVMC in helping implement objectives from the North American Veterinary Medical Education Consortium.

Once she finishes her term and veterinary college, Heilsberg hopes to eventually work at an equine referral hospital with a focus on sports medicine.