Setting students up for success

SAVMA meeting features leadership panel, increased grant funding
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Navigating the world after graduation may be bumpy at times, but Dr. Caroline Cantner, AVMA assistant director for student initiatives in the Western region, advised students to embrace it when the time comes.

"Be humble, but know yourself. Balance authenticity with (respect for others). You'll get to the point of changing the world eventually," she said.

SAVMA HOD meeting
New to this year's SAVMA House of Delegates meeting, student delegates took a page out of the AVMA House of Delegates' book and hosted a Veterinary Student Information Forum. (Photo by R. Scott Nolen)

Dr. Cantner was part of a leadership panel held during the Student AVMA House of Delegates meeting, July 22-24 in Indianapolis, during which leaders from across the profession answered questions. One student asked for advice on involving more students in organized veterinary medicine, especially when it's seen as adding more to their plate when they're already busy.

Dr. Lori Teller, District VIII representative on the AVMA Board of Directors, recommended emphasizing the wellness aspect of it. "Organized veterinary medicine allows you to build a support system within the profession. It's never too soon to start building that," she said.

Dr. Andrew Maccabe, CEO of the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, said being involved in a professional fraternity during veterinary college gave him lots of opportunities to meet people outside his own veterinary class. Plus, "Peer-to-peer leadership is important. We all have the ability to influence people, whether we know it or not, and it can be positive or negative. You're all in positions of leadership; this is your opportunity to share that with other students. There's also that sense of empowerment: By becoming involved, you become part of the solution and are not just identifying the problem."

Dr. Bridget Heilsberg, president of the Women's Veterinary Leadership Development Initiative, challenged students to make time to look for opportunities. "Change the home page on your browser to something you want to be involved in. Mine is the AVMA. That way, I can see announcements or calls for volunteers. Something that small has kept me in touch with what's going on," she said.

Dr. Susan Little, a professor of parasitology at the Oklahoma State University Center for Veterinary Health, suggested starting with one step at a time. "Local VMAs are hungry for leadership. It's almost universal that they need people," she said. "I also know students who have set up externships and first jobs based on people they met on AVMA committees that have student representatives. It's worth it to talk to professors, and they'll rearrange tests so you can go to an AVMA committee meeting."

Another student asked how, after she graduates, she can be a leader in her workplace without stepping on toes.

Dr. Teller said, "For the first few months, just learn. You know the science of veterinary medicine more than you will at any other time in your life, but not the art of veterinary medicine. I'd suggest training support staff. Managers are overburdened, and if you can take over staff training, that would be helpful. The same goes for a clinic's social media presence. These are places you can show leadership in the practice pretty soon out of school."

Dr. Heilsberg also suggested pointing out ways you can help improve the practice's efficiency. "Think like a practice owner," she said.

Dr. Maccabe said, "Focus on your job, do it and do it well before you talk to other people about doing other things. It's key to read people to know where they are."

On to business

Dr. Teller addressing SAVMA HOD
A leadership panel held during the Student AVMA House of Delegates meeting touches on topics such as navigating the world after graduation, including how to be a leader in one's workplace without stepping on toes. Dr. Lori Teller (standing), District VIII representative on the AVMA Board of Directors, discusses why it's important to get involved in organized veterinary medicine.
Steven Hanes and puppy
Candidates for positions on the SAVMA Executive Board give speeches with puppies in their arms. Seen here is Steven Hanes, senior SAVMA delegate from University of Pennsylvania.

During the business portion of the meeting, one focus of the SAVMA HOD was on revamping and restructuring its seven committees. At the budget meeting, the committees successfully requested $15,000 more from reserves for grant money for this school year, hoping that larger scholarships would draw more applicants and make a bigger difference, said Jeff Olivarez, SAVMA president.

Also on the topic of funding, the ALL for Students program—with ALL being an acronym for Achieving, Leading, and Learning—announced it had secured funding for the 2017-18 school year and presented the students with a $336,000 check, thanks to the AVMA, SAVMA, AVMA PLIT, and AVMA Life, which sponsor the program. This money is available through a grant application of up to $8,500 for each of the 37 chapters represented in the SAVMA House of Delegates, to be used for events and meetings that foster professional development, community outreach, and student wellness.

Olivarez said, "Our proposed bylaws and HOD manual changes were a bit light this year, except for the (student chapters of the AVMA) to SAVMA transition. Since we have been talking of this for a while now, the delegates had little to discuss on the topic and were eager to get it passed. The transition will hopefully take place later this year or early next year, but an official date won't be set until talking with each school's SCAVMA president," Olivarez said.

New to this year's SAVMA meeting, student delegates took a page out of the AVMA House of Delegates' book and hosted a Veterinary Student Information Forum. "A survey was sent out earlier this summer asking what topics our members think we should focus on nationally. We received great feedback, with a wide variety of topics ranging from internship and residency regulations to career opportunities in public health," Olivarez said.

The Student Executive Board will use the topics discussed to guide future endeavors.

The SAVMA HOD held a joint meeting with the SCAVMA presidents again this year. They broke out into roundtables and had the groups discuss four topics: incorporating wellness in the fourth year, promoting public good and global animal health, creating a SAVMA mobile app, and collaborating with other organizations.

The meeting also saw a number of guests, but none were as well received as the puppies from the AVMA Political Action Committee.

"Oftentimes in these big meetings, people get bogged down by the procedure and formality of it all. The puppies provided a nice distraction. Our candidates even gave their speeches with a puppy in their arms. Not only was it adorable, but I really think it helps calm their nerves because all their speeches were fantastic, and no one came off as nervous. It was a true testament to the human-animal bond, and now we are looking into having pups at all our meetings," Olivarez said.

The SAVMA Executive Board welcomed the following newly elected members: Ashika Seshadri (St. George's '19), treasurer-elect; Whitney Patz (Lincoln Memorial '19), secretary-elect; Stephie-Anne Duliepre (Cornell University '19), cultural outreach officer-elect; and Kyndel Lann (Midwestern '19), The Vet Gazette editor–elect.

The next meeting of the SAVMA HOD will take place at the 2018 SAVMA Symposium March 15-17, hosted by the University of Pennsylvania.