SAVMA went down to Georgia

Symposium, hosted by UGA, prepares students for life after graduation
Published on April 10, 2019
information-circle This article is more than 3 years old

For half a century now, veterinary students have been coming together to better themselves professionally as well as personally. Over 1,300 Student AVMA members, veterinary college faculty, and leaders of the veterinary profession gathered in Athens, Georgia, for the 49th annual SAVMA Symposium, held March 9-11 at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine.

The three-day event featured an exhibit hall, wet labs, and lectures on personal wellness and professional success.

The symposium's keynote speaker was Dr. Ernie Ward, a 1992 UGA alumnus who has gained international recognition for his work in small animal practice and pet obesity. Dr. Ward has authored three books, including "Chow Hounds: Why Our Dogs Are Getting Fatter," and was for several years the resident veterinarian of "The Rachael Ray Show."

Educational offerings

The My Veterinary Life educational track featured presentations from Dr. Kristin Wuellner, veterinary digital education specialist with Hill's Pet Nutrition, and Dr. Marci Kirk, assistant director for recent graduate initiatives for the AVMA, about life after graduation. They offered strategies for overcoming challenges and setbacks, both professionally and personally.

Members of the Student AVMA House of Delegates and Executive Board (Photo by Abbey Sharp)

Jen Brandt, PhD, the AVMA's director of member well-being and diversity initiatives, explained how feedback affects personal well-being and demonstrated how to ask for, receive, and give feedback effectively. Bridgette Bain, PhD, associate director of analytics for the AVMA, spoke about veterinary student debt and starting salaries across various practice types.

The AVMA's legislative activities were covered in another track, with presentations on why and how to advocate for veterinary medicine and the importance of veterinarians in the policy-making process.

During the business portion of the symposium, speakers addressed the SAVMA House of Delegates on such topics as the federal government's Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program, governance of the American Veterinary Medical Foundation, the AVMA Political Action Committee, and issues facing veterinary students outside the United States.


SAVMA leadership recognized a number of faculty members for their work with the organization. Dr. Erin Malone, a professor at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, received the SAVMA Supporter of Student Wellbeing Award. Dr. Emily Walz, a researcher with the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, received the SAVMA Faculty and Community Outreach Award. And Dr. Kristen Messenger, an assistant professor at North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine, received the SAVMA Teaching Excellence Award.

Thalita Leite and canine friend
Thalita Leite, president of Ross University's Student AVMA chapter, poses for a photo with Georgia Mae, a dog belonging to Dr. Anna Reddish, an assistant director for student initiatives at the AVMA. (Photo by Dr. Reddish)

Outgoing SAVMA President Sarah Neuser awarded the John Pitts Distinguished Service Award to Tianna Chin, a student at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, for "going above and beyond in service and dedication to the veterinary profession."

The AVMA Student Initiatives Team awarded SAVMies in recognition of student chapter achievements. Lincoln Memorial University College of Veterinary Medicine won the award for most improved percentage of student membership for 2018. Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine took top honors for its International One Health Day Competition. And for the third year in a row, the SAVMie for the school with the most symposium attendees went to the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine.


The following SAVMA officers were installed for 2019-20: Kyre Larrabee, Oklahoma State University, president; Danielle Schuld, University of Wisconsin, secretary; Grace Zhang, Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, treasurer; Kim Koenig, Washington State University, communications and public relations officer; Perry Koehler, Cornell University, international exchange officer; Nikki Dowgos, University of Georgia, editor-in-chief; Sarah Marnin, Iowa State University, global and public health officer; Katelyn Behm, Ross University, veterinary economics officer; and Alex McFarland, Colorado State University, cultural outreach officer.

Additionally, the SAVMA House of Delegates elected the following students for 2020-21: Marie Bucko, University of Wisconsin, president-elect; Kayla Hoenert, Purdue University, communications and public relations officer–elect; Collin Kramer, Colorado State University, international exchange officer–elect; Laura Venner, Ohio State University, global and public health officer–elect; and Kelsey Deaver, Iowa State University, veterinary economics officer–elect.

Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine will host the 2020 SAVMA Symposium March 14-16. Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine was selected to host the 2021 SAVMA Symposium.