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May 01, 2021

SAVMA Symposium goes to Kansas, virtually

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For the first time ever, the Student AVMA held its annual symposium virtually. The event offered veterinary students over 90 lectures and more than 30 laboratories from March 12-15. Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine hosted the symposium, which included other virtual events such as a career fair, poster sessions, and an exhibit hall as well as networking and social opportunities.

The four-day event had 1,680 registered attendees and also included the SAVMA House of Delegates meeting and installation of the new SAVMA Executive Board.

2021 SAVMA Executive Board virtual meeting
The recently installed Student AVMA Executive Board is the most racially and ethnically diverse in SAVMA history. (Courtesy of Hidayah Martinez-Jaka)

Last year, the symposium was canceled, including lectures and laboratories, because of the COVID-19 pandemic and only SAVMA HOD and presidents meetings occurred.

Educational offerings

The symposium featured two keynote speakers. Temple Grandin, PhD, discussed understanding animal behavior and reducing stress. Dr. Grandin, a designer of livestock handling facilities for meat plants, wrote the original recommended animal handling guidelines for the North American Meat Institute. The guidelines are used to assess animal welfare in beef, pork, and lamb abattoirs. Dr. Grandin is an animal science professor at Colorado State University, which named its recently constructed Temple Grandin Equine Center after her; a second location is currently being built at the CSU Spur campus in Denver.

Dr. Bonnie Rush, dean of the K-State veterinary college, spoke about work-life balance for leaders. Dr. Rush became a faculty member at K-State in 1993. She is a diplomate of the American College of Large Animal Internal Medicine. Dr. Rush has developed national standards in veterinary education and has initiated a student wellness program that has been widely adopted.

The symposium separated its sessions into seven tracks for attendees, including topics such as production animal, zoo and wildlife, research, and sustainability.

KSU entrance hall for the Student AVMA Symposium
The entrance hall for the Student AVMA Symposium hosted virtually by Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine (Courtesy of K-State)


SAVMA recognized several faculty members for their work. Dr. Brian G. Murphy, University of California-Davis, received the SAVMA Teaching Excellence Award. Dr. Joseph Klopfenstein, Oregon State University, received the SAVMA Faculty Community Outreach Award. Drs. Jennifer L. Hodgson, Virginia-Maryland; Erin Malone, University of Minnesota; and Puliyur Seshadri MohanKumar, University of Georgia, all received the SAVMA Supporter of Student Wellbeing Award. Peter Breimhurst, a veterinary student at the University of Minnesota, received the SAVMA John Pitts Award for Distinguished Service.

The AVMA Student Initiatives Team handed out the SAVMies to recognize chapter efforts. Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine won the award for most improved percentage of students who were members from 2018-19 to 2019-20. Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine's Coffee Hour event received the award for the most innovative ALL for Students program event in 2020—with ALL being an acronym for Achieving, Leading, and Learning. The University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine took the award for most registered students attending. Nominees were announced in the SAVMA HOD meeting and winners at the closing ceremony.

Virtual Student AVMA House of Delegates meeting at AVMA HQ
Participating in the virtual Student AVMA House of Delegates meeting using proper social distancing, with masks being worn when not addressing the HOD, were (from left) Drs. Sandra Faeh, AVMA vice president; Derrick Hall, AVMA associate director for student initiatives; and Marie Bucko, past president of SAVMA. (Photo by Dr. Douglas Kratt)


The following SAVMA officers were installed for the 2021-22 executive board: Hidayah Martinez-Jaka, Virginia-Maryland, president; Brooke MacNeill, Colorado State University, secretary; Ilissa Chasnick, Michigan State University, treasurer; Hanna Netisingha, University of Illinois, communications and public relations officer; Laci Taylor, Cornell University, international exchange officer; Sarah Delmotte, University of Georgia, editor-in-chief; Ashley Miller, Western University, global and public health officer; Tyler McMurray, Mississippi State University, veterinary economics officer; Pallavi Oruganti, The Ohio State University, cultural outreach officer; and Jonathan Dumas, chapter presidents representative, Ross University.

Additionally, the SAVMA HOD elected the following students: Zach Tooley, University of Wisconsin, president-elect; Bayla Bessemer, Michigan State University, global and public health officer–elect; Amanda Bentley, Auburn University, communications and public relations officer–elect; Madison Rigdon, Louisiana State University, veterinary economics officer–elect; and Katarina Fielding, University of Glasgow, international exchange officer–elect.

The 2022 SAVMA Symposium will be held at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, March 11-13. The University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine was selected as the site for the 2023 SAVMA Symposium.