AVMA fellow places with Minnesota congresswoman

Dr. Mariah Lancaster
Dr. Mariah Lancaster

Dr. Mariah Lancaster, the 2023-24 AVMA congressional fellow, has landed a yearlong placement as a full-time staff member in the office of U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, who has represented Minnesota’s 4th Congressional District since 2001.

As a scientific advisor to Rep. McCollum, Dr. Lancaster—who uses the pronoun they—will use their experience in veterinary medicine, wildlife conservation, and foreign affairs to provide science-based counsel directly to the congresswoman and her staff, the AVMA announced November 9.

The AVMA Fellowship Program is nonpartisan and supports participant veterinarians, who go through a competitive selection process and then work to be placed in a congressional office, where they obtain significant experience in federal policymaking and assist the office with their unique veterinary expertise.

“Dr. Lancaster’s opportunity with Rep. McCollum’s office represents how essential it is for veterinarians to be heard and consulted during the process of crafting legislation on the federal level,” AVMA President Dr. Rena Carlson said in a statement. “We bring a science and evidence-based approach to legislative problem-solving that is invaluable to lawmakers. The AVMA is hopeful that Dr. Lancaster’s experience will inspire others in the veterinary community to explore a career in public policy, as veterinary professionals in this space are critical to advancing well-founded human and animal health legislation.”

Rep. McCollum is a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, where she serves as the top Democrat on the Defense Subcommittee. She welcomed Dr. Lancaster in a statement, saying, “The residents of Minnesota’s Fourth Congressional District will benefit from their expertise, science-based approach, and contributions as I work to make strategic investments through the Appropriations Committee in support of our environment, public health, and national priorities.”

Dr. Lancaster received their veterinary degree in 2017 from Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. They spent the previous two years with the U.S. State Department as an American Association for the Advancement of Science policy fellow. They have also served on the Massachusetts VMA’s Government Relations and Advocacy Committee and the Association of Avian Veterinarians’ Legislative Committee.

“I am immensely grateful for this singular opportunity to serve Congresswoman McCollum,” Dr. Lancaster said in a statement. “Veterinarians hold critical insights into so many aspects of American life, from livestock management and sustainable agriculture to wildlife population health and the prevention of future pandemics. Our participation in the highest levels of government is critical to both our nation and the international community.”

A version of this story appears in the January 2024 print issue of JAVMA