Meeting in Minneapolis a hit for SAVMA Symposium

Veterinary students gather in person for networking, governance
SAVMA Symposium

The Student AVMA Symposium 2022, hosted by the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine from March 11-13, had an extra level of enthusiasm among the 726 registrants thanks to being in person for the first time in three years.

Zachary Tooley, SAVMA president, said that while it was a big challenge for AVMA staffers and symposium planners to reestablish an on-site meeting, especially with many of the students not having been to a SAVMA Symposium in person themselves, the organizers did a great job.

“I think people really enjoyed being able to go network with people from different schools, reestablish ties with classmates who ended up at different schools, see how much their circles and networks have expanded, and have an opportunity to build those relationships even further,” he said. (See an interview with Tooley.)

Organizers reintroduced some friendly interschool competitions designed so that the more people who participate from each school, the more points that school is awarded. Attendees could participate in events such as the Vet Student Olympics, where they were asked to perform a variety of clinical skills; the Animal Welfare Judging Contest; or even the Inflatable Obstacle Course.

Other options included day trips to Mall of America, the Minnesota Zoo, and Raptors Great and Small; wet labs; an exhibit hall; and lecture tracks on small animal medicine, production animal medicine, equine medicine, business and professional development, exotic and wildlife medicine, emergency medicine, and public health and one-health topics.

The keynote speakers were Dr. Justine Lee, founder and CEO of VETgirl, a subscription-based podcast and webinar service offering continuing education, and Dr. Marissa Hake, a large animal veterinarian based in Edon, Ohio, who communicates with consumers about modern agriculture—including the care and handling of young stock, on-farm protocol and culture development, and animal welfare—through her personal social media accounts: @CalfVet on Facebook and @CalfVet_ on Instagram.

Student AVMA House of Delegates
The Student AVMA House of Delegates took a number of actions, including amending the bylaws to add a chapter president as a full voting member of the SAVMA Executive Board. (Photo by Hanna Netisingha)


The SAVMA Executive Board and House of Delegates met, as well as the chapter presidents.

At the SAVMA HOD meeting, student delegates took a number of actions, including the following:

  • Amended the bylaws to add a chapter president as a full voting member of the SAVMA Executive Board.
  • Signed on to the Gender Identity Bill of Rights authored by the Pride Veterinary Medical Community’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Working Group.
  • Replaced “grammar/spelling” parameters from all current and future grant and award rubrics with references to a “thoughtful, thorough, and well-developed response” to reduce bias in grading and assist in providing all students with the same opportunity, including those who speak English as a second language.
  • Granted representation in the SAVMA HOD for the members of the satellite chapter at South Dakota State University’s 2+2 program, which allows veterinary students to spend their first two years at South Dakota State and their final two years at the University of Minnesota.
Members of SAVMA Executive Board and AVMA Board of Directors
The Student AVMA Executive Board and members of the AVMA Board of Directors pose for a photo during the SAVMA Symposium 2022, hosted by the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine from March 11-13. (Photo courtesy of Zachary Tooley)


SAVMA recognized several faculty members for their work. Dr. Ishmael Concha, Lincoln Memorial University, received the SAVMA Teaching Excellence Award. Dr. Danielle Frey, Colorado State University, received the SAVMA Faculty Community Outreach Award. Dr. Lawrence Firkins, University of Illinois, received the SAVMA Supporter of Student Wellbeing Award. In addition, Mona Bandyopadhyay, a third-year veterinary student at Michigan State University, received the SAVMA John Pitts Award for Distinguished Service.

The AVMA Student Initiatives Team handed out the SAVMies to recognize chapter efforts. Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine won the award for most improved percentage of students who were SAVMA members. The University of Glasgow SAVMA chapter’s Freshers Networking Night received the award for the most innovative event in the ALL for Students program—with ALL being an acronym for Achieving, Leading, and Learning. For the sixth year in a row, the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine took the award for most registered students attending the symposium.


The following officers were installed for the 2022-23 SAVMA Executive Board: Zachary Tooley, University of Wisconsin, president; Makenna Koslosky, Washington State University, secretary; Blaire MacNeill, Colorado State University, treasurer; Katarina Fielding, University of Glasgow, international exchange officer; Amanda Bentley, Auburn University, communications and public relations officer; Lauren Spendley, University of Florida, editor-in-chief; Bayla Bessemer, Michigan State University, global and public relations officer; Madison Rigdon, Louisiana State University, veterinary economics officer; Djion Holness, Cornell University, cultural outreach officer; and Leah Sauerwein, Colorado State University, chapter presidents’ representative.

Additionally, the SAVMA HOD elected the following students: Max Paulson, University of Illinois, president-elect; Vivian Lee, Cornell University, international exchange officer–elect; Samantha Clark, Louisiana State University, global and public health officer–elect; Alexia Mazzarella, Michigan State University, veterinary economics officer–elect; Jessica Topka, University of Missouri, communications and public relations officer–elect; and Thomas LeClair, Washington State University, chapter presidents’ representative–elect.

The 2023 SAVMA Symposium will be held at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, March 16-19.

A version of this article appears in the May 2022 print issue of JAVMA.