Career Advise from Non-Traditional Veterinarians

New and exciting adventures continued throughout week three of the AVMA GRD externship. Following the current legislative issues affecting the veterinary profession, we were lucky enough to attend the House Agriculture Committee Farm Bill Markup, attend a hearing on the 2019 Budget of the US Department of Agriculture involving the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, and attend a discussion at the Newseum hosted by the Retail Industry Leaders Association about the current Supreme Court Case involving online sales tax collection (the majority of veterinary clinics are small businesses largely affected by this issue). We were also able to sit down with U.S. Congressman Schrader, a veterinarian for 30 years before he decided to run for Congress, who currently represents Oregon’s 5th Congressional District (Yay, Oregon!!).

In addition to our focus on legislative issues, we continued to explore diverse career paths by meeting with veterinarians around the DC area. This week we met with veterinarians at the Department of Food and Agriculture, United States Agency for International Development, Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Center for Public and Corporate Health at Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service at the United States Department of Agriculture.

Among our various meetings, there were two commonalities I noticed about the conversations with the veterinarians we spoke with. These being:

  1. Most every veterinarian we talked to said that they would never have expected to be in their current job position. They often said their young veterinary student selves would never have expected their career path taken. And,
  2. Every veterinarian we talked to was genuinely happy with their current position and career.

To my surprise, many of these veterinarians practiced private clinical veterinary medicine (which they all described as a great learning experience) before making a career change in government, public health or corporate careers. These conversations should be very encouraging for current veterinary students and veterinarians looking for career changes (or not) to know that there are not only diverse non-traditional opportunities available, but that veterinarians can often find career paths in these venues tailored to their specific interests. In addition to the similarity in advice heard from our visits, there were also two unique and helpful words of career advice that stood out to me (summarized below):

  1. The first was from Dr. Valerie Ragan, the Director of the Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine at Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. She advised that veterinarians looking for career changes potentially in government, public health or corporate sector should first ask themselves what is their preferred lifestyle associated with a job. Factors like living in a city vs rural area, working directly with animals, need or distaste for travel, etc. Narrowing down one’s specific life values can really help direct a veterinarian to a job that will help them feel satisfied in their career and potentially address what changes they were looking for from a previous position.
  2. The second was from Dr. Daphne Bremer, a Policy Specialist and Program Officer on Combating Wildlife Trafficking Strategy and Partnerships with
    US Fish & Wildlife Service, International Affairs. She believes veterinarians have such a diverse education and skill set that they should be more confidant in marketing themselves to any career they wish to pursue. She encourages veterinarians to promote themselves as problem solvers, critical thinkers and the leaders that they are. This should push veterinarians to use their veterinary career as a stepping stone for any avenue they wish to pursue (like Congress!).

Seeing all these veterinarians making a significant impact on the world has been eye opening and I am so happy to be part of such a great profession. It is very encouraging to know that no matter what career path me and my classmates take in the next few months, it is still a great one.