Contributed by Roxana Bordbar, Class of 2018
For many veterinary students at UC Davis, the California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA), may often seem like an enigmatic entity. Everyone knows what the CVMA is, but many are not quite sure what the CVMA actually does behind the scenes. Thus, it was the mission of Elizabeth Malcolm and I to change that, at least for a few students. We wanted to bring students up close and personal to the action—we wanted to show them what the CVMA and organized veterinary medicine really does for the veterinary profession.
It all started in February of 2016, when Elizabeth and I had the life-changing opportunity of attending the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) legislative fly-in as the SAVMA Delegate and CVMA Student Representative, respectively. To sum it up, we flew to Washington D.C. where we were briefed by the AVMA on current legislation important to veterinarians and veterinary students, and we subsequently went to Capitol Hill to advocate and lobby for these positions at the offices of Senators Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, and Congressman John Garamendi. Let’s just say that it was an incredibly successful trip; we learned so much and we came back invigorated and full of passion for organized veterinary medicine and advocacy!
Naturally, when Elizabeth and I found out about SAVMA’s Government Outreach Advocacy and Leadership grant we immediately applied for it. We proposed to take a group of interested students to Sacramento to visit the CVMA headquarters and get an inside scoop of what they do every day. We would follow that with a trip to the historical CA State Capitol Museum. Thanks to the generous grant from both SAVMA and Dean Lairmore’s office we were able to make this vision come true!
Fast forward to May 9, 2016. We had our lovely group of students, we had our transportation and food, and we were on a quest for learning. We arrived at the CVMA, where Valerie Fenstermaker (Executive Director of the CVMA), Dr. Grant Miller (Director of Regulatory Affairs), and Christina DiCaro (CVMA lobbyist) greeted us and sat down with us for hours. We learned about the various bills and legislation that the CVMA works on. It is their duty to sort through all the bills that are introduced each year in California, and determine which of those can affect the veterinary profession in any way. Then, they take a stance on a bill and help support it or oppose it if it is something that directly affects veterinarians or veterinary students, RVTs, animals, and generally the scope of the profession.
For example, SB 27 is a bill that made history and set a huge precedent for the rest of the country to follow. This bill, signed on October 10th, 2015, requires a veterinarian to write a prescription for the use of antibiotics in livestock. Before the bill passed, some antibiotics were available to large animal producers to administer at their discretion without a prescription. California is the first state to require a veterinary prescription for any antibiotic administration, and thereby potentially alleviate some of the burdens of antimicrobial resistance. This bill was created and passed thanks in very large part to the efforts of the CVMA.
SB 27 was just one example of how important the CVMA is for our profession; the CVMA works tirelessly to keep us practicing the way we deem is best for our patients and clients. As a group, we came to not only appreciate them so much more after that visit, but it also motivated us to become more involved in organized veterinary medicine. If we continue to foster this kind of participation, and bring more students up close and personal with entities like the CVMA and AVMA, it will strengthen our profession tremendously.
Our trip brought to light how critical it is that we grab a seat at the table and actively work to keep our profession moving forward by supporting and even joining and participating in the CVMA or other VMAs. By doing this we will continue to keep our voices heard in a world where we are often muffled by so much white noise. After all, if we do not fight for what we believe in, no one else will!