A Wedding + Networking 101 = Good Trip Home

It’s been a bit quiet here at the Uncommon Veterinarian over the last month, so I wanted to get a little update up before another week slips by. I’ll start things off with a personal update before giving you the inside scoop about some unique veterinarians and opportunities further down the page.


I had a lot of fun participating in my older sister’s wedding during a two-week vacation back to the U.S. The wedding ceremony and reception took place outdoors on an old farm on the Chesapeake Bay owned by the new husband’s family. No animals are on the farm currently, but one new brother-in-law (ahem) may have plans to change that.

Thinking About the Future

I’m still not sure what I’m going to do come next summer when my Army assignment in Sicily comes to an end. At this point I’m about 95% certain that I will get off active duty (since my five year commitment will be over) and transition into the Army Reserve. But the reserves only requires one weekend a month and two weeks a year, so what will I do for my “real” job?

Rhinocerus beetle at the Smithsonian's Insect Zoo.

Live rhinocerus beetle at the Smithsonian.

That is the question that is on my mind. All. The. Time. As I hope you’ve seen here on my site, we have a lot of cool options as veterinarians. At the end of the day, though, we can only pick one of them (or maybe two) at a time. So what will it be?

Even though I could have happily spent my whole vacation catching up with family and friends and exploring the zoo and museums in D.C., I knew I should take advantage of the time to do some more serious professional exploring.. I sent a few e-mails out and ended up setting up three different meetings while I was there.

I thought it might be worthwhile to tell you about these meetings. It’s not only that they were all with fellow uncommon veterinarians doing interesting things in the world, but I also want you to understand the mindset and strategies that you need to have as you pursue your own goals.

With one exception (I met Whitney from the AVMA at a national SAVMA event while we were both vet students), I didn’t know any of these people before sending them e-mails out of the blue. This is something that I’ve gotten more comfortable with, but it’s still not easy to put myself out on a limb like that. What if they never respond? Is it really worth the effort?

Wildlife Conservation Society

wildlife_conservation_society_wcsI was excited to reconnect with Dr. Steve Osofsky, Executive Director for Wildlife Health & Health Policy at the Wildlife Conservation Society. Dr. Osofsky was kind enough to respond to a random e-mail from me over six years ago while I was preparing my application for the Boren Fellowship. It was partially through his generosity and connections that I was able to set up such a unique set of experiences in Mozambique, and I’ve followed his inspiring work ever since.

In his role at the Wildlife Conservation Society, Dr. Osofsky has been able to initiate some incredible projects that all of you should check out, like WCS-HEAL and WCS-AHEAD. You’ll be glad to know that this stuff is going on.

AVMA Governmental Relations Division

Another meeting was with Drs. Whitney Miller and Mark Lutschaunig from the AVMA’s Governmental Relations Division. You may not have realized that the AVMA owns a big beautiful townhouse just south of Dupont Circle in the heart of Washington, D.C. This is where a full-time staff (including four veterinarians) advocates for the veterinary profession with the federal government.

AVMA-logoMy primary reason for setting up this meeting was to learn a little more about the AVMA Fellowship Program, which supports three veterinarians each year as scientific advisers to members of Congress. I think I would enjoy a lot of things about this opportunity, as I’ve always been fascinated by the workings of government and would love to use my education and experience to influence policy in this way. The application isn’t due until February 14 of next year, so I have plenty of time to think about that option.

I hope some of you vet students are considering the AVMA’s Governmental Relations Student Externship Program! This externship provides a $1200 stipend to support students for four weeks working with the AVMA’s office in D.C. You would get to meet and interact with veterinarians who work in all different areas of the federal government, so if you’re thinking of a pursuing government work this is definitely a way to get a good head start. You should also check out the ongoing blog kept by current students, Externs on the Hill. Don’t delay, though: the application is due on October 11!

As an extra bonus, I also got to chat for a few minutes with Dr. Michael Gilsdorf, executive vice-president of the National Association of Federal Veterinarians. The NAFV rents office space from the AVMA, so when I was introduced to Dr. Gilsdorf in passing we realized that we had exchanged a few e-mails months earlier after my post about resources for those interested federal veterinary jobs.

Silent Heroes Foundation

My second meeting was with Dr. Hayley Adams, founder and co-director of the Silent Heroes Foundation. This small organization brings a One Health approach to wildlife conservation in Africa, and Dr. Adams had a bunch of valuable advice to share with me about working in the conservation field. Along with the DVM, of course, Dr. Adams has a PhD and is double-boarded in preventive medicine and microbiology. I would love to follow in her footsteps and be involved in the same type of innovative projects that she is pursuing.


Until Next Time

Any thoughts or suggestions for me as I continue thinking about my own next steps? I’m all ears!

And what about you? What steps are you taking as you plan for the next stage, educationally or professionally?

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9 Responses to “A Wedding + Networking 101 = Good Trip Home”

  1. Lauren October 5, 2013 at 5:29 am #

    I’m right there with you – thinking nonstop about my next step after 1.5 years of general practice! Now I’m neck deep in fellowship and PhD program applications and hoping something works out. I’ll be interested to see where you end up as well.

    • Elliott October 5, 2013 at 8:01 pm #

      Thanks for chiming in, Lauren. I just discovered yesterday that the comment function on my site had been broken for about a month. It’s great to know that people are still out there!

      I hope you’ll keep me (and the rest of us) updated on your application status. I know you have some great options out there!

      • Cerina Sickman October 10, 2013 at 6:53 am #

        I can’t wait to hear what your step will be, and what you’ll decide to do next in your career! ^^ As for me I’ll be visiting two UC colleges soon that I plan to apply to once my general ED is done. They both have great opportunities and I’ve heard their pre-veterinary classes are great! It’s still hard to decide though. ^^
        Good-Luck to you!

      • Elliott October 10, 2013 at 11:18 am #

        Thanks for your comment, Cerina! Sounds like you have some big steps ahead of you, so I wish you all the best as you make this decision.

  2. Light October 13, 2013 at 4:47 pm #

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on your next step! I am a veterinary technician student but I am constantly thinking about what I plan to do once I graduate… general practice just doesn’t seem like the end for me! It is amazing how many options there are in our field.

    I’m new to your blog but I will definitely be adding it to my reading list. đŸ™‚

    • Elliott October 16, 2013 at 7:48 am #

      Great to hear from you, and happy Vet Tech Week! A lot of people don’t realize that there are just as many different options for techs as there are for us vets. We need expert help no matter what kind of veterinary medicine we’re doing!

  3. Gavin Veitch October 16, 2013 at 3:08 am #

    Hey Elliott,
    Just wanted to let you know I enjoy the blog and am in the same boat at looking for new career paths. I’ve been on the companion animal clinical side of things for a few years and I’m trying to figure out how to get into some of the more uncommon veterinary world. Looking at USDA and NIH stuff right now. If I see anything that looks like something you’d like I’ll pass it along. Good luck!

    • Elliott October 16, 2013 at 7:46 am #

      Gavin, thanks for your comment. It’s good to know that I’m not alone! I hope you’ll keep us posted on any progress in your own search.


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