April 12, 2021
Online format sets record for veterinary student symposium at K-State
Although students preferred to meet in person, an online platform allowed wider attendance for the 2021 SAVMA Symposium than might not have occurred otherwise. Conducted March 13-15, Kansas State University's chapter of the Student American Veterinary Medical Association, or SAVMA, served as host for the annual meeting of this national organization for veterinary students.
"COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the 2020 symposium that was originally planned to be held at Cornell University," said Savannah Isheim, a third-year veterinary student and co-chair of the planning committee. "We were fortunate to be able to bring back the symposium, albeit in a virtual format, and reinstate a traditional national meeting of veterinary students that dates back more than half a century."
As it turns out, the online symposium set an attendance record.
"Our team worked very hard to make this run smoothly and our efforts really paid off," said Tyler Shima, who is also a third-year veterinary student and is the other co-chair of K-State's planning committee. "This was the first-ever virtual symposium — and hopefully the last. I think our team was instrumental in getting the word out and promoting the symposium this year, leading to an unofficial symposium record attendance of more than 1,700 people."
Shima said that because of sponsor donations, the K-State SAVMA chapter was able to give away more than $5,000 worth of prizes at ceremonies and through various competitions.
"It was hard to judge an accurate count of how many people attended since many schools hosted COVID-appropriate virtual watch parties for the symposium," Shima said. "Some of the most attended sessions were definitely the ones tied to big names. Personally, I'm still in shock that I had the chance to work with big names in the veterinary world, such as Temple Grandin, Heartland Docs Drs. Ben ('02) and Erin Schroeder ('04), and Drs. Jerry ('72) and Nancy Jaax ('73). It's definitely surreal seeing them on TV, watching Netflix documentaries based on them, etc. I think I've made so many valuable connections through this event that I can use in my professional and personal life."
"With most veterinary schools having virtual lectures for classes, I think students really appreciated the ability to watch lectures on demand, rather than having a set schedule of live lectures," Isheim said. "The on-demand lectures allowed them a little more freedom in their schedule, and lets students space out the lectures a bit more."
Shima said the coolest part of the symposium was the ability to get closed-door, behind-the-scenes tours of limited-access facilities such as the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility adjacent to the Manhattan campus and Hills Pet Nutrition Center in Topeka.
"These aren't normally accessible to the general public, and may not even be to veterinary students," Shima said. "If anyone still wants to register and attend over 100 hours of lecture and events, we will have material up until the end of April. All live events and most of the tours/Q&A's were recorded for later viewing."
Information about the SAVMA Symposium is available online at savmasymposium2021.com/.