July 30, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Lessons Learned From Animals

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Rep. Kurt Schrader’s experience as a veterinarian helped prepare him for life on Capitol Hill.

In one instance, a barn fire left a horse named Fishstix badly burned. The horse’s owner was not wealthy, but she pushed Schrader to be more than a “country vet” and conduct in-depth research. As a result, Schrader adapted a human slip pocket skin graft technique for the horse.

Stretching his credentials a second time, Schrader collaborated with Oregon State University to prove that pentachlorophenol (a chemical compound used as a pesticide and disinfectant) from a lumber firm was causing issues for mares on a breeding farm. The side effects consisted of a propensity for early stillbirths, hoof issues and digestive cowlick problems. The chemical had been “leaking and leeching into the ground and affecting the ground water.”

One of the routine procedures that Schrader didn’t enjoy but makes for an interesting part of veterinary life involves worming horses, which is required three times a year.

“I remember being up at the racetrack in the middle of winter, and back in the old days, the way you wormed the horse is you got a big long tube and you stuffed it down the nostril into the stomach,” he joked. “You have to blow on the end of the tube and so I was pretty much parasite free most of my life.”

Schrader shared the two biggest veterinary medicine advances he witnessed during his more than 30 years in the field.

“Nutrition, which is what we need to do for people. If you want to get health care reform, nutrition’s the key element,” he said. “The other is dentistry. I was shocked at that. I was a country boy. ... You didn’t do any dental on your dog, and you sure didn’t do it on your horse. Now, people swear by it in terms of performance and longevity.”

The transition from Schrader’s veterinary career to one in politics seemed a natural path to take.

“I mean, as a veterinarian, at least in rural America, you are usually involved in your community,” he said. “You are looked upon as a leader, someone they trust.”

Schrader got his feet wet when serving on the local planning commission, turning the tide by moving the commission from “just a responsive to a proactive legislation.”

As he became more involved in the local political scene, his veterinary team began to run his practice on autopilot.

Maddened by a home builder who was attempting to pass legislation Schrader believed would restrict local communities’ powers on growth patterns, the veterinarian decided to run for the state Legislature. After serving in the state House and then the state Senate, he was elected to the U.S. House in 2008.

Schrader sold his veterinary practice last year to his associate.

“There is a time when the profession moves on. Veterinary medicine is different now,” he said. “I believe there is an era with which you serve in a capacity, and then there is a time for you to move on and let the next generation come in.”

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