Morgan Brown monitors animal involvement in films through summer internship

Morgan Brown and Max
As part of her internship with AHA, Brown attended early promotional events for the movie Max, posing here with Dude, one of the six dogs used in making the film.

The words “No animals were harmed...” are such a common part of end credits that film and TV viewers have come to expect them. A student at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine now has an insider’s view into how these words ultimately arrive at the end of movies and shows.

After learning of the American Humane Association’s Film and T.V. Unit’s summer internship program through her film studies minor at Pennsylvania State University, Morgan Brown immediately started seeking the right person to put her in contact with the program’s director. That person turned out to be Valerie Ragan, director of the veterinary college’s Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine. Ragan got Brown in touch with American Veterinary Medical Association director Gail Golab, who secured her an interview with Kwane Stewart, the internship program’s director. Brown explained, “I told him how I was interested in the organization and asked him if I could come work for the summer.” The director agreed and Brown, then a first-year student at the college, spent her summer assisting the organization in Los Angeles, California.

Brown, now a second-year student at the veterinary college, hoped the internship “would be the perfect blend of the two things I love,” she explained. The American Humane Association’s Film and T.V. Unit’s goal is to protect animals involved in film or print media, and so, “the job,” Brown elaborated, “mainly requires veterinary knowledge in order to prevent incidents on set, so it’s not really a clinical type job, but they use a book of guidelines about things you can or can’t do with the animals and that’s given to the animal trainers who actually bring the animals to the set. So, they know all of the rules, but we’re basically there to make sure everything goes smoothly.”

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During her stay in the Los Angeles area, Brown attended a Fourth of July celebration featuring Smokey Robinson at the Hollywood Bowl.

As an intern, Brown’s other responsibilities included “monitor[ing] a couple film productions, several TV shows, a couple of short ads and print stuff.” She continued, “another part of my job was script reading. They get the scripts in advance to evaluate the animal action so they know what kind of expertise is needed.” Throughout the summer, this work included monitoring films such as Max and Straight Outta Compton, TV shows such as Westworld and Getting On, and commercials for Food Lion and Old Spice.

Brown, originally from Occoquan, Virginia, is also actively involved in the Public Corporate Veterinary Practice Club. Last semester, Brown was elected the club’s vice president after first serving as the government corporate liaison. In that role, Brown explained, she was able to bring in both a lab animal veterinarian and Katy Nelson, a veterinary journalist and host and executive producer of “The Pet Show with Dr. Katy” in Washington, D.C., to discuss future careers with club members and other veterinary students.

Last spring, Brown was the only first-year student to attend the Iverson Bell Symposium, an event held each year by the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges to promote diversity and inclusion in academic veterinary medicine. “We were just trying to evaluate the diversity situation within veterinary school admissions and recruitment,” Brown explained. (Read more about veterinary student participation in last year’s Iverson Bell Symposium.)

2015 AAVMC conference
(l-r) Allison Keil ('16), Tim Scott ('16), Morgan Brown ('18), and Amber Roudette ('17) attended the 2015 Iverson Bell Symposium, held in conjunction with the AAVMC Annual Conference.

Brown is also a member of SCVECCS, the student chapter of the Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Society. Over winter break, Brown completed an externship at the Regional Veterinary Referral Center, an emergency veterinary hospital in Springfield, Virginia. “I’m actually really glad I did the externship over winter break because I got a lot of experience in things that we’re now starting to talk about like anesthesiology,” Brown explained. “And after taking radiology last semester and going into the emergency hospital,” she elaborated, “I was actually able to understand what was going on. Being able to utilize the book knowledge in a practical setting is comforting.”

This semester, Brown hopes to become even more involved with SCVECCS in order to accomplish her goal of obtaining an emergency medicine internship after graduation. Though Brown would first like to practice clinical work when she graduates from the veterinary college, she explained that the Animal Humane Association does “have on-call representatives too, so that could be a possibility where I could work in general practice and do on-call.”

Morgan Brown and Hannah Cheng at Homecoming
In addition to her participation in several student clubs, Brown serves as a student ambassador for the college. She and third-year vet student Hannah Cheng were among the ambassadors who welcomed alumni and guests at the college's 2015 Homecoming event.