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PEER Veterinary Students Blaze New Trails in 4-H & STEM Education

Posted August 26, 2016

The summer is blazing hot, but PEER veterinary students are still hard at work inspiring students to pursue STEM careers. PEER veterinary students have presented to over 1,000 students since the last update at the end of June. Chanel Berns, Mikaela Stanislav, and Maddie Wiersig travelled to San Antonio on July 5 for a variety of presentations. Wiersig was already in San Antonio, and she kicked off the event by presenting to some pre-engineering students at a UTSA PREP course. Wiersig taught the students about entry into professional school and pathways to college. Only a few of the campers were interested in attending veterinary school, but they were all interested in attending college and many were considering advanced degrees. The students were very sharp and asked in-depth questions about what inspired Wiersig to apply for veterinary school and what veterinary school is like. Many of the students did not know that veterinary school admission is very competitive. These students were surprised to learn that Texas A&M University has the only veterinary school in the state of Texas!

After completion of the UTSA talk, Berns, Stanislav, and Wiersig travelled downtown to present to Girls Inc. This is an all-girls camp that encourages girls to grow up to be strong, independent-minded, and educated women. The age of the campers ranged from five to 13 years old. The theme of the week was animals, and PEER was requested to give a presentation on what veterinarians do, how to become a veterinarian, and different career paths within veterinary medicine. The PEER veterinary students finished the presentation with a few practice cases where campers pretended to be veterinarians in a practice case situation. The campers had the opportunity to decide what tests to run to lead to a final diagnosis of the “sick” stuffed animal patient. The campers really loved getting involved in the practice case. The practice cases also prompted the campers to ask more questions related to the cases such as “How do you get rid of fleas in the yard?”, “Can I get the same parasites as my dog?”, and “How do heartworms make a dog cough?” The PEER veterinary students gave several presentations over the next two days to campers of varying ages. The PEER veterinary students thoroughly enjoyed reaching out to so many students!

2016 08 26 peer picThe San Antonio trip also included a visit to the Primate Research Facility at the Texas Biomedical Research Institute. The PEER veterinary students viewed the baboons and other primates that are held at this state of the art research facility. “It was so interesting to see how the Texas Biomedical Research Institute works with undomesticated species! For example, they used fruit-flavored cereal to guide monkeys to different enclosures,” Stanislav said, “Veterinary school emphasizes major domestic species, so seeing how veterinary medicine and husbandry applies to primates was a neat experience.” The PEER veterinary students also had the privilege of meeting with Dr. John Bernal, the associate director of veterinary resources and research support. PEER veterinary students asked what day-to-day life is like as a veterinarian at the Texas Biomedical Research Institute and how  Bernal selected lab animal medicine as his field of work.

While Berns, Stanislav, and Wiersig were in San Antonio, Chelsea Gartman participated in Snake Day at the Clara B. Mounce Public Library in Bryan. PEER had a table set up just outside the entrance of a snake show called Snakes Alive. There were four shows total, and more than 300 people visited the table while they lined up for entrance into Snakes Alive. Gartman taught visitors about pet snake care, snake anatomy, and the threats venomous snakes in Texas can pose to household pets.

The PEER veterinary students also paid a visit to the Houston Zoo to see zoo interns that PEER veterinary students presented to earlier this summer as part of Collegiate Conservation. These interns were presenting their final projects for the program. Following the presentation, the PEER veterinary students were able to explore the Houston Zoo.  Additionally, the PEER veterinary students visited a veterinary chiropractor, Dr. Robin Robinette, in Houston and talked to her about her work with rehabilitation and becoming a chiropractor. “It was really interesting to watch Dr. Robinette implement chiropractic adjustments and acupuncture to help her patients,” Gartman said. “All of the people bringing their animals in to see her were very happy with how much Eastern medicine has helped their elderly pets. Her staff also helps with treatments like laser therapy and water treadmill for small animals and even horses! I learned a lot and would love to explore this area of veterinary medicine further.”

The following week, the PEER veterinary students were very busy with Aggie STEM Summer Camp, presenting at the Brazos Valley Museum of Natural History, and attending several sessions of the Summer Parks Program 2016 in Bryan. As part of the Summer Parks Program, a few of the PEER veterinary students went to local parks and presented to campers about what it takes to be a veterinarian and what veterinarians do. Campers also worked through veterinary practice cases.

The week of 7/11 also marked the start of Youth Adventure Program (YAP) Camp. The first YAP Camp session was designed for middle school students who are seriously considering veterinary medicine as a career. YAP Camp proved to be an interactive, fun week for the campers and the counselors! All the PEER veterinary students who were not presenting elsewhere in the community worked as counselors for YAP Camp. While working for YAP, PEER veterinary students used their experiences from veterinary school to give the campers advice about how to get into veterinary school, to promote Texas A&M University, and most importantly, to teach them about veterinary medicine. The campers were gathered into smaller groups that were each given a fairly difficult case that was adapted from a real patient case at the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital. It was the job of the PEER counselors to guide the campers through these cases and help them reach the correct conclusions without giving away answers.

The PEER veterinary students helped the campers create presentations based on their cases. Each presentation included the diagnostic tests the campers ran on the patient, the test results, any abnormalities found, and finally the diagnosis and treatment. PEER veterinary students helped the campers find out more information about their specific cases using textbooks from the Medical Sciences Library. Another activity that PEER assisted YAP camp with was stuffed animal spays and laceration repair/broken bone repair. The campers loved suiting up in surgery gear and using real surgery tools to perform the surgeries and repairs on the stuffed animals.

During the week of 7/18, TAMU CVM hosted two camps: Veterinary Enrichment Camp and YAP Camp. Dr. Larry Johnson, who heads the PEER program, delivered a guest lecture called “Love Your Lungs” to Veterinary Enrichment Camp high school students. As part of the presentation, campers engaged in hands-on learning with anatomic specimens under the guidance of Johnson and their veterinary student counselors. The second week of YAP camp was for high school students who are serious about veterinary school, so the material was more advanced and in-depth than the material for the middle school students. Although there were fewer campers for the high school session, this allowed the PEER veterinary students to focus more on individual interests and questions that each camper had, allowing them to have a more in-depth, personal experience for the week.

During the week of 7/25, PEER attended the Brazos County 4-H program. Gartman and Clarissa Root presented to the students about pathways to veterinary school and discussed what veterinary school is like, veterinary school admission advice, and what careers are available with a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree. The following week, Berns, Root, and Stanislav completed PEER’s last trip of the summer. They traveled to Temple and Belton to present about pet care at the Temple Public Library and show anatomy models to 4-H Vet Science campers at the Bell County Expo Center.

PEER veterinary students wrapped up their summer by recording new educational videos that can be found at and presenting to Summer Science Safari Camp and Aggieland Humane Society Camp.

If you are interested in working for PEER or learning more about PEER’s educational resources, please visit or email Dr. Larry Johnson at

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