Finding the Joy: One Saturday at a Time

As first-year veterinary students, one of the most important things we can do to unwind is “find the joy.” This phrase lingers in the back of our minds as we cycle through the seemingly endless supply of course objectives that outline our preparations for anatomy, histology, physiology, and immunology exams. While it’s necessary to hone in on these subjects and ensure we understand the fundamental topics that underscore clinical medicine, it’s just as important to take a step back and remind ourselves of what intrigued us about a veterinary career in the first place.

Participating in clubs is one of the best ways to remind myself of the fascination I have for this field and the variety of work that can be done by a veterinarian. My undergraduate degree largely focused on primate behavior, so I was especially excited to participate in the Saturday trips offered by the Laboratory Animal Medicine club this semester. So far, I have been able to get a behind-the-scenes tour of Houston Zoo’s new western lowland gorilla habitat and meet the veterinarians responsible for the variety of animals in their care. Zoo medicine is full of creative solutions for delivering medication, taking radiographs, and preparing animals for surgery that may be as small as a gecko or as a grand as an elephant. Furthermore, many of the animals that came out of the entertainment industry or improper living conditions now receive better welfare from the rehabilitation and enrichment activities that the zoo veterinarians and staff can provide.

On another Saturday trip I was fortunate to tour M.D. Anderson’s Michael E. Keeling Center for Comparative Medicine and Research in Bastrop, Texas. This facility houses owl monkeys, squirrel monkeys, rhesus macaques, and chimpanzees that aid in the study of human medicine that often translates back into veterinary medicine. The primates live in state of the art enclosures with teams of individuals devoted to their wellbeing and enrichment. We even learned that the chimpanzees regularly anticipate the day the watermelon truck arrives! The veterinary and human medical researchers at this center work together to promote One Health, a perspective that integrates animal, human, and environmental health for the betterment of our world as a whole. A career in regulatory or laboratory animal medicine provides a vital role for veterinarians in the process of developing vaccines, cancer treatments, and various medical procedures that save the lives of countless individuals. I found this trip incredibly affirming to observe how a veterinarian can contribute to the wellness of animals that ultimately contribute to the health of people and the environments in which we live.

As I said before, the demands of a professional program can be consuming, which is why it’s so important to take a moment—or a weekend—to remind ourselves of the inspiration behind this career, and the good that results from a veterinarian’s commitment to the well-being of animals that shape our lives.