One of the best parts of being a third-year veterinary student is getting to choose some of your own classes. All of the third-year veterinary students are required to take at least 15 credit hours of electives distributed over the fall and spring semesters. Most electives are worth one credit hour and meet for 16 hours of lecture/lab over four to eight weeks, and you usually take one or two electives each month. The electives I have taken so far this year include small animal oncology, small animal dermatology; pocket pet medicine; avian medicine; and fins, flippers, and flukes (marine medicine). I am particularly excited about my bird, small mammal, and reptile electives since they are some of my favorite species, and they are rarely covered in the veterinary school core curriculum.
Because the electives have smaller class sizes, usually between 20 and 50 students, there are many more opportunities for interactive and hands-on learning, which is how I learn best. In small animal oncology, we split up into small groups to form diagnostic and treatment plans for cases based on actual dog and cat cancer patients. In pocket pet medicine, we had a lab where we practiced doing physical exams on rats, rabbits, and hedgehogs. Some electives like avian medicine and fins, flippers, and flukes even offer field trips! Next Sunday, I am traveling to Hill County Aviary with Dr. Sharman Hoppes to spend all day working with the birds there. This will be great practice for when I travel to Peru over winter break to work with wild birds at the Tambopata Research Center!
Along with junior surgery, clinics, and skills laboratories, electives are a great way to prepare us for fourth year. Fourth year will be a 12-month series of two-week rotations through many different specialties at our small animal and large animal hospitals as well as externships at other veterinary practices. Taking small animal electives during third year allows me to become familiar with many of the clinicians and residents who will be supervising me during my fourth year of veterinary school.
Although my full electives schedule means that I am in class every day from at least 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. this month, I am grateful for the opportunity to get to learn about what I love! I can’t wait to see what my upcoming electives have to offer.