My Last Semester in a Classroom

Brandi M.I’ve just started my last semester in the traditional veterinary classroom curriculum. It’s honestly a little weird to think that by this time next year I will have been in a hospital setting for more than half a year and will be just months away from being able to call myself “doctor.”

Over the winter break, I worked at a clinic that I have been at for years. These doctors and technicians have known me since I was a young, wide-eyed pre-vet student in undergrad, and I joke that they basically raised me in this medical aspect of my life.

During this break, I found that the doctors included me more in discussing patient treatment plans and case rounds and technicians would ask my opinion on diagnostics in comparison to the things that I have learned thus far in veterinary school. It’s an interesting situation to find myself agreeing or questioning medical decisions that I am asked to fulfill because I now actually have some limited understanding of the application of medicine.

While that’s super exciting and I’m so relieved that I’m relatively competent in the field that I have pursued for most of my life, I’m also realizing the amount of responsibility that I’m going to be handling in the near future.

I’m gearing up to start applying for big-kid jobs, refining my resume and making connections with future employers; I’m coming to terms with my financial situation once I graduate: salary negotiations, budgeting, and payment plans for my student loan debt.

But I also feel more appreciation for the dedication this school has to its students. It’s more than just making us DVMs; I appreciate that we have started an entire course dedicated to these “adult responsibilities,” in which we meet with financial advisers and veterinarians who want to help us overcome these life hurdles. I was so worried that I would be thrown into the real world and told to figure out all of these incredibly important things, but, instead, I am going to at least get some explanation of what is needed and expected of me.

Part of me still feels like a child being dragged kicking and screaming into the adult world. Yet another part of me feels a little less lost knowing that, so far, my education has, for the most part, stuck well enough for me to understand most medical practices. That side of me is excited to start the last leg of my education and to reach my childhood goal of becoming a vet.

Baby Dog-tors

Brandi M.One of the most highly anticipated days for a veterinary student is the day you do your first spay or neuter in third year. That day is almost here for me!

We have put in so much time and effort to get to this point, and I’ll have to admit, there are some times that I feel out of my depth facing clinics next year. Despite all of the information I’ve crammed into my head over the past two years, I realize that just knowing all the medicine doesn’t fully prepare you to practice medicine. Surgery, especially, is one of the most daunting hurdles to reach and is a rite of passage for students.

The really cool thing about third-year surgeries is that not only are we forwarding our experience in school, but we’re also giving back to the community. All of the animals are from local animal shelters; the school provides the surgeries free of charge for shelters and future owners to encourage adoption, because spays and neuters are one of the most costly parts of adopting an animal. Spaying and neutering also will prevent aggressive behavior and will remove the risk of infection (most commonly talked about is pyometra).

Every animal is assigned to a surgical group and looked after for a week, getting loved on and spoiled during their stays. We spend this time bonding with our soon-to-be patients and applying our learned knowledge to a real-life animal. The surgeries are overseen by board certified surgeons.
And then once the surgery is done and the patients have been observed for post-op recovery, they are all put up for adoption. What I think is funny is that it’s not uncommon for some of the students to inquire about their patient’s adoption status and may even adopt the animals themselves.

Ultimately, I love this feature of this profession and this school, in particular—that we actively work to the benefit of the animals in our community while also educating students to continue this service in their future careers. It’s just a part of being one step closer to becoming a full-fledged baby dog-tor!

Preparing for a White Coat

Brandi M.There are officially four more weeks of my second year of veterinary school! This easily has been the most challenging semester of my vet school career. And although I’m incredibly appreciative of all the information I’ve learned, I’m ready for a break.

It’s weird to think that this upcoming summer will be the last summer break of my life before I’m thrown into the adult world, with a full-time job, responsibilities, and all that jazz.

But in the meantime, I’m focusing on upcoming events like finals, summer plans, and White Coat Ceremony. The White Coat Ceremony, for the 2VMs, is next Friday (April 13)! It is a pretty big event, symbolizing our transition from the classroom to clinics, and I am SO. PUMPED.

It’s practically a graduation in the middle of our vet school career. People’s families are coming in, there will be tears and tons of photos, and also lots of traffic considering that it’ll be the same day as Ring Day on main campus. But, hey, the more the merrier right?

I’m sure we all are really looking forward to this, since we’re finishing up this aforementioned very difficult semester; the ceremony will probably feel like we’ve jumped another hurdle on a race that we’re running to become doctors.

I find it interesting that we have our White Coat Ceremony halfway through vet school, while a lot of other vet and medical schools have their ceremonies before starting school. I personally like having our ceremony halfway through, though, because I feel like I’ve worked so hard to earn this.

Maybe I’ll have a sense of achievement as I get to show off my fancy, new white coat to my family. Maybe I’m just overdramatizing this because I’m tired. Either way, I know I will be another step closer to achieving the goal I set for myself years ago—that of becoming a veterinarian.

Thinking about Love on Valentine’s Day

Brandi M.Happy Valentine’s Day! I hope everyone with a significant other is having a wonderful day and is taking time to cherish the person with whom they’ve decided to celebrate. As for the single ones (i.e. me), I hope you are also enjoying the day biding time for all the Valentine’s chocolate to go on sale later tonight.

I find it funny that popular opinions on Valentine’s Day are on opposites sides of the spectrum—the die-hard lovebirds and the nonconforming denouncers of the day. I think when I was younger I was more in the anti-Valentine’s group due to my lack of significant other. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize that love and commitment aren’t things limited to just romantic relationships.

More recent conversations that I’ve had with my parents have shown me the extent to which they have gone to help me achieve my goals. They pushed me to do my best in school from an early age, encouraged my quirky interests in animal behavior or cellular processes, and supported me whole-heartedly in every way they could when I truly began pursuing veterinary school once I graduated high school.

My brothers and I have had countless spats over our lives, but if anyone were to ask if we love each other, the answer would be a resounding yes. Even though they have no interest in the veterinary field, they always offer pep talks when I need one.

My friends are wonderful human beings; they are amazing and precious and deserve all of the good things in the world. All of my friends, both here in College Station/Bryan, as well as around the world, mean so much to me because we’ve put a lot of work into maintaining our relationships, and I know I have an unwavering support system if I ever feel down.

I try to remember to be grateful for all these relationships all the time, but on Valentine’s Day, when everyone’s all aflutter about love and whatnot, I really want to take the time to say I appreciate my people. Without them and the encouragement they have given, and continue to give, I don’t know if I would have achieved as much as I have; I am sure vet school would be approximately 2,500 times more difficult without them.

So in the spirit and love of Valentine’s Day, a pro-tip if you’re aspiring to become a veterinarian: always keep your family and friends close and try to tell them you love them as much as you can, because they’re the people you can always count on to back you up.

Semester Turns Down, Skills Turn Up

Brandi M.There are less than 20 days left of the semester! Hallelujah! The 2VM class has had a countdown since the middle of October, and I already have plans to become a permanent resident of my bed for at least a week when I get home. Maybe I’ll venture out to chat with my mom over brunch, mindlessly watch “Top Gun” with my dad for the 100th time, and bribe my brothers to go to the movies with me.

But I’m also finding myself feeling excited to go back to work for this winter break, more excited than I have been any other break. I have worked at a clinic for four years now, starting as a shadow (also known as from the bottom) and moved my way up to technician (where I now am), albeit a still-somewhat-clueless one.

One thing that I’ve noticed is that after every semester in veterinary school, I actually understand more of the things that go on in the clinic. After first semester physiology, I understood heart rhythms on EKGs and why everyone was concerned about a certain pattern. After second semester neuroanatomy, I knew how to assess the neurological status of a patient that came in with a head tilt and unequal pupils. After this semester learning about pharmacology, I’m looking forward to actually knowing what the drugs prescribed to patients do and why they are prescribed in the first place.

It’s moments like these that really put into perspective the things I’m learning in vet school. All of the hard work and long nights studying for exams that I don’t ever truly feel prepared for aren’t fruitless, and I get to showcase the things I’ve learned to the doctors and technicians who have essentially raised me through my formative veterinary-related years. I suppose that’s as much of a sign as anything that I’ve chosen the right career path for myself, since I’m not only willing but excited to endure the ocean of information that’s being metaphorically dumped on me every semester.

At the end of vet school, when I walk across that stage and hear myself called “Dr. Brandi Miller,” I can look back on the time I spent in and out of class learning, the effort I put into the skills taught in labs, and the buildings that were home to this incredible opportunity and tell myself “Veni. Vidi. Vici.”

I came. I saw. I conquered.