Departing Advice for Vet School Success

I am now only a week and a half away from starting my clinical year! Because our clinical year is so busy, fourth-year students do not serve as ambassadors, which means I will be leaving the team as both a member and its leader. While reflecting on my first three years of veterinary school, I remembered my blog post from first year that summarized my advice for veterinary school. These lessons were helpful to me in my second and third year and will continue to serve me well in my final year of veterinary school.

If I could give one final piece of advice for succeeding in veterinary school, I would say that success in veterinary school is determined as much by your attitude as by your knowledge and experience. With that in mind, below is a list of five personality traits that I believe are valuable in veterinary school:

  1. Resilience: Veterinary school is full of challenges, both academically and emotionally. My classmates and I all have had to deal with obstacles of different magnitudes while in veterinary school, whether the setback was failing a course, coping with a family crisis, or managing responsibilities while ill. Resilience is the strength to keep persevering through four difficult years even in times when it seems impossible to become a successful veterinarian.
  2. Adaptability: Being adaptable is a key part of resilience. Veterinary medicine is constantly changing and veterinary school constantly presents its own challenges. This year we had to adapt to a completely new Veterinary Biomedical Education Complex. Next year’s incoming first-year class will have a completely redesigned curriculum. Fourth year is the epitome of change during veterinary school—fourth-year students change rotations within the hospital every two weeks, and each service has its own rules and structure.
  3. Loyalty: It is far better to face the challenges of veterinary school united. Support your classmates through their struggles by sharing resources and offering help. This will be especially important during fourth year, when students share cases and patient care. Always remember that your classmates and professors will be your future colleagues.
  4. Confidence: It is sometimes hard for me to feel confident during veterinary school. However, confidence is needed to pursue opportunities and make the most out of a veterinary-school education. Because I was confident enough to apply, I had amazing experiences, such as spending three weeks working at a macaw conservation project in the Peruvian rainforest and serving as a leader in several student organizations, including CVM Ambassadors.
  5. Open-mindedness: Veterinary medicine is constantly evolving thanks to new advances in research. It is impossible to be an expert in everything, especially as a student. Be humble and willing to learn from others.

I hope that this advice is helpful, no matter where you are on your veterinary school journey. I have loved my time in veterinary school so far, and I am excited for next year!

Third-year electives!

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.

Employment in Vet School

There is no doubt that veterinary school is expensive. Tuition for a Texas resident at our vet school is over $10,000 per semester. Luckily, there are many scholarships and loans available to vet students to help offset the cost of our education. Another avenue to help earn money for vet school is having a part-time or summer job. These jobs often help equip vet students with clinical, communication, and leadership skills, while offering some extra cash.

One job opportunity is to work as a VetMed Student Ambassador. As part of my job, I get to talk about veterinary medicine to people of all different ages and backgrounds who visit our College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. Giving tours to visitors also familiarizes me with our teaching hospitals where fourth-year vet students spend most of their time. Applications for being a VetMed Ambassador for 2016-2017 are currently available for biomedical sciences undergraduates and vet students at Be an Ambassador.

Many of my classmates work part-time as technicians at our small animal or large animal teaching hospitals. These students work closely with board-certified specialist veterinarians. They also get to see many interesting and complicated diseases that we learn about in our curriculum, and they practice skills such as placing catheters, prepping for surgery, taking radiographs, and many other clinically important techniques. Other students gain this clinical experience through working or externing in other veterinary practices or participating in summer job programs.

Another part-time job opportunity is working as a student representative for a pet food or medical companies. Student representatives arrange for speakers to come present information about their companies’ therapeutic diets or new diagnostic tests. Thanks to student representatives, veterinary students are aware of new products that come on the market. Next year, I am looking forward to being the student rep for a company that sells food and toys for small mammals, such as rabbits, guinea pigs, and hamsters. Since I want to be a small animal and exotics vet, I will treat many of these small mammals after I graduate.

An additional category of part-time veterinary jobs for vet students are teaching positions. Third-year vet students are hired to teach cow, horse, or ostrich husbandry to first year vet students as part of the first year clinical correlates class. Some second-year students work with the summer anatomy workshop, teaching basic canine anatomy to incoming vet students. These types of jobs help vet students review the information they learned in previous years while getting to help other vet students learn.

These are just a few of the many job opportunities available to vet students. Although it can sometimes be challenging to balance classes, studying, and student organizations with a part-time job, employment during vet school can be a rewarding, fun, and educational experience!

Veterinary School Interview Advice

Interviews for Texas A&M’s Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Class of 2020 are just around the corner. We, the VetMed student ambassadors, are looking forward to meeting the applicants and giving tours of our veterinary school and hospitals. The interview is the last part of the veterinary school admission process and is worth 20 percent of the applicant’s final selection score. Texas A&M has multiple mini interviews (MMI), which is a different interview format than other veterinary schools. In a multiple mini interview, each interview is less than 10 minutes long, with different judges (veterinary school professors and practicing veterinarians) in each room. I remember being very nervous for the first mini interview room, but one of the advantages on MMI is that you get a fresh start in every room. Having gone through MMI for admission to the Class of 2018 and having helped talk to applicants for the Class of 2019, here is my advice for the applicants for the Class of 2020:

1)    Get a good night’s sleep and eat breakfast/lunch before your interview. Interview day is a long process. The interview circuit takes about an hour to complete, and there is usually a one-hour orientation where they will answer any questions you have before you begin interviews. There are also optional tours that last an approximately an hour and a half (led by us!) and an optional evening barbeque hosted by the Texas Veterinary Medical Association with even more opportunities to talk to current students. You want to make sure that you are focused and full of energy for your entire interview day.

2)    Plan to arrive early and pay for more parking time than you think you will need. Traffic in College Station should not be that bad this year as undergraduate students will not have started spring classes yet, but the Texas A&M campus can be tricky to navigate, so it is always best to add in a little extra travel time. Similarly, I recommend paying for more time than you think you will need when you park. You don’t want to worry about running out of parking time if your interview finishes a little late. The only thing you should have to worry about on interview day is your interview itself.

3)    Smile and introduce yourself when you enter an interview room, and smile and thank the interviewers as you leave the room.It never hurts to be polite and professional. Briefly interacting with the interviewers also gives you a moment to collect your thoughts and relax before beginning to answer the room’s prompt.

4)    Don’t worry if you feel that you did poorly in a mini interview. All of my classmates that I’ve talked to experienced at least one interview room where we felt that we could have answered the question better. Messing up a room does not mean that you will not be accepted to veterinary school! Just focus on interviewing well in as many of the mini interviews as you can.

Good luck to all of the veterinary school interview applicants. If you have any questions about our vet school, please contact us!

My First Veterinary Conference

Clarissa and HippoFirst semester of the second year of vet school had an interesting start! On the first day of classes I introduced myself to my professors by asking for permission to miss classes to attend a veterinary conference. Since I want to work in small animal and exotics clinical practice after graduation, attending ExoticsCon was a great choice.

Most veterinary conferences welcome veterinary student attendance and some offer significant discounts on student registration prices, and there are also student travel grants available to offset the cost of attendance. ExoticsCon 2015 was the first professional conference I have attended and the first time that the Association of Avian Veterinarians (AAV), Association of Reptile and Amphibian Veterinarians (ARAV), and Association of Exotic Mammal Veterinarians (AEMV) all shared their annual conference.

On Sunday, Aug. 30, Rosa, Kathleen, Michelle, and I left for San Antonio from College Station at 3:30 a.m. in order to arrive at the conference to assist in setting up labs. Despite such an early start, I was excited to listen to Dr. Natalie Antinoff and Dr. Sue Chen of Gulf Coast Veterinary Specialists in Houston present Small Mammal Critical Care Techniques, such as placing interosseous catheters to administer medications and performing cranial vena cava venipuncture on ferrets to collect blood samples.

Monday’s program began with several outstanding speakers including a veterinarian astronaut who has been to space four times! My favorite plenary session was an analysis of the references used in reptile formularies. I was surprised to learn that only 37 percent of reptile pharmaceutical doses are based on published peer-reviewed articles. After the morning sessions, I explored the exhibit hall. One useful fact that I learned at the Lafeber booth is that Lafeber offers critical care diets for small mammals. I had previously thought of Lafeber as an avian-focused company, so I enjoyed learning about their products for other exotic animals. I also enjoyed perusing the book selections in the exhibit hall, including books written by speakers at the conference.

Highlights of the lectures and masterclasses on Tuesday and Wednesday included new research on satin disease in guinea pigs and a panel on Encephalozootan cunniculi in rabbits. I have a strong interest in both of these topics, so getting to hear the results of the latest research was very beneficial. After hearing about current research and talking with the speakers, I want to hopefully find a way to get involved with similar research projects next summer.

ExoticsCon also offered opportunities for fun. On Monday night, my Texas A&M University friends and Nicole, a veterinary student from Canada, went to explore the San Antonio Riverwalk. We had a lot of fun introducing Nicole to Tex-Mex food and helping her choose Texas souvenirs. On Tuesday afternoon, all of the conference attendees went behind-the-scenes at the San Antonio Zoo. My favorite part was seeing the hippos up close! We also took advantage of the free rides on the carousel.

ExoticsCon opened my eyes to the many opportunities available in bird, reptile, and small mammal medicine. I am already looking forward to attending other veterinary conferences such as the Texas Veterinary Medical Association conference here in College Station in March and the American Veterinary Medical Association conference next August in San Antonio.