Life Lessons in Veterinary School

cortney-peaseThe veterinary school curriculum is designed to teach you many things. Yes, you will learn plenty of anatomy, physiology, and pathology, but there are some things that aren’t part of the curriculum that vet school teaches you, as well.

I feel like each semester I have learned at least one very important lesson that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

In my first semester, that lesson was that failures are a part of life and everything will be OK afterwards. My second semester, I learned that hard work pays off, and my third semester, I learned that it is OK to take the time to take care of yourself.

This semester—which is my sixth, and final, semester of coursework before starting clinical rotations—has already taught me so much in such a short period of time.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about the fragility of life and the most important things in it, and there is really only one answer that I keep coming back to—people. I can honestly say that if it weren’t for the incredible people in my life, I would not be counting down the months until graduation (15, in case you were wondering).

My classmates and friends have been a huge driving force in my life these past three years. They provide support and encouragement. They share in my struggles. And, in the end, we all earn our victory together.

There have been many times that I have felt defeated and one of my friends reminds me that it might be one failing exam grade but it does not define me as a person.

There’s also my dad, who calls at least once a week to ask me how my week is going and to make sure I get a healthy dose of “dad jokes” and my mom, who always keeps me in the loop about what’s going on at home and reminds me that there is a world outside of vet school.

My two sisters are a constant source of love and always bring a smile to my face. My nieces look up to me so much—one even says she wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up—and that is enough motivation to keep anyone going.

Last, but certainly not least, my husband goes above and beyond to take care of me and support my dreams. He deserves a gold medal for all that he does on a daily basis.

These people have all done their part to make me successful, and I hope I do a good enough job of returning that love to them. I hope that I never take any of them for granted.

All of this to say, whether you are focused on trying to get into veterinary school, struggling through vet school, or trying to advance your career, never forget to take the time to nourish and appreciate your relationships. At the end of the day, the people in your life are what matters most, so make sure that they know that.

OK…I can do This

Cortney P.My experience in veterinary school so far has been an exhilarating, eye-opening, challenging journey. While I’ve had its extreme highs and lows, I can honestly say that I have enjoyed the ride.

At the end of my second year this past spring—the halfway point in the veterinary program—however, I had a mounting fear growing in the back of my mind. I was afraid that I had spent so long in the classroom that I wouldn’t actually know what to do in a real clinical setting in which people are looking to me for answers.

To some, this may seem like an irrational fear, but to me and other veterinary students, it is a very realistic fear that we frequently struggle with. I remember thinking, “I’ve literally been in school my entire life; do I even know how to do anything other than be in school?” So that was how I ended my second year, full of self-doubt.

I didn’t intend to waste my final summer vacation, though. I reached out to numerous veterinary practices in my hometown area and asked if I could do an externship at their clinics. Many of them said yes and were very happy to have me. I was very excited to spend time in these clinics, but also still very nervous.

Once there, though, I was surprised to find that at the clinics I went to, I was treated by the veterinarians and their staff not as a student who didn’t know anything but as a future colleague. Veterinarians and technicians alike were happy to answer all of my questions and teach me new skills, as well. Many of the clinics I went to even allowed me to get a large amount of hands-on experience doing different things, which really helped my confidence.

Among all of the vets I shadowed this summer, their years of experience in practice ranged from one year to 42 years! This was very helpful to get to listen and learn from years of wisdom but to also get to hear from someone who was just in the same situation as I am now.

As the weeks went by, my confidence grew and my fear diminished. I realized that I was more capable than I initially thought I was.

I also realized that while I still have room for improvement in certain areas (and likely always will), there is no need to try to be perfect or even to know all of the answers right away. That is what colleagues and mentors are for—to help you along the way. And sometimes it’s important to know when you need to ask for help.

I realized from watching and working with all of these vets that I will get there someday, too, and until then I will just keep working hard and worrying less.

“Never be afraid to try something new. Remember, amateurs built the ark, professionals built the Titanic.” —unknown

The Importance of Wellness

Cortney P.One of the exciting things going on for students is the opening of the College of Veterinary Medicine’s new Wellness Room. The Wellness Room was designated for use by vet students and faculty when the Veterinary & Biomedical Education Complex opened in 2016, and new machines and equipment were recently moved in there.

Wellness is something that is highly encouraged and talked about throughout vet school, so I thought that in light of the new opening of the wellness room, I would share my own personal wellness journey.

When I started my first semester of vet school, I had no idea how hard it would be to find balance in my life. I felt like I never had time to work out or spend time with my husband; some days I felt like I barely had enough time to shower and do other, general self-care routines. On top of that, my grades were struggling. I’m not sure how, but I did make it through my first year, and I came out stronger on the other side.

At the start of my second year school, I decided to reclaim my life and my health. While I still did a good deal of studying, I actively made time to go to the gym, spend time with my husband, and do things that calmed my mind and soul (for me, that would be taking longer walks with my dogs, reading a good book, cuddling with my cat, etc.).

The first day I started working out, I was discouraged by how out of shape I was; it was hard to ignore the little voice inside my head that kept telling me I needed to be studying right then. But I got through that, and I continued to make my working out a priority. I soon found that running was a great way to escape the frustrations and mental anguish from the day. I also found that I was more at peace and my marriage was happier when I made time for the things that are truly important to me. I started to feel stronger, healthier, and more confident. And, as a bonus, my grades were better than they had ever been since I started vet school.

I have learned a lot of things in vet school, but perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned is how to take care of myself physically, mentally, and emotionally. No matter where you are at in life, it’s important to never forget that you matter most of all; you matter more than the goal you are trying to reach or the grade you’re hoping to get. So every now and then, take a break and go for a run, go see a movie, go relax and hang out with your friends. Do what you need to do to be in the best health (mental, physical, and emotional) you can be in.

I don’t think you will regret it.

Thinking about the Human-Animal Bond

Cortney Wedding
Ambassador Cortney (right) with her two best friends: her husband and her dog, who was a guest of honor at her wedding.

This semester, we had some new artwork installed in Veterinary & Biomedical Education Complex (VBEC) with the underlying theme being “the human-animal bond.” These pieces depict animals and humans interacting with one another in various, mutually benefical ways. What is the human-animal bond though? We learn in veterinary school that the human-animal bond is the dynamic relationship between humans and animals that adds to the health of both in ways such as emotional, physical, and mental well-being. Understanding the human-animal bond and its importance is a crucial part of practicing veterinary medicine.

I, like many pet owners, care about my pets very deeply and am so thankful to have them in my life. I got my pup when I was 14 years old and she was only 8 weeks old. She is turning 9 years old next month and has been with me through so much. She’s been my study buddy through my undergraduate education and, now, in vet school; moved to different cities with me; helped me get through some heart breaks; and she even attended my wedding as a guest of honor last year. After a long day at school, nothing brightens my day more than coming home to her sweet puppy kisses and excited tail wagging. When I think about the human-animal bond, she’s always the first thing that pops into my mind. I know that we are both living much better lives because we have one another.

It is so easy to get caught up in vet school (and in practice) and forget why we do what we do. Sometimes it gets downright exhausting and you start questioning why you’re even pursuing this field. In those moments, all I have to do is look at my pup curled up in my lap and I know why. We don’t do this for money or notoriety, we do this to help animals and the people who care about them. We do this so that a little girl or boy can experience the invaluable true friendship of a dog, cat, or horse. Here at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, we’re working to improve the lives of people and animals alike. So, the next time you are in VBEC, take some time to look around at the artwork that line the halls of the VENI Building and see the human-animal bond perfectly captured. I think you’ll like what you see!