A Veterinary Tour Of Texas: My Summer Externships

By Hannah J.

As we approach the halfway mark in the fall semester of my second year of veterinary school, I can’t believe time has flown by so quickly! It seems like just yesterday that I was celebrating the end of my first year of vet school and preparing to travel around Texas for my summer externships.

In veterinary school, we receive three months of summer vacation in between the first two years of our four-year program. Some students spend their summers taking a well-deserved break and choose to relax or travel while others spend their time completing externships at clinics, though most do a mix of both. I chose to do three two-week externships and spend the rest of my time traveling or hanging out with friends and family.

My first externship was located in San Antonio, where I got to stay with my sister, who currently goes to medical school there. On my first day, the clinic welcomed me with open arms and made it a priority that I learned as much as I could every day I was there. Right away, I was able to start practicing taking patient histories from the clients, which is one of the major things we spent time on during the first year of veterinary school.

An ultrasound of a patient’s urinary bladder.

In vet school, we practice taking histories by having simulated encounters with local actors hired by the school play the role of a pet or livestock owner, which allows us to learn a variety of communication skills. In San Antonio, I put these skills into practice by greeting real clients in the exam room, building rapport, and taking the history for their pet. I was with the veterinarian on each case from start to finish, and I also got to observe a variety of dental procedures and surgeries.

My next externship took me about 40 minutes away from San Antonio to the city of New Braunfels. I had never visited New Braunfels before and was very excited to be staying there for my externship.

One of the most exciting parts of this externship was getting to work with a variety of exotic patients as part of the daily caseload. During my undergraduate years, I went on a study abroad program to South Africa and was an intern at the Dallas Zoo, so I have some experience with large animal exotics and was looking forward to having new experiences with small animal exotics such as snakes, cockatiels, and guinea pigs. One of my favorite memories from this externship was going on a house-call to a kangaroo ranch where we treated a kangaroo that had been bitten by a rattlesnake.

An X-ray of an otter from one of my externships.

My last externship took place in West Texas in a town called Big Spring. I was looking forward to this externship because it would be at a diagnostic hospital that receives unique referral cases in the area. This hospital also routinely uses ultrasound and CT scans to help diagnose patients.

A smiling woman performs an ultrasound on a dog.
Performing an ultrasound on a dog during one of my externships.

As an extern there, I got to use many of the clinical skills I had learned during my first year of veterinary school. I practiced blood draws to use for canine heartworm tests, physical exams on cats and dogs, and even abdominal ultrasounds. For each case that came in, I worked closely with the veterinarian. The most memorable part of was performing my first spays on dog and cat patients. I also got to see how a CT scan is set up and performed.

Reflecting back on my summer experiences has made me realize how much I have learned and how often I was able to put the knowledge and clinical skills that I gained during my first year to use in a real-life setting! It was a very busy summer of continuing my veterinary education, but it was worth it because of all the opportunities I had. Thankfully, there was still plenty of time to relax with my family and friends and get ready for the next year.

The Greatest Aggie Symbol

As I am coming to the end of my junior year here at Texas A&M, I am looking forward to one time-honored tradition—getting my Aggie ring!

Over winter break, I got the email I had been waiting for notifying me to check to see if I was eligible to order my ring. Of course, I already knew that after the fall semester ended that I had taken more than 90 hours of classes, which meant I did meet the requirement.

So, I set up an appointment to go in person to get sized and, of course, to take my picture in front of the ring statue with the chalkboard sign—another Aggie tradition!

It was a surreal moment that the day had already arrived and it made me realize how fast my time at Texas A&M has gone by.

Now I am in a suspenseful wait, anticipating the day in April that I will get to receive the ring!

I am excited that my family is coming on Ring Day to help me celebrate my big achievement with me.

The ring itself holds a lot of symbolism.

Every element on the ring has a meaning and even the direction you wear the ring does, too—when you receive your ring, you wear it with the class year facing you to symbolize that your time at Texas A&M is not yet finished; during graduation, a ceremony is led in which you turn the ring around, signifying that you are going out into the world as an Aggie.

The Aggie ring is a great way to recognize fellow Aggies anywhere in the world. When a fellow ambassador and I went abroad last summer, we were recognized as Aggies at an airport in London because of her ring!

The Aggie ring is such an amazing way to unite fellow Aggies and the tradition is one of my favorite at Texas A&M!

WHOOP for Junior Year!

As sad as I am to see such a fun and busy summer end, I am super excited for my third year at TAMU!

The past few months have been packed with adventure and meaningful experiences. To start off the summer break, Angelica, a fellow CVM Ambassador and mentor, and I attended a two week pre-vet program in Chintsa, South Africa!

We had the time of our lives and got to interact with so many different types of animals and amazing people. It was my first time abroad, and it made me want to travel again as soon as possible!

My favorite part of the trip was the interactions we had with the giraffes. One was with a giraffe named Abby that lived on a reserve and had been raised by humans since birth because him was orphaned. Abby is a very friendly giraffe and loves people, especially when they feed him. We each got to take turns doing so, and Abby even licked my forehead!

Another exciting experience was that we got to be involved with a giraffe capture in an effort to relocate a male giraffe to a different reserve, which allows conservationists to maintain a diverse gene pool!

During the rest of the summer, I stayed busy by working at the local veterinary
clinic I have been volunteering at since I was in high school. One of my volunteer activities was also with a church-based organization called Summer Lunch, for which volunteers set up a pavilion tent at an elementary school park each weekday during the summer to distribute paper bag lunches to children in need of a meal, as well as to their other family members. It was such a rewarding experience for me because I love working with kids, and being able to provide them with something so important to their everyday lives was wonderful.

Another volunteer job I had was at the Dallas Zoo! I enjoyed working with and learning about exotic animals so much in South Africa that I wanted to continue it.

At the zoo, I worked at their Animal Nutrition Center. I got behind-the-scenes experience in helping to prepare the diets for the zoo’s thousands of animals! It was very interesting to see what each animal ate and how much food they needed to consume on a daily basis. I plan to continue volunteering there whenever I go back home for school breaks!

The Surprise of a Lifetime

Hannah and Tommy
Hannah and Tommy

Last semester, I started my job as a BIMS Ambassador for the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, and I have absolutely loved it!

As part of our ambassador responsibilities, we give tours of the college, which allows me to meet so many interesting people and alumni, and I also get the opportunity to help families with students who are looking into either a BIMS degree, veterinary school, or both!

Last October, I gave a tour to a very nice couple, Tommy and Laurie, and their 8-year-old grandson, Cooper, who was very interested in animals. Tommy, an alumnus from the Class of ‘69, had a lot of great stories to tell about A&M and his time here, and I could tell that he really enjoyed being back to see the college and its students. Needless to say, the tour went very smoothly and was a lot of fun—I learned as much from Tommy as he did from me!

After the tour, I did not expect to hear from Tommy again, but oh boy was I wrong!

Fast forward to early February—I receive an email from my supervisors saying that they had a special request for me and that they would like me to stop by their office that week. Thinking it was going to be a request to set up a tour I would give, I walked into the office the next day with my planner and a pencil, ready to write down a date and time.

Hannah J in her new truck from Tommy

Not in a million years could I have seen what was coming next.

I sat down in one of the chairs, and my boss, Jennifer, jokingly told me I wasn’t in trouble, asked me if I remembered Tommy; she then proceeded to read an email he had sent the week prior.

At this point, I really had no idea what was going on, but could tell that the request wasn’t about giving a tour anymore. Then I heard the words “I was wondering if she would like to accept my old truck as a gift.”

I immediately gasped, my hand flew to cover my mouth while my eyes involuntarily formed tears that were soon streaming down my face. As she kept reading, the crying got much, much more intense, and now that I finally understood what was going on, I certainly could not believe it.

I spent probably another 20 minutes or so crying—very, very ugly crying; nothing was held back—and trying to regain my composure, which was proving very hard to do.

Jennifer and I spoke about some of the details regarding the situation and awed over what a generous gift and a generous person this was. Tommy had not only remembered me from my tour, but had remembered where I was from and that I had casually mentioned that I didn’t have a mode of transportation. 

I remember saying, “This school…this school is such a special place.”

As I was sitting in the office, I called Tommy on the phone to let him know I had received the news and to thank him profusely, during which he gave his reason for giving me the truck: “Aggies help Aggies.” 

So, the first weekend of Spring Break, I met Tommy again and picked up the truck! It is a 2000 F-150, navy blue, and…a manual! I had never even seen the inside of a manual vehicle in my life, much less driven one, but I was definitely determined to get the hang of it as quickly as possible!

A lot of my Spring Break was spent getting lessons from my boyfriend and driving around the neighborhood, updating Tommy on how I was doing with it. The first day was definitely the most frustrating, but by the third, it was fun, and on the eighth day, I was even able to take it on the highway!

Tommy's old truckI will be forever grateful to Tommy and his generosity; knowing that he even considered giving his old truck to me warms my heart, but the fact that he actually did ignites my desire to pay the good deed forward.

There are two things I had learned already, but are now so much more strongly held beliefs: one is that there is no other college like Texas A&M, not in Texas, nor in the country—it has such spirit, found just as strong in alumni as in current students. And two, that being kind to everyone you meet will get you places you never expected to be.

Enjoy the Sunshine

The end of the year is almost upon us. Summer with its oppressive heat and three months away from school (if you’re lucky) is so close. Remember the days back in elementary school, when summer break truly was a break, before we needed jobs or internships during the summer to prepare us for the future? Ah, those were the days. My lineup for the summer includes one summer class and spending the rest of the time shadowing a veterinarian. Don’t get me wrong: I’m really looking forward to shadowing, but I miss a time when I could afford to be lazy during the summer. I once was able to write an entire novel in the three months, and I was quite proud of myself. But those days seem to have passed. Now it feels like a race to be prepared to get into veterinary school, with classes to finish and experience to gain. When’s a person able to lay out with a good book anymore? I guess I’ve pretty well accepted the fact that I’ve still got a long way to go and a lot of hard work still to do. All that is done in the hopes that I’ll end up with the career of my choosing. And with that, the hard work will pay off with opportunities to enjoy myself in a secure situation. That’s the plan, but we can’t get there without a few sacrifices.

But I have not given up everything I enjoy and in fact have made opportunities out of a few. I have been enjoying being a member of a writing club called Creative Writers of Aggieland and can happily say that next year I will be learning new leadership skills as the president of the club. I don’t intend to give up that pleasure in the near future. I like to think that writing helps keep me sane. It’s therapeutic to write about emotions and secret wishes and desires. And no one understands this quite like other writers. The club is a great way to connect with peers with similar interests, even if they have different backgrounds. Members of the club have several different kinds of majors, but all share the common denominator of a love of writing.

I’m a big believer that everyone should keep up with at least one of their personal interests and not let it get pushed completely away. This school affords so many opportunities to pursue personal interests. There are hundreds of clubs and thousands of people to connect with. Odds are that someone shares your interests and is just as eager to share it with someone else. It may not be easy for some of us to try to make connections, but that’s what Texas A&M is all about. Networking is a big part of our university as well as a very important resource for the future. So technically, making friends is going to help with your future.

In a time of our lives when we feel the stress of preparing for the rest of our lives, we have to make sure we don’t completely burn ourselves out. Take time to enjoy the other aspects of the college experience, not just classes and studying. Summer may no longer be a relaxing time, but step out and enjoy the sunshine while you can.

My New German Shepherd

So, I got a new addition to my family over winter break.  Since I live in a house off campus, I’ve been wanting to get a dog for a while now.  I have a big backyard, and I just love dogs.  I was on a list to adopt a military working dog from Fort Hood, but something else happened to come up before that.  By a strange string of happenings, the neighbors who once lived beside my family, and who my mom was still friends with on Facebook, had a dog they were having trouble taking care of.  My mom jumped at the opportunity to adopt the two-year-old German shepherd, a breed she has a fondness for, named Ziva.  Trouble being, Ziva lived in Indiana, and I was in Colorado for Christmas and was planning to drive home with my grandparents and my cat. So how was I going to pick up this German shepherd and get it home?  The solution was combine all of the above.  We met the family halfway, a sort of triangulation between Colorado, Texas, and Indiana, We picked her up in the morning and drove ten hours with a curious German shepherd constantly attempting to climb in the front seat in investigate the cat who wanted nothing to do with the new, large animal.  It was a bit of a challenge, but Ziva arrived here safe and sound—although she did take off within the first hour of being in my house while we were unpacking.  Having the dog has certainly been an adventure, especially when, thus far, the cat and dog don’t get along.  But I have enjoyed her just the same.  She had her spay done at the small animal hospital, which was a very interesting experience, considering I plan to work there in the future.  She loves to run in my fenced-in backyard, still needs some leash training, and barks when in the crate when she knows I haven’t left the house yet, but for only having her a month, I think she’s doing wonderfully.  I’ve implemented clicker training, which proves to be a very effective method, and have enrolled her in an obedience class that will hopefully help with control issues and get her exposure to other dogs.

Having never owned a large dog before now, I ran into a few surprises here and there and realized how important training is, especially with an animal that is not easily controlled due to size.  I had Ziva start to drag me once when she saw a squirrel and went wild to go after it. (The thing had the gall to climb out of the tree right in front of her nose and run across the street; how could she possibly resist?)  Despite the fact that she was not quiet two when I received her, she was very responsive to training.  She can sit, stay, drop it, and leave it with the best of them.  She is extremely athletic and very eager to learn.  I hope that, in the future, I will be able to train her in agility, which would certainly be a learning experience for the both of us.

As much as she has learned from me, I have learned just as much, if not more from her.  Did you know some dogs communicate by snapping the air with their teeth, even having a different number of snaps referring to different wants, such as food or going outside?  I didn’t, and I still haven’t quiet figured out the code, but it’s a nice alternative to barking.  Training is a constant process that cannot be rushed and must be done gradually.  I can’t expect miracles after a short training session and a few treats, but will instead see slow improvements, such as going to her crate on her own when she sees me making my last preparations to leave.  Ziva is a wonderful dog who has been through four homes now, but I plan to be her person for a very long time.

Happy New Year

In the days after Christmas, I know that the best place to be is with loved ones. For my break, I went home for the holidays. As I write this, the world outside is covered in white. I absolutely love the snow, and I am so glad I’m able to spend the winter in a place where it does snow, as well as spending time with my family. I get to see my two dogs, my mom’s cat, and my grandmother’s cat, all of which I love and miss when I’m gone. The best gift I got for Christmas was going to the movies with my sister and brother to see Into the Woods (and if you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it). My dad was able to take leave and come up from Honduras to be here for Christmas, and though he’s leaving tomorrow, it’s been great having him home for a time.

The New Year is here, but I’m not really the kind of person to make New Year’s resolutions. I am satisfied with my grades from this past semester and don’t need to make the basic “exercise more” resolution. I suppose my resolution is to keep up what I’m already doing. Resolutions are a wonderful thing in theory, but often fail in practice. I believe that no one needs a specific time to make a change in himself or herself. A huge resolution is a daunting thought at the beginning of a new year. At any time, we can take small steps to reach a group for oneself. If it’s losing weight, pick a better meal. If it’s exercise, just go for a run as long as you can. That’s how I started running. I could barely make it to the corner at first but soon was running three miles. And it wasn’t a resolution of mine, but after taking a mandatory kinesiology class and having to run for that, I simply decided to keep it up. Really, the only thing stopping you from starting on the route towards goals is yourself. But don’t ever be disappointed in yourself if you try your best but don’t exactly meet your goal. The important thing is to try. Being too hard on ourselves causes stress, which no college student needs any more of. I’ve only just recently gotten back into a more comfortable sleeping schedule after finals. I’ve certainly been grateful for this break. I’ve used the time to do some writing, spend lots of time with my family, and basically just goof off in general. The break was made better when I saw my grade and how well I did. It’s gratifying when the work pays off.

My family is looking forward to me staying here when my sister and brother are back in school. I’ll probably help chauffeur my siblings. My sister is already excited for me to help her with chemistry. They’re also jealous that I have a longer break then them. I’ll be heading back to Texas a few days before break is over, riding with my grandparents and my cat. I’m actually really excited about my classes next year and will also be taking my first online class.

Have a great New Year, everyone!