Leading the Way as Veterinary School Gets Back in Full Swing

Veterinary students returned to our classes last Monday, Aug. 19, and with the new school brings excitement, challenges, and returning friends and classmates. This school year is my second in the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) program, and it has brought and will continue to bring new opportunities for myself and others to learn and grow in our future profession.

This past summer, I had the opportunity to explore new and exciting facets of the veterinary profession by attending the Society for Theriogenology conference in Savannah, Georgia, and presenting a student case study about stallion subfertility (whether the stallion is fertile).

Additionally, I was able to complete three externships—one at an emergency equine facility in Central Texas, one at a local mixed animal practice, and the last in the clinical pathology department here at Texas A&M University.

In my time between externships, I enjoyed working back home at Top Flight Farms, a breeder of champion Dutch Warmblood sport horses, where I was there to welcome the newest member to the farm, “Ode to Joy.”

I also had an amazing opportunity this summer to step into my new role as the lead ambassador for the CVM Tours program! My predecessor, Chelsea, is now in her fourth and final year in the DVM program and is hard at work in clinical rotations. Since May, I have been working hard to fill her shoes, learn the behind-the-scenes ropes of the CVM Ambassador program, and step up to the task.

As lead ambassador, I work with the many visitors and groups that come to our college every year to help them schedule tours, as well as work with our many departments within the college to accommodate any guests they receive. The CVM works effortlessly to accommodate all of our visitors, and by offering three tours a day during the semester, we were able to welcome more than 5,000 visitors in more than 500 tours this last year alone!

This fall semester we have an outstanding 43 ambassadors, including a diverse group of 17 biomedical sciences (BIMS) undergraduate majors and 27 professional students from within the DVM program. Our schedule for the fall is set and we will be offering three tours a day, Monday through Friday, and on Saturday mornings through December.

The ambassador program is a vital part of the CVM culture and we are often the first face you see when stepping through our doors. With the semester gearing up, I am ready, excited, and looking forward to taking the role of lead CVM ambassador and seeing what the CVM Ambassador program will achieve!

Here Come the Vets, All Dressed in White (Coats)

My second year is already about to end and reality is setting in that I will be starting clinics in the near future!

Jane V.This Friday we are having our White Coat Ceremony. Unlike a lot of professional programs in which students get their white coats within the first year, or before, they start school, the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences has students wait until the end of their second year to receive their white doctor’s coats.

I have been to several of my friends’ White Coat Ceremonies, but now it is finally time for me. I feel like I can appreciate it even more now than I would have at the beginning of the school year.

I thought I had worked hard before veterinary school just to be admitted, but that was nothing compared to veterinary school itself. Surviving two years has been no easy feat, so it is exciting to have something tangible to celebrate as our second year comes to a close.

What is almost just as exciting is that we were able to work with our faculty to reschedule our Friday classes, so we could take the ENTIRE day off to spend with our loved ones. I am so excited for my family and friends to come to College Station for this milestone in my life.

The cherry on top is that we do not have a test the following Monday! It is definitely a much-welcomed break after the slew of tests and before the onslaught of finals.

Then, just a month from now, it will be time for my last summer vacation ever! It is all going by so quickly!

For now, I will settle on putting on my white coat and looking like a veterinarian and then in just two years, I will finally get to put on that white coat and be Dr. Varkey.

Having Fun in Second Year

Caitlin with her friends
Caitlin (far right) and her friends at this year’s Fur Ball, an annual formal event for veterinary students

I am in my second year of veterinary school, and I have to say that this semester has been so fun! I think that it has even been my favorite so far.

This semester, we have been learning how to do surgery and anesthesia, while also learning how to interpret radiographs. In previous semesters, I have seen the clinical significance of what we are doing, but this semester, it is even more apparent.

One of the neat things about class is that we have been getting to use what are called syndavers to simulate surgery. They are these very realistic, synthetic models that allow us to perform many different abdominal procedures and get practice suturing.

In “surgery,” we are split into groups of three students, and each week we have a different surgery to learn how to perform. I am really grateful for the dedication that our professors and school have to helping us learn.

As if learning more about being a veterinarian isn’t enough, we also get our white coats in April! That is something to look forward to, because it feels like I have hit a milestone once I get my white coat. It technically signifies the beginning of our experience in the hospitals at Texas A&M, but, even more excitingly, it marks the almost halfway point of veterinary school.

As I think about my time as an undergraduate, I recall how I couldn’t even imagine getting into veterinary school, so now that I am almost halfway done, it is kind of surreal.

I don’t really know what to expect from the final two years of school, but if it is anything like the first two, I think that I will like them a lot.

Learning Outside of the Classroom

Last week, I participated in a really unique event hosted by two of our student organizations—the Internal Medicine Club and the Veterinary Imaging Club. It was an after-school lab in which I got learn how to do ultrasound scans on dogs!

Ultrasound is an imaging technique used to look at soft tissue structures like kidneys, intestines, and liver. It’s an incredibly important diagnostic tool that veterinarians commonly use, and so I am grateful for the opportunity to get extra practice.

My fellow peers volunteered their own dogs—who were so well-behaved and sweet—and we spent two hours practicing our techniques and learning how to search for specific organs. We got a lot of practice in and, of course, the dogs got an abundant amount of love and treats from the students!

It was a particularly fulfilling experience for me because learning how to do an ultrasound scan has been a big focus in our “Professional and Clinical Skills” class.

I have been learning ultrasound techniques and practicing on models since my first semester in veterinary school, and it was very exciting for me to have the chance to apply what I had practiced on models to an actual animal.

I am quickly realizing that during my time in veterinary school, there will be many more opportunities to learn new things outside of a traditional classroom. I need to make the most of my four years here, so I am constantly looking forward to seeing what other doors will open next.

Creative Wellness

Tori ChambersOn Friday, some of my classmates and I are taking a studying break and enjoying some wellness—we will be putting the books away and painting instead!

Having typically seen these people in the realm of professionalism and medicine-minded academia, it will be nice to let our creative sides shine for a change! I only hope my dog, Jethro, doesn’t try to join in!

It’s nice to be reminded that there is a life outside of veterinary school. So often in class, we are taught to try and balance the different aspects of our lives and set ourselves up for success.

But, as we are going through our second year of veterinary school, it’s easy to just plug along with the same routine day after day. We are learning so many exciting things each day in lab and lecture that it’s very easy to hyperfocus on our school work.

I have learned that we have to actively work on diversifying our time to prevent mental and emotional fatigue. If we set up these habits now, it builds the toolbox that we can use later in life.

Touring my own School

As a veterinary student, I am in an environment in which I am constantly learning, so it is a nice change in pace to teach someone else.

As an Ambassador, I get to teach people about the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) every time I give a tour. Currently, as I am writing this, I just finished my third semester of veterinary school, and after this week I will be finishing my first full semester of being an Ambassador!

Being an Ambassador has been such a joy and has been a nice change in pace because I get to greet and interact with people outside of my classmates!

I went to Texas A&M for four years to get my Bachelor of Science degree in biomedical sciences before I was accepted into veterinary school. I had taken most of my classes in the old veterinary school, but the beautiful new building was open for veterinary students and undergraduates, alike, to utilize at the beginning of my senior year.

Even though campus has been changing around me constantly, I felt like I knew the campus and its values already.

As I was getting trained to be an Ambassador, however, I was so shocked to learn about some of the features in the new Veterinary & Biomedical Education Complex that were so well thought-out. Of course, I am not going to mention those features right now, because I do not want to ruin any surprises if you do come on a tour!

Furthermore, I realized that I had never peered inside or knew anything about the hospitals. Giving my first tour was so amazing, because I was so excited to share all the new things I had learned about.

It just goes to show you that you could be somewhere for more than four years and still be able to learn more about that place. I can’t wait to learn and share more with my future tour groups as I continue to be an Ambassador for the school!

A Little Perspective

Emily T.It’s hard for me to believe this, but I am now just a few weeks away from completing the first semester of second year of veterinary school!

My friends and family love to ask me, “How is second year going?” And my answer to that has been, “It’s going much better than first year!”

Their reactions are always a mixture of surprise and wonder. Is it an easier semester? Are there fewer exams? What’s different?

Well, the truth is that veterinary school is still extremely difficult, and the exams are still just as stressful and overwhelming as ever.

That hasn’t changed, but my perspective has.

See, there were several times throughout first year during which I felt like my life had been put on hold. I watched as my friends from college moved to new places, accepted full-time adult jobs, and traveled to countries around the world, all while I was sitting at a local coffeeshop studying for my upcoming exams.

I had fallen into what seemed like an endless routine of wake up, go to school, study, sleep, rinse, and repeat. I found myself wishing that I could just skip to graduation and become a veterinarian, so that I, too, could start living my life. But then I realized that by wishing that, I was wishing time away.

Oftentimes, we let ourselves be blinded by our goals and the finish line and we don’t realize that life is happening at the same time; I realized that I am never going to get these years back.

It struck me that my life is happening right now—I need to be present in the moment and I need to live it.

So, this past semester, I made a conscious effort to lead a more balanced life. Of course, I still spend the majority of my time either in class or studying, but I made time for myself.

I started exercising regularly again and I didn’t let myself feel guilty for taking breaks and spending time with my friends. I deliberately set aside time for loved ones back home.

Every time I take a little bit of time away from studying and from school, I come back rejuvenated and excited to learn again, and it has made vet school so much more enjoyable than when I was just consumed by its stressful rigor.

It’s amazing what a little change in perspective can do.

Kinda a Doctor

Tori ChambersSometimes, when I am caught up in the middle of a month full of tests, it’s easy for me to feel overwhelmed by the mass amounts of knowledge I have yet to conquer.

As a second-year veterinary student, there are frequent moments of great frustration when I recognize a familiar concept that is still fuzzy and not completely understood or applied yet.

But as I talk to first-year students or discuss cases with classmates, there are also many moments that medical terminology and understanding comes easily. I guess on this long road to becoming a doctor, it’s natural to be so busy studying that you don’t realize the progress as it’s being made.

It’s odd (and slightly terrifying) to think that in just two and a half years, I will be a licensed practicing veterinarian! I have so much more to learn!

I have always wanted to be a veterinarian, and as I go through more and more school, I see how much of an impact animals have in people’s lives.

My classmate told me just last week that veterinarians are providing a human service in an animal field. There’s a lot of truth to that. I love getting to help animals and, by doing so, I positively impact people’s lives.

No matter what tests I am struggling through right now, that’s the future goal I get to look forward to.

Puppy Love

Caitlin with her dogWhen I was 8 years old, my mom promised me that she would get me a puppy when I turned 12. Now, when you are 8 years old, this is a pretty big promise and something that you look forward to every day for the next few years. It was also a big deal because she didn’t just say she would get me a puppy—she promised, something that neither of us ever forgot.

If you can’t tell where the story is headed, let me just fill you in.

I didn’t get the puppy when I was 12. My mom decided that she couldn’t handle having a puppy in the house, and she didn’t trust a 12 year old to take full responsibility of a puppy (looking back, I don’t blame her). I was definitely disappointed, but I was a pretty understanding 12 year old, and I quickly let it go…kind of. From then on, I just reminded her of her promise to get me a puppy and told her that she owed me a puppy.

I didn’t really think that she cared until this summer.

Somehow, this summer I convinced my mom to get me a puppy. I have no idea how I did it. Maybe it was that I played the “you promised me a puppy” card, but she gave in much more easily than I anticipated. My only thought is that she secretly wanted a puppy in the house, too, so who better to get it for than the veterinary student.

So, on June 2, we drove about an hour and a half from our house, and we picked up Piper, the Golden Retriever puppy. She is the cutest little lady that I have seen, and I love her a lot. This summer, a lot of time was spent watching her sleep and playing with her. It was so fun to have her in the house, and my mom really enjoyed having her, too. She even told me that if my roommates didn’t like Piper that she would take Piper for me for the semester (which is never going to happen).

Piper SnoozesI am now starting my second year of vet school, and getting a puppy this summer was one of the best decisions that I have ever made. She gives me a lot of joy when I get to go home and see her and pet her soft head, and she helps me remember that I can take a break every once in a while. She has also given me a lot of empathy for puppy owners because having and training a puppy is not a walk in the park.

Seeing the joy that Piper gives me reminds me every day of my reason for entering this profession. When I graduate, I will get to spend my days with people who care a lot about their animals, and that is a special bond to experience. I can only hope to serve them well.

A Flurry of Fur

Chelsea Dogs on the Porch
Jojo and Derby, two of Chelsea’s family’s three Jack Russell Terriers, sit on the porch at her home in Colorado, which overlooks a scenic view.

What a mad dash this weekend has been!

Finals ended Friday morning for the second-year veterinary students, and, typically, we like to take the next couple of days to rest up from the “celebration of knowledge.” I, however, needed to leave early on Saturday in order to get home to my parents’ horse ranch in Colorado by Sunday.

So what was the big rush?

A long-awaited Golden Retriever puppy is being added to my family’s clan of animals this summer and, coincidentally, her pick-up date coincided with the end of my finals AND the pregnancy due date of one of our horses.

Chelsea's Kiara
Kiara, the newest addition to the family, is a cream Golden Retriever (9 weeks old, as pictured).

So, on Friday afternoon I had a quick celebratory lunch with my friends and then headed to the airport to pick up my mom.

Over Saturday and Sunday we drove together to Dallas to pick up the puppy, and then it was onward to Colorado to be back in time for the delivery of our foal.

As I write this, we are monitoring our “foal-watch” cameras, which livestream the mare’s activity in her stall.

Last year in our reproductive physiology class, we learned that labor has three stages. In the first stage, the fetus becomes positioned for birth; in the second stage, the fetus is delivered; and in the third stage, the placenta is expelled.

Chelsea Horse Delivery
A 4-year-old Chelsea and her mother celebrate the delivery of a foal in 1994.

It is important to actively monitor all of these stages for the health of the mother and the baby.

As we watch our livestream feed, my mom and I observe the restless behavior consistent with Stage 1, and as this progresses toward Stage 2, we will head to the barn to be present for the birth and to provide assistance as needed.

My mom has raised many horses over the years, but the anticipation for this part of the journey never diminishes!

In addition to reveling relaxing at my family’s newly completed ranch home, this summer I will also be expanding my veterinary training at a nearby research facility.

In between honing my diagnostic and treatment skills, I will be cuddling all of our cats, dogs, horses, and even chickens in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. It’s sure to be a fulfilling summer!