Halfway There!

Rebecca in her white coat with family
Rebecca (third from the right) and her family, who flew in from California for the White Coat Ceremony on Friday

This past Friday, April 13, my fellow second-year veterinary students and I received our white coats! The White Coat Ceremony is a much-anticipated tradition that celebrates our “transition from classroom study to clinical work.” During the ceremony, our faculty mentors presented us with our coats as our loved ones proudly cheered. For some neat history of the White Coat Ceremony here at Texas A&M University, I encourage you to check out this link.

Receiving our white coats marks the halfway point of our veterinary school career. It’s absolutely crazy to think that I have already reached this point in my education. Looking back on the past eight years since I graduated from high school…yikes, what a journey! Veterinary school, and the path to getting here, has certainly held its fair share of challenges. Despite still having two more years to go, I can FINALLY see the light at the end of the tunnel and I feel so close to realizing my dream of becoming a dairy vet!All of my wonderful family flew out to College Station from California for the occasion. There is no doubt that I have been able to make it to this point thanks, in huge part, to their endless support and encouragement of my DVM pursuit, and it was so nice to take a break from school for a few days to enjoy having all of them here with me in town.

As a CVM ambassador, I love sharing this with prospective students who come to visit and tour the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. I understand how daunting eight years of schooling can be for a high school student interested in pursuing a career in veterinary medicine, and I empathize with college students who are trying to make their veterinary school application as great as it can be.

So, in these conversations, my message is always the same—time flies when you’re chasing after your dream; it’s not easy, but it’s worth it. In the blink of an eye and with some hard work, they’ll be receiving their very own white coat before they know it!

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.

Class Schedule, Exams, and Stress

Recently, on a veterinary school tour, I heard this question: “How does the class schedule look like?”

Dr. NantikaI rarely get asked this—I’m more commonly asked how hard it is to get into veterinary school—but this is an important question, because, in my opinion, I think that it is harder to complete a DVM degree than it is to get accepted to veterinary school.

To start, we can look at my spring veterinary class schedule and how I am dealing with this hectic routine. I start the week with Monday, 8 a.m. exams and end with my Friday, 3 p.m. class.

My daily studying hours are blocked from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m., or perhaps more like 3 a.m. Not being a morning person, this is a real challenge. It is important to know your learning style and quickly implement a study routine. This will save time for studying and will increase time for sleep. If you want to attend vet school, you need to get ready to put in that many study hours.

The exam schedule usually begins on the third week of the semester. The second-year vet students have exams almost every Monday and Friday. This continues until final exams at the end of the semester. Additionally, even though Tuesday and Wednesday classes start at 10 a.m., I still wake up and review the materials at 6 a.m. before the weekly quizzes (this semester, for pharmacology or toxicology). It feels like a constant pounding of studying, preparing, and taking exams.

The consequence of these class and exam schedules is stress. We all are dealing with it (differently, in some ways, and similarly, in others).

Because of this, I have found that it’s important to focus on my top reasons in order for me to keep going. These include:

Friends—It is delightful to have friends who accept your weaknesses and strengths. I have a language difficulty because English is not my first language, so my friends take time to spell things out for me or to explain things to me when I don’t understand the lecture. Many of my classmates were very competitive when we first got into vet school. But that competitiveness has gradually regressed as we all started to understand that we are here to be successful together. Every morning, one of my friends asks me, “Nantika, how it is going?” It’s a simple question that brings a smile and helps me get ready for the day.

Nantika Art 2CVM Counselor—I used to be afraid to let people know that I’m struggling through my classes. I stayed stressed and grumpy for my whole first-year fall semester. I became an unhappy and frustrated person, which impacted my productivity. I decided to seek help from CVM counselor Elizabeth Eaton. She guided me through accepting my weaknesses and fear of failure. I feel lucky that the Texas A&M Vet School takes the students’ mental health and wellness seriously. We also have a stress reduction room and relaxation space, where we have a massage chair and biofeedback equipment to help de-stress and help the body to achieve a relaxation response.

Time outside school—It’s hard to pull myself away from studying, but I realize I need to do something besides study. So, I chose to paint. While I’m painting, I really focus on the canvas and color in my brush. That is one form of meditation that I have started to enjoy in order to refresh my mind.

The love of medicine and animals—At the end of the day, I see the innocent eyes of my dogs, one of which recently got diagnosed with immune-mediated hemolytic anemia. It reminds me why I’m pursuing this career, because I want to learn medicine and use my knowledge to improve the health of the animals.

Forward Thinking

I am now almost halfway through veterinary school, and I can’t help but be blown away. Just the other day, I stood talking with my friend at the dog park while our two pets played. The topic came up of our mutual friend being accepted into the incoming class of veterinary students. My friend mentioned how excited she is to apply next year and how crazy it would be if she got in: she would be in the first year, our mutual friend in the second, my roommate in the third, and me in my fourth year. I agreed, not fully processing the concept at the time.

Helping out in the CVM Marketplace, a fourth-year student came in to purchase some College of Veterinary Medicine merchandise. As we casually conversed while she checked out, I noticed the tears in her eyes. “I just finished my last rotation at the vet school,” she informed me; afterward, she said, she sat in her car for 30 minutes processing that fact. I couldn’t imagine the emotional overload she must have felt. I, myself, will have had 20 years of schooling, in total, by the time I graduate.

After that conversation, it hit me—this is the top of the hill. All semester I have joked about the “Wednesday of vet school,” as I like to refer to it. You work so hard and climb so high just to realize it’s all downhill from there. Two years is still a lot of time, but for the first time since entering vet school, it feels within grasp. I’ve finally begun to feel like a doctor this semester, and it has both amazed and terrified me at the same time. Having just finished anesthesia before Spring Break and jumping straight into the “Principals of Surgery” this week, it’s amazing to think of how school has just flown by. Before I know it, I’ll be picking my third-year electives and my White Coat Ceremony will be a thing of the past.

My Spring Break really seemed to summarize these feeling for me. My family and I returned to my grandparent’s coastal property to hang up pictures and clean up the place after all of the construction completed post-Hurricane Harvey. Driving down, my mother remarked about how all of the telephone poles had been knocked down the first time they had driven the route, and I noticed all of the new streetwork that had been done. It’s an odd feeling, really, how a place can look so foreign and familiar at the same time.

Despite what happens and the obstacles that arise, life keeps moving on and people adapt. I find it hard, sometimes, to look forward instead of back, but it’s nice to see how far things have come. Come two years, there will a completely new chapter of my life that begins. Though I’m hesitant to turn the page, I’m excited to see what’s in store. With every uphill battle comes the other side, and I’m just happy to be along for the ride.

Summer Aspirations

Chelsea B.A few days ago, six fellow classmates and I gathered to have a catered lunch from a College Station favorite, Blue Baker, with our three faculty mentors. Every now and then we meet to discuss current happenings in the vet school and receive some sage advice about developing our future careers. On this occasion, being mid-semester, spring break and summer plans were big topics of conversation.

Most of us are planning on catching up on sleep and TV shows during our Spring Break week, but a few relayed some exciting travel plans for sunny destinations; conversely, I know quite a few students and friends who are choosing snow for their week away.

As for me, the mountains will have to wait until summer, when I plan to stop by my parents’ home in Colorado before hopefully heading off to a veterinary student internship!

Last summer, I spent the majority of my time at home in Colorado, helping out with my family’s ever-growing ranch of animals and getting some valuable shadowing experience in equine sports medicine. I’ve been an avid equestrian since I was in diapers and learning more about some of the injuries horses sustain from show jumping and dressage has been a longtime interest.

Since last fall, however, I’ve been contemplating what to do with this summer, and in January, I took the plunge into preparing applications for what I call my “oddball interest”—primate medicine. I was first exposed to the study of primates as an undergraduate, researching a variety of social and cognitive behaviors in capuchins and hamadryas baboons that were housed on my school’s campus. I found it incredibly fascinating and ever since have wanted to explore the veterinarian’s role in caring for these species.

When most people hear primates, they think of zoo medicine; however, primates fill a huge area of regulated laboratory research. Subsequently, veterinarians are utilized to help manage their care and headline study design and publication. This practice is incredibly important in terms of understanding mechanisms of disease and improving treatments for everything from infectious organisms to pathologic disorders of the heart, all of which can be applicable to human medicine.

My goal for this summer is to receive mentorship from practicing board-certified laboratory animal veterinary specialists to better learn about the ins and outs of this career path. I reached out to four institutions with programs specifically designed for veterinary students interested in learning more about primate medicine and research. Each program had slightly different requirements, and I felt like I was applying to vet school all over again! Preparing a resume, writing personal statements to fit the individual programs, asking trusted individuals for letters of recommendation, and then waiting, waiting, waiting for news….

Fortunately, I have just heard back from the first of the four, with an offer to interview over spring break! I am incredibly excited; so please keep your fingers crossed for me!

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.

Ready for a Good Day (Lessons Learned from Bubba)

Mary W.Veterinary school is hard.

If you’ve been talking to vet students or graduated veterinarians, you’ll hear this phrase pretty often. People will first congratulate you on the path you’ve chosen, and then try to warn you of its steepness. You won’t believe them, even when you’re filling out the extensive application, or prepping for the nerve-wracking interview, or just trying to get your hands on as many sick or broken animals as you can and realizing its impossible to help them all.

Well, maybe you’ll believe them a little, and steel yourself against the stress, but it won’t really sink in until that first week of vet school bowls you over and leaves you buried in the dirt. And then the next week does the same. And the next. Over and over again for four years.

As you can imagine, this takes a bit of a toll on a person. To keep our heads above the rising tide of stress, we vet students learn a couple of coping mechanisms. Maybe it’s exercise or hobbies that have nothing to do with school. Perhaps it’s something small, like setting aside all study materials at meals. Many students lean heavily on their families, friends, and partners.

But one coping strategy we all seem to pick up in the first month of school is complaining. We vent our frustrations to our classmates almost constantly. Maybe it’s a poorly written test, or a difficult skill to master, or we don’t agree with an administrative decision; the subject doesn’t really matter—we will find fault with something in this stressful experience  and will kvetch about it until we have run out of words. This strategy is so pervasive throughout school and the profession that it’s one of the strange things that draws our community closer together.

This is why Bubba stands out.

I first met Bubba working the morning shift at the ambassador desk. After a series of halfhearted “good mornings” that were responded to with a grimace and a mumbled greeting, here comes a man who looks like the sun grew legs and started walking. Big smile on his face, a spring in his step, eyes so cheerful they’ve almost disappeared, Bubba radiates joy. He greets everyone he sees with a smile, a “how’re you doing today?” and a few questions about their lives.

He seems to know something about everyone and delights in getting to know a little more every time he sees them. Just this morning he asked me about the exams I was getting ready for, and he was more than confident that I would ace them all. But what really stuck with me from talking with Bubba this morning is when he asked me if I was ready for a good day, as if the good days are all around us, just waiting to be found.

What a different perspective to have! In vet school, we condition ourselves to expect little more than stress and frustration from everyday life, that we aren’t ever truly “ready” for good days. We don’t expect to find joy in school, and, so, we don’t.

I want to say thank you to Bubba for reminding me at least once a week that there are good days to be found in vet school, if only we are ready for them to happen.

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.

Fighting Hunger One Gala at a Time

Picture this: A jiving jazz band, flickering chandeliers, dancing flappers, a plethora of fedoras, strands of pearls, and clinking glasses…

 

Karly at Gala
Karly, getting “dolled” up for the 1920s-themed gala

The Brownstone Reserve in Bryan was filled with a crowd of people all coming together with the appearances of having a roaring good time but, in reality, collecting money to take action on hunger and poverty in the most selfless way.

The 5th Annual Heifer International Charity Gala was a success on many fronts. Not only did the event run ever-so-smoothly, but the guests made many contributions to our great cause. In total, we raised nearly $15,000 in tickets, silent auction items, and heartfelt donations.

We also raised awareness. Education is often a more valuable commodity because, while money remains stagnant, knowledge grows between people and between dreams.

Our keynote speaker, Ardyth Neill, the president of Heifer International, honored us with her presence and shared her passion for a cause that touches many hearts. It’s difficult to think of how many people still continue to suffer in our world, but when an organization like Heifer International develops a logical plan to alleviate the pain many communities feel, one cannot help witnessing the hope radiating from the people the organization has touched.

As a member of the planning committee, I was so grateful for the family, friends, fellow students, faculty, and staff who came to support our endeavors. When our TAMU College of Veterinary Medicine comes together in this way, I know that I am exactly where I belong. I cannot compare this community’s compassion, empathy, and unconditional love with anything else, because there is truly no comparison.

I am grateful to be surrounded by so many likeminded individuals, who are constantly giving and giving, even when they have nothing left to give. So that night we danced, and we ate, and we lite up the room, not only with our strands of pearls, but also with our loving hearts.

For more information on the gala, click here or Heifer International, click here.

Staying Motivated through the Spring

The spring semester of our 2VM (second-year veterinary student) year is officially upon us, and, boy, do we have a packed schedule: “Anesthesia/General Surgery,” “Infectious Diseases,” “Introduction to Diagnostic Imaging,” “Pathology II,” “Pharmacology II,” “Public Health,” and “Toxicology!”

Here are some things that I have found work well for me in staying motivated through a busy semester. Maybe they can help you tackle your semester, as well!

  1. Study in a new or different location! Some days I find that I am most productive in the study rooms in VIDI. Other times, I focus best while sitting at my desk at home. And sometimes, I study most effectively in the midst of a bustling coffee shop. Sometimes, you just have to switch it up; a change of scenery may be all you need to get back on track!
  2. Acknowledge how far you have come! 2VMs are already 3/8ths of the way toward earning our DVM degrees, which is absolutely wild to think about. We’ve had the strength, courage, and motivation to make it this far in our educational careers…surely we can keep going!
  3. Take breaks! When I wake up on a Sunday morning and tell myself that I am going to study all day long, it never fails that at one point or another during the afternoon, I will lose my focus. Studying for just a few hours at a time, however, interrupted by a 20- or 30-minute well-deserved study break, works wonders for my productivity and overall motivation!
  4. Look forward to White Coat Ceremony!!! April 13 is going to be here before we know it! All of my family will be flying out to College Station (some of them for the very first time!) from California, and I have no doubt that this excitement will carry me through the most stressful of times and help keep me motivated and pressing on this semester. Find something exciting you have coming up in your life and make a countdown
  5. Look forward to your summer plans! I will be spending my summer externing at two different dairy practices in California, and I am already so excited. The opportunity to utilize the knowledge I’ve gained in school and apply it to real-world situations on a dairy farm is reason enough for me to stay motivated and keep a positive attitude throughout the semester!
  6. Stay organized! Writing in my planner has become quite a hobby of mine. I can conveniently write down assignment due dates, upcoming exams, etc., all in one convenient spot. Seeing everything neatly written down and organized into different days makes me realize that there is, indeed, enough time to accomplish everything, thus preventing me from becoming overwhelmed. You cannot stay motivated if you are overwhelmed!
  7. Set reasonable goals! Rather than saying I am going to review all of the lecture material since our previous exam in a day, I split it up—for example, a half hour for each lecture. There is something satisfying about being able to check off a box on a to-do study list, and that keeps me motivated to keep at it!

Happy spring semester everyone! 🙂