Thinking About Suicide Prevention Week

This week (Sept. 9-13) is National Suicide Prevention Week, and as it comes to a close, I look back on it and what it means for me, as well as for everyone whose lives have been affected by suicide.

For context on why this is such an important week in our nation, suicide is the 10thleading cause of death in the U.S.; there are approximately 129 suicides every day, and in 2017, that amounted to 14 suicides per 100,000 people, according to AFSP.org.

Suicide is a public health problem that has contributed to the U.S. life expectancy being lowered for three years in a row, according to the Smithsonian.

I have lost people very close to me because of this. It is because of these tragedies that I plan to become a clinical social worker, working in suicide prevention and serving as a mental health counselor for depression and anxiety.

Through National Suicide Prevention Week, this week, our nation sets aside just a little bit of time to acknowledge those who did not see a better way. Our job, in turn, is to work to find better ways to reach these people, provide them with counseling, resources, and treatment that can help them help themselves.

At Texas A&M University, this amounted to the “Not Another Aggie” Suicide Prevention Walk. At this event, there were fifteen resource booths, a candle light vigil was held for loved ones who had passed, and Aggies walked around campus so that anyone who might be struggling could see how many people really do care about them and are willing to help them find ways to get help.

It was truly an awe-inspiring event for me to be a part of.

If anyone is struggling, or feeling like there is no other way out, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Never be afraid to reach out for help.

Hitting the Ground Running

So far, this semester is off to a great start. It has been fun but also very busy. I am taking anatomy, immunology, genetics, an online writing class, and phonetics and phonology.

 

Although this does not sound like a super busy schedule, they are all morning classes and then in the afternoons, I work as an ambassador and am involved in two student organizations, which means I am pretty much on campus from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day.

 

While it’s only the third week of school, I like the businesses of it all. And, thankfully, all of my classes are interesting, so that helps to stay awake!

 

Of all of the classes I am taking this semester, anatomy has been the monster already. We are responsible for knowing the bones, muscles, major veins and arteries, and nerves of the thoracic limb.

 

I have had tough classes before but never like this. We literally study every day just to stay on top of things. However, my labmates and the graduate student lecturer have been very helpful in understanding concepts, so things are getting better.

 

When things are challenging, I like to think of things in terms of “how is this going to benefit me in the future?” I’ve had to remind myself of that, even from the first day; yes, this class is tough, but it is going to be so beneficial to me in the long run because it is teaching me how to effectively study every day, collaborate with others, ask for help, and how to critically think about topics and connections.

 

Thinking this way has made me appreciate this class and the teaching style infinitely more.

 

On a more future professional note, I have received interviews at all three dental schools in Texas and I could not be prouder and more excited! I only applied to Texas schools because, one, they are cheaper and, two, I do not want to go super far away from my family. I have had two interviews already and I have my last one tomorrow!

 

Mostly, everything that is happening has made me realize that my dreams are finally becoming a reality! And I am so thankful to God for that!

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!

Celebrating Senior Year in South Africa

Senior year is finally here for me!

 

To kick off my last undergraduate year, over the summer, I went on a pre-veterinary internship to South Africa in May. Hannah, a fellow CVM Ambassador and friend, accompanied me on this life-changing experience.

We traveled to Chintsa, South Africa, to shadow and assist veterinarians from all over the world through the program Safari 4U. It was a two-week internship that included 100 veterinary hours of experience, and we were able to interact with exotic and domestic animals of various types. From community service to game capture, we did it all!

 

 

Each day, we would drive to townships, known as underdeveloped urban areas, and go around the community to
give medical treatment to the locals’ animals, which ranged from dogs, puppies, cattle, and others. We did our
veterinary services for free for the locals and even held a spay and neuter clinic. Hannah and I received hands-on experience in giving    de-wormer to puppies and Ivermectin to animals in need.

 

 

For game captures, we were able to relocate animals for safety and breeding, and we personally were able to assist in moving a giraffe to his new home! We saw zebra, impala, blesbok, giraffes, lions, warthogs, and so much more! Each day was an adventure with a veterinarian or veterinary nurse/technician.

After a hard day’s work, we would go to the beach, ride horses, quad bike (or four wheel) up a mountain, or just gather seashells on the shore. It was a beautiful place to visit, even though it was the beginning of their winter season.

 

Overall, the trip greatly impacted Hannah and me in our decision to become veterinarians. Someday, I would love to return to the program as a veterinarian and teach some of the courses that were taught to me.

Summer Plans

Hannah JSummer is so close I can almost taste it! This semester I will be finishing up my sophomore year at Texas A&M as a biomedical sciences (BIMS) major, and looking back, I just can’t believe how incredibly fast it has gone by.

A piece of advice that I would give to any student starting college would be to make every semester count. Get involved in things you love doing and gain as many new experiences as possible.

That’s something I plan to do this summer!

Angelica, a fellow Ambassador, and I will be leaving the United States in a little over a week to travel to South Africa! Ever since I was a child, going to Africa has always been something I knew I wanted to do, specifically to be able to interact with the wildlife there.

Angelica and I heard about a program through Pre-Vet Society that offers a two-week trip to Chinsta, South Africa, that enables us to have this experience.

The program is offered to any pre-vet student from anywhere in the world! It will be exciting to meet other students from different countries who are also interested in veterinary medicine.

The program is split into three parts, each working with different animals, including wildlife such as zebras, antelopes, and giraffes and at the zoo located close to town; cattle and equine; and small animals at a few clinics in the area.

We have known we wanted to go on this trip for probably over a year now and I can’t believe it is finally almost upon us!

Neither Angelica nor I have ever traveled outside of the country before, and there was a lot to do in order to be prepared for the trip. We had to get our passports, book our flights, and receive the recommended vaccinations, as well as buy all the recommended items for the trip.

The travel time to Chinsta will be quite long—in total, about 25 hours! South Africa is also seven hours ahead of Texas, so I’m sure we will be facing quite a bit of jet lag!

Since it will be the first time out of the country for the both of us, we plan to document every detail we can!

I bought a Nikon camera last summer and will bring it with me on the trip with. I love using it and am really into photography; I even joined the photography club this past year!

Angelica also bought a camera recently that she plans to take on the trip! We hope to take photographs of the wonderful animals we see, as well as the beautiful landscape. Chinsta is located close to the coast, so we may even get to visit the ocean!

It will be fall time there, so we are planning to dress in layers that we can take off as it gets warmer as the day goes on. It will be strange to go from this Texas heat to cooler weather and then come right back.

I am glad not to be taking any classes this summer and plan to come back home and work at the veterinary clinic I worked at in high school for the rest of my summer break.

I wish you all a relaxing summer and hope to share with you all the fun I will have on my trip!

 

‘Final’ Motivation

It’s that time of the semester! The time where class days are dwindling and stress levels are growing.

Madelaine and an alpaca at a Pre-Vet Society event
Madelaine and an alpaca at a Pre-Vet Society event

Finals can be a little overwhelming, but the excitement of summer is a great source of motivation. My summer plans will be keeping me very busy; I’m really looking forward to all the different opportunities ahead of me.

Among those opportunities, I will be participating in a study abroad program through which I will spend four weeks in Thailand. I am beyond excited!

We will spend each week in a different region of Thailand as we gain a better understanding of how animal, human, and environmental health interact. I will have the opportunity to shadow a veterinarian at an elephant sanctuary, explore a new culture, and help with coral reef restoration.

This trip is going to be something I will never forget, and I am so excited to gain a broader view of veterinary medicine.

When I get back from my trip abroad, reality will settle in and it will be time to apply to veterinary school.

It is both exciting and terrifying to think about. I can’t believe how quickly my time at A&M has flown by.

The pre-veterinary resources here at A&M have already helped me so much in this process.

Recently I attended an application workshop that gave me a better understanding of the online application.

Fender smiles for the camera.
Fender smiles for the camera.

The TAMU Pre-Vet Society also has given me very unique animal experience that I never expected to receive. For example, I have been able to volunteer at alpaca farms, attend equine clinics, and help in the exotics room at Vet School Open House.

I’m very thankful that I am not going through this process alone. Applying to vet school is going to be nerve racking but I am excited to see where it takes me.

But before I can step into summer I have to face my final exams.

I am trying my best to be diligent and finish this semester strong. Things that keep me grounded include my friends, family and, especially, my dog, Fender.

Although the stress of finals is upon me, I know there is an end in sight, and I am hopeful that all of this hard work will be worth it.

Earning My Aggie Ring

Angelica's father places her ring on her finger during this year's Aggie Ring Day.
Angelica’s father places her ring on her finger during this year’s Aggie Ring Day.

Texas A&M University is full of traditions.

One of the most popular traditions, and therefore times of the year, is Aggie Ring Day.

The Aggie ring is a symbol of unity, family, tradition, and pride.

Both undergraduates and veterinary students are given the opportunity to earn their gold college ring by completing 90 hours of college credit, 45 of which have to come from A&M directly.

This past week, I earned my Aggie ring as an undergraduate!

Angelica and her boyfriend Colton, who also earned his Aggie Ring this year
Angelica and her boyfriend Colton, who also earned his Aggie Ring this year

It felt amazing the minute the ring graced my finger.

All of the hard work, chemistry courses, animal science electives, and long nights of studying paid off.

For both undergraduate students and veterinary students, it is a wonderful time of the year

that is a true symbol of why we do what we do and why we strive for our goals and pursuit of a professional career.

Having earned my Aggie ring gives me courage to keep pursuing veterinary school and someday become a companion-animal veterinarian.

Taking Time to Travel

Priya and her mother outside of the Victoria Memorial in Kolkata, India
Priya and her mother outside of the Victoria Memorial in Kolkata, India

As a second semester junior at Texas A&M, my schedule can be pretty draining.

Between research, an internship, my classes, studying for the MCAT, work, volunteering, and being heavily involved in my organizations, I rarely have any time to take a break from everything and do something fun for myself.

However, this year’s Spring Break provided me with the perfect opportunity to mentally, and physically, remove myself from the craziness that comes with being a busy college student.

Normally over Spring Break, you can find me volunteering at one of the many impoverished communities across the country with Alternative Spring Break. But this year I decided, instead, to take sometime to travel.

For 10 days, I was 8,742 miles away in Calcutta (Kolkata), India!

While I was there, I was able to completely immerse myself in the culture, shopping at local markets and centres, attending a local festival, visiting all of the major tourist spots, and eating a lot of good food! I also got the chance to spend time with my grandparents with whom I’m super close but do not get to visit on a regular basis.

Additionally, one of the most unexpected opportunities that presented itself to me in India was the opportunity to shadow an ENT (ear, nose, and throat specialist) while I was there.

It was extremely eye opening to see the differences in  aspects of healthcare and patient satisfaction. For example, the ENT I was shadowing was very well known in the area and always had an overflowing waiting room; therefore, he was trying to turn over patients as quickly as possible.

Mother Teresa's tomb, inside the Motherhouse, in Kolkata, India
Mother Teresa’s tomb, inside the Motherhouse, in Kolkata, India

In an effort to be more efficient, he would bring the next patient into his office while he was finishing up with his first patient. This resulted in each patient’s personal and private healthcare information becoming public, as it was inadvertently shared with other patients.

To someone like myself who has lived in America their entire life and has grown up with HIPPA laws being in place and enforced, the reality that patient information was so public was a very out-of-the-box concept and my eyes were truly opened to what a world without HIPPA looks like.

My time in India was short but very well spent. I was able to focus a little bit more on myself and truly live in the moment, something I tend to forget when I’m in college and always planning for the future.

I enjoyed where I was and didn’t worry about where I was going to go. Hopefully I’ll get the chance to travel somewhere else in the near future!

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.

Keeping Bee-sy

Cora and her partner removes frames
Cora and her research partner remove frames from a hive at a local apiary as part of her research with the Texas A&M Entomology Department.

As a Tier One research university, Texas A&M is globally renowned for its research and academic excellence. Coming to College Station with this knowledge, I still never expected to get involved with research.

My previous conceptions regarded research as something dull and boring; I pictured research as sitting at a desk all day investigating dead ends and pointless work.

Yet, my coursework within a veterinary entomology class sparked an interest in me I never thought possible.

In this class, I learned about problems plaguing honey bee colonies around the world—deformed wing virus and Nosema fungal spores are two of the largest killers of honey bees. Immediately, I became interested in preventatives or treatments for these pathogens, but then I learned there were none.

Shortly after, I was offered the opportunity to join a research laboratory within the Texas A&M Entomology Department that is centered around finding cures for this RNA virus and parasitic fungus.

Although optimistic about the opportunity to participate in undergraduate research, my lingering apprehension remained.

However, within a short span of months, my perception about research has completely changed. I have learned invaluable laboratory skills and knowledge about honey bees, including their ecology and biology.

In fact, more recently I visited the local apiary, where most research with bees in the Texas A&M Entomology Department is conducted. At the apiary, my research partner and I practiced identifying different levels of bees and smoking frames to mellow out honey bees from their overactive or angry states.

My newfound experiences in research have been so exciting and telling of the different kinds of opportunities available at Texas A&M.

I look forward to the transformative experiences left in my time here in College Station and the impact I can make on honey bee populations!