Conferring with Peers and Professionals

Mary W.We’re now a quarter of the way through the semester, with a few exams under our belts, and the Southwest Veterinary Symposium (SWVS) right around the corner. For those who thought that veterinary school was all about studying yourself into a hole in College Station, let me tell you it doesn’t have to be that way. Vet school presents a lot of opportunities to its students, and one of the most valuable, in my experience, is free registration for veterinary conferences. If you happen to have an interest in snakes and reptiles but feel like you won’t get enough information on how to treat them in vet school, head to ExoticsCon in Dallas and spend a few days surrounded by herpetology enthusiasts! If you hope to someday be a veterinary dermatologist and are ready to be immersed in the community, there is a conference for you, too. Whether you want to learn more about a particular topic, hear from a world-renowned speaker, or just get out of town for a few days while still feeling productive, veterinary conferences have something to offer everyone.

This past year I had the good fortune to be able to attend three conferences around the state and the nation. The first was SWVS in Fort Worth. This is a local conference, held in a different city in Texas every year, that provides a way for veterinarians to gain continuing education credits, stay up-to-date on regulations, and meet with old friends. As a student, SWVS was a nice way to feel like all this studying and struggling might eventually have meaning. It brought home the idea that I will be a veterinarian and I am in the right place to pursue that dream. Being surrounded by hundreds of vets who have all made it through the same courses I am currently in was inspiring, and exactly the kind of pick-me-up I needed after two grueling anatomy exams. In addition to that, I was able listen to a variety of lectures that helped support what I was learning in school.

The second conference I went to was a hoot. Parrot Festival is held annually in Houston and is billed as a place for parrot lovers to gather, shop, and learn a bit about new recommendations on caring for their birds. Texas A&M CVM’s own Dr. Sharman Hoppes spoke about common disease seen in Psittacine birds. Parrot Festival is not a vet-based conference, so it was actually on a level I understood, with lectures including words and concepts the average veterinary student could grasp. Additionally, the people attending the festival were there to have fun and to really celebrate these birds that they loved. It was a happy, loud, colorful way to spend a weekend.

Conference No. 3 was the biggest one out there. I attended the annual AVMA conference in Indianapolis this summer. I considered myself a bit of a “conference pro” at this point, but nothing prepared me for the sheer size of AVMA, which was attended by 7,000 veterinarians and related personnel. Seven. Thousand. 7,000 people who have chosen this profession for their own, have committed to a lifetime of learning, and are trying to be the best animal caretakers they can be. As a student, not only was this inspiring, but it was also a massive networking opportunity. Without seeking anyone out, I went home with multiple externship offers from clinics for my fourth year.

I would encourage anyone attending vet school or involved in the profession to try and go to at least one conference. Not only are they educational and can help you figure out what path you want to pursue, but they are also massive gatherings of the community you have chosen to be a part of. Plus, you get to leave vet school behind for a few days and remind yourself of why you wanted to go to vet school in the first place.