Taking Advantage of Opportunities

Kimberly N.Only 20 days of school left! I can’t believe time flew by so fast. Just a little over two months ago, I was starting my first semester of my sophomore year.

Because of the opportunities I found last year, I have been balancing not only school, but also working as an ambassador, doing research in the animal behavior lab, and volunteering at the Wildlife Center (it’s a class, but you’re essentially volunteering). It was a lot of work but also a lot of fun, too! I experienced so many new things this semester, and I can’t wait to experience more.

I like to think I’m a hard worker. Maybe it is the Vietnamese blood in me. Maybe it was my family’s circumstances. Maybe it is just my personality. Whatever the reason, that trait helped me get to where I am now.

About a month ago, I applied for the BIMS Costa Rica Study Abroad (which, by the way, I encourage any BIMS undergrad to apply for). In my application, I wrote a two-page essay that was peer-reviewed by four different people, along with the University Writing Center (super extra, I know). On Nov. 9, at 9:11 a.m., I received an email saying I had been accepted into the program. My heart stopped and I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t believe that I had been accepted! In disbelief, I emailed the professor asking if I was actually accepted and he said yes! Another person I know had also been accepted, but she wrote about a paragraph, so I guess I’m an overachiever. But I was extremely happy when I received that email because it showed that all my hard work paid off!

An important lesson I have learned this semester, which is advice I will now always offer to incoming freshmen, is that it is never too early to look for opportunities.

In fact, there are opportunities that have criteria you meet now and not later. I remember regretting not signing up for “Great Disease of the World” (one of the BIMS-directed electives) last spring because I found out too late that I could have gotten a certificate in public health entomology if I had taken that class. Now, I can’t, because you have to complete the class before you have 75 credit hours, which I have.

There are so many opportunities at Texas A&M, like research and study abroad programs, so you don’t have to look very hard to find something that might interest you.

Looking Forward to my Last Break

Michelle C.This upcoming Christmas break will be my last as a student, as my peers and I will be entering clinics immediately after the conclusion of the third-year veterinary curriculum. I have been meticulously planning to get the most out of the four-week break, during which I will be spending two weeks doing a veterinary externship in Dallas and the remaining time traveling with family and friends.

Externships offer students an exciting opportunity to spend two to six weeks under a direct doctor mentorship to apply the clinical skills obtained during the first three years of veterinary school and ease the transition from classroom to clinical practice. I am really looking forward to the externship experience, as I feel more confident interpreting blood work and other laboratory data than I have ever been.

Needless to say, I am also very excited to travel! My advice to all future students is that you should use your free time to travel spontaneously. Whether it is visiting distant families out of state or going on a road trip with your significant other, it will greatly enhance your soul! I definitely plan on spending a lot of time with my family this winter break, since I wont be able to visit them very often during my fourth year.

But until then, everyone is buckling down and preparing for our final exams. Stress is high, but I am grateful to have such great, supportive classmates and faculty members who are always there to help us succeed. Good luck on finals, everybody!

Semester Turns Down, Skills Turn Up

Brandi M.There are less than 20 days left of the semester! Hallelujah! The 2VM class has had a countdown since the middle of October, and I already have plans to become a permanent resident of my bed for at least a week when I get home. Maybe I’ll venture out to chat with my mom over brunch, mindlessly watch “Top Gun” with my dad for the 100th time, and bribe my brothers to go to the movies with me.

But I’m also finding myself feeling excited to go back to work for this winter break, more excited than I have been any other break. I have worked at a clinic for four years now, starting as a shadow (also known as from the bottom) and moved my way up to technician (where I now am), albeit a still-somewhat-clueless one.

One thing that I’ve noticed is that after every semester in veterinary school, I actually understand more of the things that go on in the clinic. After first semester physiology, I understood heart rhythms on EKGs and why everyone was concerned about a certain pattern. After second semester neuroanatomy, I knew how to assess the neurological status of a patient that came in with a head tilt and unequal pupils. After this semester learning about pharmacology, I’m looking forward to actually knowing what the drugs prescribed to patients do and why they are prescribed in the first place.

It’s moments like these that really put into perspective the things I’m learning in vet school. All of the hard work and long nights studying for exams that I don’t ever truly feel prepared for aren’t fruitless, and I get to showcase the things I’ve learned to the doctors and technicians who have essentially raised me through my formative veterinary-related years. I suppose that’s as much of a sign as anything that I’ve chosen the right career path for myself, since I’m not only willing but excited to endure the ocean of information that’s being metaphorically dumped on me every semester.

At the end of vet school, when I walk across that stage and hear myself called “Dr. Brandi Miller,” I can look back on the time I spent in and out of class learning, the effort I put into the skills taught in labs, and the buildings that were home to this incredible opportunity and tell myself “Veni. Vidi. Vici.”

I came. I saw. I conquered.

Exploring the Unexpected

LisaCollege—what a scary word, even for students IN college. It is a time to live and a time to settle down and really focus into what you really want to make of your life. For me, my first semester as a sophomore in the BIMS program has been a little bit more stressful than what I had anticipated compared to my freshman year.My experiences within this program has taught me a lot about college—most importantly, that life goes on. I have never been the smartest girl in my class but I have been one of the most hardworking. Obstacle after obstacle, my experiences have taught me of my limits and boundaries. What I have learned about my challenges in school is that grades matter, but so does your overall happiness. A&M has been the biggest challenge I have had in my life. Being seven hours away from home, making friends, and keeping up in a challenging program is stressful but, yet, such a great experience.

Overall, I am still in the process of learning that life is somewhat challenging, and we all need somebody to help us through those challenging times.

For me, that person has been my mom, who has supported me throughout my education. When I feel as if my life has taken a turn, a sweet lady named Yolanda always comes to the rescue; she has really helped me get though my hardest times. The best part of it is that my mom and I never have a dull moment, especially when she comes to visit me.

For example, recently, the five living former presidents came to College Station. Crazy, right?!? It’s not every day you get to be a few feet from five presidents stuck in the Bush Library joking around with Secret Service! But, excitingly, that’s exactly what happened with my mom and me. We happened to be there, watching secret service pull together the motorcade for the five presidents to be transported to Reed Arena for the Hurricane Harvey benefit event hosted at Texas A&M. There were snipers on top of the buildings and police officers and secret service everywhere. We were also stuck with a few other individuals who were carefully watching how someone’s life (in this case, the presidents’) can be so organized but, yet, so stressful. As everyone carefully watched the presidents, I watched my mom be as happy as I ever had seen her in our years together.

Although this moment was for the presidents, I consider it OUR moment. It was so cool to actually see five living presidents, but it was so cool to experience this with my mom. This lady never lets anything slide, has always been an educator and always has supported me and my education. I am forever grateful that she has provided me the opportunity to go to A&M, even in the moments I feel as if life is tumbling down. Experiences such as seeing five presidents really doesn’t happen much, but I appreciate that my mom has really supported me in going to a school that gives so many opportunities. Thanks and Gig’ em, Mom!

Finding ‘Balance’ as a First-Year Vet Student

Caitlin with her mom at a football game
When Caitlin’s mom visited for the weekend, Caitlin and took her to an Aggie football game.

Going into a professional program, you hear that all you will be doing is studying and going to class. Say goodbye to sleep, friends, family, etc.

I heard all of these things coming into veterinary school, and, honestly, it was really discouraging. I didn’t want my outside life to be put on hold for four years while I pursued the education that would shape my career.

Vet school was preceded by three days of orientation in which my classmates and I received many reminders to have a school-life balance. That was the first realization that school might not be as daunting as I thought.

While I had thought that I would go in and four years from now I would see my friends, what I was hearing day after day was that I would still have friends as long as I made the choice to see them outside of school. Sometimes studying would have to be put on hold and I would have to make the conscious effort to see the people who matter to me.


Caitlin and her friends
Caitlin with the friends who have helped her make it through her first semester of veterinary school

This doesn’t mean that I have time every day to sit at a coffee shop and hang out with everyone. I am in class from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and I still want to learn the information and make sure that I understand what I am supposed to know so that four years down the road, I can be the best veterinarian I want to be. I also was reminded day after day that my school could not be my entire life, so I’ve taken opportunities this semester to have some fun by celebrating with one of my roommates on the day she received her Aggie Ring, spending an entire weekend with my mom and going with her to an Aggie football game (which was so much fun!), and taking study breaks by spending time with the friends who have helped me make it through my first semester.

I just also have to remember that on those days that are tough to get through that I don’t have to go at it alone; I can take a break and have a meal with friends because they are important, too.

Thinking about the Human-Animal Bond

Cortney Wedding
Ambassador Cortney (right) with her two best friends: her husband and her dog, who was a guest of honor at her wedding.

This semester, we had some new artwork installed in Veterinary & Biomedical Education Complex (VBEC) with the underlying theme being “the human-animal bond.” These pieces depict animals and humans interacting with one another in various, mutually benefical ways. What is the human-animal bond though? We learn in veterinary school that the human-animal bond is the dynamic relationship between humans and animals that adds to the health of both in ways such as emotional, physical, and mental well-being. Understanding the human-animal bond and its importance is a crucial part of practicing veterinary medicine.

I, like many pet owners, care about my pets very deeply and am so thankful to have them in my life. I got my pup when I was 14 years old and she was only 8 weeks old. She is turning 9 years old next month and has been with me through so much. She’s been my study buddy through my undergraduate education and, now, in vet school; moved to different cities with me; helped me get through some heart breaks; and she even attended my wedding as a guest of honor last year. After a long day at school, nothing brightens my day more than coming home to her sweet puppy kisses and excited tail wagging. When I think about the human-animal bond, she’s always the first thing that pops into my mind. I know that we are both living much better lives because we have one another.

It is so easy to get caught up in vet school (and in practice) and forget why we do what we do. Sometimes it gets downright exhausting and you start questioning why you’re even pursuing this field. In those moments, all I have to do is look at my pup curled up in my lap and I know why. We don’t do this for money or notoriety, we do this to help animals and the people who care about them. We do this so that a little girl or boy can experience the invaluable true friendship of a dog, cat, or horse. Here at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, we’re working to improve the lives of people and animals alike. So, the next time you are in VBEC, take some time to look around at the artwork that line the halls of the VENI Building and see the human-animal bond perfectly captured. I think you’ll like what you see!

Learning through Labs

Michelle M.After the gauntlet of the first two years of veterinary school, it really is nice to experience some of the perks of third year. We get to put a lot of what we learned our first two years of school into use, especially during our lab periods. Just this past week, our Small Animal Medicine class had us practicing a procedure called a pericardiocentesis, a procedure that involves inserting a needle through the body wall and into the pericardium, the sac that surrounds the heart, so that the fluid can be drained. This may be necessary in certain patients to remove excess fluid to make them feel better and also so that the fluid can be tested to determine what may be causing the patient’s problem. My class was able to practice this on some pretty cool models that simulate how it will feel to perform the procedure in a live patient one day.

We previously had several large-animal labs. My favorite was the ophthalmology lab, which gave us practice in procedures with the equine eye. We were able to use live horses and do a full ophthalmic exam. We also practiced performing auriculopalpebral nerve blocks; these blocks involve injecting a small amount of lidocaine near the auriculopalpebral nerve, which will temporarily prevent the horse from blinking. Since we can’t ask the horse to hold his eye open for us like human doctors can, this nerve block is a very useful technique to learn, as it makes the exam more pleasant for the horse and also much quicker for everyone. We were then able to use an ophthalmoscope to perform a fundic exam to determine if the eye is healthy or if there are any problems.

In addition to our medicine labs, I also had a large-animal skills lab this semester, during which we were able to help improve our large animal-handling skills with cattle, pigs, goats, and horses and perform some of the routine procedures we will do as vets one day, such as trimming feet and drawing blood for testing. It was always the highlight of my week to work with these animals, as I plan on becoming a large-animal vet after I graduate. I even got to learn how to shoe a horse using a horse leg model that was more realistic than I ever could have anticipated. While farriers are often the ones who put shoes on horses, it was fascinating to learn how the process is done and important to understand so that we can properly care for horses who injure their hooves. Next semester I will have small-animal skills labs and I am looking forward to seeing what I will learn there. It’s really encouraging learning some of the skills I will be using on a daily basis when I am on clinics full-time next year. I can’t wait to see what I will learn next!

Taking Time to Enjoy the Little Things

Daniel H.I feel that as I’ve gotten older, time has gone by much quicker. Days pass by in what feels like minutes, months fly by in hours, and years fly by in weeks. Throughout high school and even into college, I felt that I didn’t appreciate the time as it was happening; it felt like I was just focusing test to test, one event to the next, but I didn’t appreciate the things that were happening every day. Now that I’m in veterinary school, I’m trying to change that mindset, to not look at a professor’s material as “boring” just because it isn’t the subject matter that I’m interested in, to not complain about waking up early or staying up late, but to enjoy where I’m at. I feel that I’m fortunate to be here and to complain about the little things doesn’t allow me to be appreciative of the opportunities I have been given.

Naturally, one of the ways I found to stay grounded and to stop looking to the future was getting a puppy. Now, sure, when he was going through potty training, there was nothing more that I looked forward to than a future of not cleaning up messes every hour or so, but I came to appreciate the little times with him—learning how to walk on a leash, the first time he learned to sit, even the confused face that he gives when I’m mad at him for chewing up something, how he just wants to play. Now I have a 7-month-old Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever named Finnley who forces me to spend time appreciating the things outside of school. Strolls down the street become a time to reflect on my day; he appreciates me no matter how many questions I miss on a test or how stressed I can get because of school.

Another tool that I’ve used to stay focused on where I am is to eliminate as much stress as possible. When we stress, we just focus on doing anything we can to get through that period of time, but this is something that can easily be avoided with good time management and by not stretching yourself too thin. I think the most important thing to avoid stress is to find a time to do something that relieves stress: going on a walk, reading a book, or taking a nap (for a reasonable amount of time). These are all great relievers of stress, but what works for one person won’t necessarily work for another, so it is important to find what brings you inner peace. In all the songs about living like we are dying (looking at you, Tim McGraw), they describe how the people live and focus on the day by forgeting about the stress of the next week or the next month.

So go out there and be like Tim McGraw, live like there is no tomorrow, because tomorrow isn’t always guaranteed. Focus on each day, and find appreciation and value in the little things in your life.

Managing Time as a BIMS Major

Priya BandyI’m
almost half way done with my first semester of my sophomore year as
a biomedical science major. Looking back to the start of the fall
semester, I anticipated a lot of exciting things when the semester
began: another Fightin’ Texas Aggie Football season, taking courses
more geared toward my major, the sophomore wildcat (a way for
students to show class pride), earlier registration for classes,
and not wandering around campus looking completely lost. However,
after a week in, I realized I had a lot to balance, as well: a job,
demanding classes, honor societies, organizations, officer
positions for honor societies and organizations, volunteering,
shadowing, and training to become a certified first responder.

In high school, I was extremely involved, took
advanced placement classes, and also worked, and I still had time
to sleep and actively maintain a social life. In college, I’m still
extremely involved, taking hard classes, and working, but I barely
have time to sleep and actively maintain a social life. The reason
I haven’t completely shut down is because of my time management
skills. Time management is necessary, especially in college. Even
though I’m always shuffling myself from one part of campus to the
other, I still make time to study for classes and squeeze in a
couple hours of sleep and playtime with my two dogs.

The one piece of advice I always give to any
incoming freshman is to learn how to manage your time efficiently
and early. I didn’t learn how to manage my time until the end of
the second semester of my freshman year. During my first semester
in college, I always procrastinated, not really studying for my
exams as much as I should have; at that point in my college career,
my classes weren’t as hard, I wasn’t as involved, and I didn’t even
have a job. I just simply didn’t know how to utilize my time to the
best of my ability. Therefore, a drop in my grades wasn’t a
surprise, but it was a huge wake up call for me. I realized I
needed to change the way I was doing life. I stopped
procrastinating, started getting ahead in my classes, and spent
less of my time going out or watching Netflix and more of my time
in the library or volunteering at the hospital.

In short, I began making the most out of the hours
of my day and encourage everyone who may be struggling to work
toward actively managing your time; it really is the best way to
make college less stressful.

Being Selective About Third-Year Electives

Mikaela StanislavAs a third-year veterinary student, I have been
able to choose the electives that I take; after two years of taking
a pre-selected curriculum, this is an amazing experience! I get to
pick what I want to learn, which makes learning all the more

This semester, I have completed an oncology elective. Oncology
is a big part of veterinary medicine because 50 percent of dogs
over the age of 10 years will develop cancer. Through this
elective, I was able to learn about current research being done
that correlates human cancers and cancer in dogs, because it is
very similar and advances in each field can help each other.

The elective I just finished is dermatology. This is also a
large part of veterinary medicine, as many pets have issues with
skin or allergies, especially living in Texas. In dermatology, we
learned how to identify different infections, causes, and how to
treat common dermatologic problems. Did you know that dogs can have
food allergies, too? It’s a lot harder to find out if dogs have a
food issue because they can’t tell you they feel bad after eating
something or if they eat something that causes them to itch.

The next elective I will be taking is clinical pathology, in
which I will learn all about how to interpret blood work and
understand what the values mean. I’ll be able to tell if a dog is
anemic, if it has liver issues, or even if it’s a diabetic.
Clinical pathology is a skill that we will be using every day in
practice. Interpreting blood and urine are common practices and
taking this elective will hopefully help me feel more comfortable
with this aspect of veterinary medicine.

Overall, all of my classes have been good, but it’s even more
exciting to get to decide what you learn!