Life Lessons in Veterinary School

cortney-peaseThe veterinary school curriculum is designed to teach you many things. Yes, you will learn plenty of anatomy, physiology, and pathology, but there are some things that aren’t part of the curriculum that vet school teaches you, as well.

I feel like each semester I have learned at least one very important lesson that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

In my first semester, that lesson was that failures are a part of life and everything will be OK afterwards. My second semester, I learned that hard work pays off, and my third semester, I learned that it is OK to take the time to take care of yourself.

This semester—which is my sixth, and final, semester of coursework before starting clinical rotations—has already taught me so much in such a short period of time.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about the fragility of life and the most important things in it, and there is really only one answer that I keep coming back to—people. I can honestly say that if it weren’t for the incredible people in my life, I would not be counting down the months until graduation (15, in case you were wondering).

My classmates and friends have been a huge driving force in my life these past three years. They provide support and encouragement. They share in my struggles. And, in the end, we all earn our victory together.

There have been many times that I have felt defeated and one of my friends reminds me that it might be one failing exam grade but it does not define me as a person.

There’s also my dad, who calls at least once a week to ask me how my week is going and to make sure I get a healthy dose of “dad jokes” and my mom, who always keeps me in the loop about what’s going on at home and reminds me that there is a world outside of vet school.

My two sisters are a constant source of love and always bring a smile to my face. My nieces look up to me so much—one even says she wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up—and that is enough motivation to keep anyone going.

Last, but certainly not least, my husband goes above and beyond to take care of me and support my dreams. He deserves a gold medal for all that he does on a daily basis.

These people have all done their part to make me successful, and I hope I do a good enough job of returning that love to them. I hope that I never take any of them for granted.

All of this to say, whether you are focused on trying to get into veterinary school, struggling through vet school, or trying to advance your career, never forget to take the time to nourish and appreciate your relationships. At the end of the day, the people in your life are what matters most, so make sure that they know that.

The Jigsaw Puzzle

Nantika's picture from her white coat ceremonyNine years ago, I informed my boss that I was leaving the company where I had been working for 12 years to pursue a career in veterinary medicine. The only thing I had at that point was a serious commitment to start this journey.

But now my long journey to become a veterinarian has come to the last 15 months of veterinary school. In three months, I will start my clinical rotations, during which fourth-year veterinary students spend a whole year working in the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital as a real “baby” doctor.

I feel both panicked and excited to realize that my dream of becoming a veterinarian is about to come true.

I still remember the end of my first day as a veterinary student. I went home and cried. Why? I thought “Physiology” and “Anatomy” were so hard. I had thousands of pieces of jigsaw puzzles in my head. I asked myself, “How am I going to pass these classes?”

Now, I am a third-year veterinary student. And I have the answer for that question.

For the first two years, I learned the different aspects of veterinary medicine: physiology, anatomy, immunology, histology, neuroanatomy, infectious diseases, parasitology, microbiology, pathology, surgery, anesthesia, public health, pharmacology, toxicology, radiology, and many more. Each class is the part of the jigsaw board and has its own space to fill up.

The curriculum is designed to lay the foundation of medical knowledge, and by my third year, all of those jigsaw pieces start coming together and I could see the picture clearer.

I love small animal medicine, through which I can apply the foundational knowledge by analyzing, diagnosing, planning for testing, and offering treatments. Even though I choose to focus on companion animals, I also have learned about large animal medicine.

Additionally, I have selected electives to study particular topics of interest to me in small animals, equine, food animal, swine, avian, and exotics medicine. Some of my highlights were “Oncology,” “Cardiology,” “Clinical Pathology,” “Emergency Medicine,” and “Dermatology.”

Before the end of my third year, I will also have “Avian Medicine,” “Dentistry,” “Feline Medicine” and “Gastroenterology” classes. These are all bits of knowledge I will retain for my career.

It has been a long wait, but the fourth year is just around the corner. My last section of the jigsaw puzzle is about to be complete.

This beautiful picture from my White Coat Ceremony (held at the end of your second year) keeps me encouraged until I walk across the stage to become “Dr. Du, DVM.

‘Conquering’ the Vet School

As a biomedical sciences major, I have had the opportunity to attend classes in these inspiring buildings since the first semester of my freshman year, which was an experience I never expected to have. I am on a pre-veterinary path and being able to learn in the very rooms I hope to attend veterinary school in has been really motivating and exciting.

The laboratories, lab equipment, and sometimes even professors are shared between the veterinary and BIMS students. As I walk into my microbiology lab, I am reminded of what all of my hard work is leading to; seeing the veterinary students outside in between their lectures gives me a glimpse into what their lives are like. Each time I take the journey on Bus 9 to this area of campus I feel blessed to have the opportunity to learn in this environment.

Recently, I took my dog Fender to A&M’s Small Animal Hospital. This was another unique experience that showed another side of the veterinary school. It was so neat hearing from the fourth-year veterinary student who was seeing my dog under the supervision of a veterinarian; it also was an educational experience for me—not to mention I got a 20 percent student discount!

I love how much of the veterinary school world I have been able to observe and learn from as an undergraduate.

Finally, as a BIMS Ambassador, I’ve been able to give tours of the veterinary school to prospective students. Every time I walk the halls and tell stories on tours, I can almost feel the years of history, knowledge, and discovery that live here.

It inspires me to keep pushing forward toward my goals, even when the journey becomes challenging at times. When I graduate, I hope I will be able to look back on these experiences and say “I came, I saw, I conquered.”

Staying in the Spirit

carter mcadooI am currently halfway through the third week of my second semester in veterinary school.

I made it through my first semester and I loved it. It was very hard at times but the one thing that never dissipated was my excitement to be furthering my knowledge in veterinary medicine.

I have learned so many things in such a short amount of time.

One thing that I was looking forward to going into winter break was getting to go and apply my knowledge in a clinical setting.  I am by no means a veterinarian yet but in just one semester I have learned so many applicable things.

While working over winter break I found myself able to communicate with the veterinarians in the practice. I did not understand everything, but I was able to talk to the veterinarians and learn from them.

I am so excited to continue learning so that I can continue to apply my knowledge.

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.

New Year, New Mindset

Taylor SheffieldThe same old saying of “New Year, New You” really is one of my least favorite sayings. Instead, I like to think of it as a new year, new mindset.

Every year we create goals and ambitions for the start of the semester, and as life gets a little chaotic, we tend to forget those goals or think they are unreachable. So instead of trying to change who I am and my life style, I decided I am going to change my mindset.

I’ve set out to have a more positive outlook on life, and instead of adding more things to my plate (as a veterinary student, that is a lot), I’m going to focus on how to rearrange the plate to make it less full.

By being more positive and looking at the silver lining, I hope my life can be more focused on the “what can I do to make it better” versus the “this day really stunk.”

In order to do this, there are apps that send me daily affirmations and positivity quotes to start my week. The positivity train doesn’t stop there—I have decided I will try to pass it on to my classmates or fellow colleagues, because you never know who truly needs that small reminder that everything is going to be OK.

As veterinary students, our plates are filled with more activities than a normal student, so the question becomes how do you balance it all without getting rid of some things?

Well, that is where the thought of rearranging comes into play; sometimes you have to get rid of things that may not be of use or benefit to you in order to allot more space to things that are important.

If getting rid of that activity is not your style, I encourage you to look at your time as a puzzle and all of the activities are pieces. Each week may be a different puzzle, and each activity may be a different size, but that is a slightly different mindset than just piling up activities.

With the New Year and new semester, I encourage all students and faculty to think about instead of changing you, change the mindset around you and your life.

Be more positive about the small victories that happen throughout the day, versus focusing on the small mishaps. Spread the good energy from classmate to classmate or friends to family because you never know who needs it. Change the way you look at a busy schedule by focusing on what makes you happy and getting rid of things that are just extra. Piece it together like a puzzle rather than a pile of responsibilities in order to create so more structure.

Welcome to the New Year, and go for that goal!

Back in Texas

Kimberly holding a goatI can’t believe I’m back in the United States!

Studying abroad in Costa Rica for four months really felt like a dream now that I’m looking back.

I experienced so many things there that I could have never experienced here in Texas: trudging through the rainforest, walking through so much rain that my rainboots filled up to the brim, seeing thousands of sea turtles come up to the beaches to lay their eggs, and so much more.

It’s hard to describe how wonderful studying abroad is, and despite its ups and downs, I loved studying in Costa Rica!

Holding a cup of coffeeIt feels weird that I’m here taking classes with hundreds of people in a classroom rather than the 12 people I’ve gotten close with during the trip.

It also feels weird that I’m not surrounded by the rainforest.

As much as I want to go back to Costa Rica, it wouldn’t be the same, since I would be considered a tourist rather than someone who has lived in Costa Rica for four months.

Plus, I really missed Vietnamese food, so I don’t think I’d be able to live there.

I definitely advise undergraduates to look into studying abroad because it really broadened my mind about what’s out there.

You’ll get to bond with people as you work together to overcome the struggles of studying abroad.

In addition, you’ll bond with the professors on your trip.

For BIMS students, I definitely recommend looking into the Costa Rica Biomedical Science Semester Abroad program.

The optional two-week shadowing is a major resume booster for anyone who’s looking into either veterinary or human medicine.

I hope that more people study abroad and get to experience the same feelings I did!

My Last Semester in a Classroom

Brandi M.I’ve just started my last semester in the traditional veterinary classroom curriculum. It’s honestly a little weird to think that by this time next year I will have been in a hospital setting for more than half a year and will be just months away from being able to call myself “doctor.”

Over the winter break, I worked at a clinic that I have been at for years. These doctors and technicians have known me since I was a young, wide-eyed pre-vet student in undergrad, and I joke that they basically raised me in this medical aspect of my life.

During this break, I found that the doctors included me more in discussing patient treatment plans and case rounds and technicians would ask my opinion on diagnostics in comparison to the things that I have learned thus far in veterinary school. It’s an interesting situation to find myself agreeing or questioning medical decisions that I am asked to fulfill because I now actually have some limited understanding of the application of medicine.

While that’s super exciting and I’m so relieved that I’m relatively competent in the field that I have pursued for most of my life, I’m also realizing the amount of responsibility that I’m going to be handling in the near future.

I’m gearing up to start applying for big-kid jobs, refining my resume and making connections with future employers; I’m coming to terms with my financial situation once I graduate: salary negotiations, budgeting, and payment plans for my student loan debt.

But I also feel more appreciation for the dedication this school has to its students. It’s more than just making us DVMs; I appreciate that we have started an entire course dedicated to these “adult responsibilities,” in which we meet with financial advisers and veterinarians who want to help us overcome these life hurdles. I was so worried that I would be thrown into the real world and told to figure out all of these incredibly important things, but, instead, I am going to at least get some explanation of what is needed and expected of me.

Part of me still feels like a child being dragged kicking and screaming into the adult world. Yet another part of me feels a little less lost knowing that, so far, my education has, for the most part, stuck well enough for me to understand most medical practices. That side of me is excited to start the last leg of my education and to reach my childhood goal of becoming a vet.

Fueling the Fire

My first semester as a veterinary student was a whirlwind experience! I was finally living my dream and, ironically, sometimes it didn’t seem like I was living.

Looking back and reflecting on all the time spent studying truly amazes me. I learned so much new information, information that will actually be useful when I land my dream job. I surprised myself with how much stamina and drive I sometimes didn’t know I had.

Surely, though, you won’t be surprised that the end of finals was cause for celebration and relaxation!

The novelty and excitement of starting veterinary school wore off and winter break was spent refueling. I returned to the clinic where I got my start to immerse myself back in the clinic culture and put my new knowledge to the test.

It was fun to see patients again and watch the veterinarians care for them from a first-year students’ perspective. Watching surgeries and actually knowing the anatomy or seeing a patient and understanding the disease process justified all of the study time and created excitement to return to Texas A&M for my second semester.

As the second semester commences, it’s time to draw on everything I learned about myself from last semester and the experiences over winter break to finish my first year strong.

I will take things one week at a time. I will ask for help when I need it. I will exercise regularly and feed my body well. I will give each class my best effort. And I will be a second-year veterinary student in just four short months!

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!