Baby Dog-tors

Brandi M.One of the most highly anticipated days for a veterinary student is the day you do your first spay or neuter in third year. That day is almost here for me!

We have put in so much time and effort to get to this point, and I’ll have to admit, there are some times that I feel out of my depth facing clinics next year. Despite all of the information I’ve crammed into my head over the past two years, I realize that just knowing all the medicine doesn’t fully prepare you to practice medicine. Surgery, especially, is one of the most daunting hurdles to reach and is a rite of passage for students.

The really cool thing about third-year surgeries is that not only are we forwarding our experience in school, but we’re also giving back to the community. All of the animals are from local animal shelters; the school provides the surgeries free of charge for shelters and future owners to encourage adoption, because spays and neuters are one of the most costly parts of adopting an animal. Spaying and neutering also will prevent aggressive behavior and will remove the risk of infection (most commonly talked about is pyometra).

Every animal is assigned to a surgical group and looked after for a week, getting loved on and spoiled during their stays. We spend this time bonding with our soon-to-be patients and applying our learned knowledge to a real-life animal. The surgeries are overseen by board certified surgeons.
And then once the surgery is done and the patients have been observed for post-op recovery, they are all put up for adoption. What I think is funny is that it’s not uncommon for some of the students to inquire about their patient’s adoption status and may even adopt the animals themselves.

Ultimately, I love this feature of this profession and this school, in particular—that we actively work to the benefit of the animals in our community while also educating students to continue this service in their future careers. It’s just a part of being one step closer to becoming a full-fledged baby dog-tor!

Getting my Aggie Ring

LisaThe highlight of what has been a good third year, so far, has been getting my Aggie ring. Yup, that is right! I BTHO 90 hours, and I still cannot seem to understand how close I am to finishing college.

The Aggie Ring Ceremony was everything I heard it was, a moment full of pride. My brother was the person designated to put on my ring, and it was the best moment of 2018 yet.

My brother was chosen because he has been my No. 1 supporter of me and the travel required because of living eight hours away from home to get a great education. (He also was a Longhorn fan, so I had to show him a true Aggie tradition).

Not only that, but I also got to show my family Kyle Field and take pictures with my ring in the grand 12th Man Stadium.

It was very exciting to see how many people showed up from all over to help me celebrate my big day. I was excited for my ring, but I was in awe with the huge support system I have here at A&M and back home.

I am truly blessed as a student and individual with the life given to me. If my third year has been this great, I can’t wait to experience the rest of it.

The Value of ‘Brain Breaks’

Taylor SheffieldThe first year of veterinary school is fun, exhilarating, and, sometimes, exhausting. With the excitement of class and lab throughout the day and then coming home to study at night, we vet students occasionally forget how to step away from the books and slightly relax.

Now that the semester is half way over, I have learned that those tiny moments away from the books are essential to everyday life. At first, school seemed to take a big chunk of my time, or so I thought, and I could not possibly imagine fitting in any “brain breaks.”

Well, that did not last too long. I found my focus had started to decrease once I got home from school, and so I had to learn how to incorporate a small break here and there.

First, I decided to continue my summer exercise routine of 40 minutes a day of some kind of exercise I enjoyed. Personally, I enjoy running and yoga. Although some days I may not have all of that time, even 20 or 30 minutes of exercise is enough to get me up and away from the books. During those 30 minutes, I get my blood pumping, clear my mind, and take a step away from the bright luminesce screen. On days when studying is long and vigorous, after two hours I take a break and do a workout video from YouTube, and that short, and free 20, minutes of exercise is just enough to get me up out of my chair and reset my brain.

There are days when exercise is just not appealing, so other little stress relievers are useful. Coloring while listening to music, doing a load of laundry, baking a cake, taking 10 minutes for meditation, or even vacuuming up the apartment are all ways I step away from school. An even better brain break, and one I enjoy very much, as most veterinarian students do, is to play or cuddle with my cat, which releases that small amount of stress I was focusing on while studying.

Over the last nine weeks, the most important thing I have learned is to take those small breaks. I know it can be difficult at times, but those breaks help improve studying! Research has shown that our brains are not meant to look at something or stay stationary for long periods of time, so having short mental breaks, ranging from 20-30 minutes, can actually improve information retention.

So, no matter what you’re doing, remember to occasionally take a step away, enjoy the fresh air, and let the mind reset.

Kinda a Doctor

Tori ChambersSometimes, when I am caught up in the middle of a month full of tests, it’s easy for me to feel overwhelmed by the mass amounts of knowledge I have yet to conquer.

As a second-year veterinary student, there are frequent moments of great frustration when I recognize a familiar concept that is still fuzzy and not completely understood or applied yet.

But as I talk to first-year students or discuss cases with classmates, there are also many moments that medical terminology and understanding comes easily. I guess on this long road to becoming a doctor, it’s natural to be so busy studying that you don’t realize the progress as it’s being made.

It’s odd (and slightly terrifying) to think that in just two and a half years, I will be a licensed practicing veterinarian! I have so much more to learn!

I have always wanted to be a veterinarian, and as I go through more and more school, I see how much of an impact animals have in people’s lives.

My classmate told me just last week that veterinarians are providing a human service in an animal field. There’s a lot of truth to that. I love getting to help animals and, by doing so, I positively impact people’s lives.

No matter what tests I am struggling through right now, that’s the future goal I get to look forward to.

A ‘Major’ Decision

Linh N.This is my second year as a biomedical sciences (BIMS) major.

Up until the end of last summer, I thought medical school was what I wanted to pursue. Ever since high school, I’ve joined so many medical organizations and clubs to keep up with what’s going on in the field and learn more about it through other people.

My plan took a turn, however, when I went back to my motherland, Vietnam, for vacation and a shadowing opportunity. During winter break of my freshman year, since “shadowing” is not really a thing in Vietnam, my mom tried her best to get permission for me to get my shadowing hours done at one of the top hospitals there.

Even though it was a very great experience, I realized that I was not really passionate about it. I still love the idea of working in the hospital or clinic environment, where I get to help other people. However, I felt like something was missing; I didn’t feel super excited when I did my shadowing.

Last summer, I volunteered in the small adoptable dog area at the Houston SPCA. I had a chance to talk to a veterinarian and a veterinary anesthesiologist there and I never felt so excited and fascinated by listening to other people talking about their job and workplace.

My mom has always wanted me to become a doctor and I thought that was also what I wanted. But I know that deep down in my heart, I’ve always wanted to become a veterinarian.

I didn’t want to disappoint my mom so I kept it to myself and kept going forward as a pre-medical student until I got this job as a bio med ambassador. As I was shadowing other ambassadors on their tours, I got to see more than just the reception at the animal hospitals—I saw an operating surgery under a team of about 5-6 people, a veterinary dentist and his team treating a dog’s teeth while it was under anesthesia.

Seeing everyone work as a team to treat animals and talk to the animals’ owners about what’s going on with their pets, how their pets are feeling, and what they should do to help their pets feel better allowed me to picture myself in veterinarian’s position and that made me very excited.

I’ve also talked to some veterinary students and I realized that I’m actually more intrigued by our discussions about what they’re learning in veterinary school and some interesting things they’ve seen during their rotations or shadowing than listening to a discussion at a medical school presentation.

So, my second year as a biomedical sciences major will be a memorable mark on my journey—on in which I decided to pursue veterinary school and a veterinarian path.

OK…I can do This

Cortney P.My experience in veterinary school so far has been an exhilarating, eye-opening, challenging journey. While I’ve had its extreme highs and lows, I can honestly say that I have enjoyed the ride.

At the end of my second year this past spring—the halfway point in the veterinary program—however, I had a mounting fear growing in the back of my mind. I was afraid that I had spent so long in the classroom that I wouldn’t actually know what to do in a real clinical setting in which people are looking to me for answers.

To some, this may seem like an irrational fear, but to me and other veterinary students, it is a very realistic fear that we frequently struggle with. I remember thinking, “I’ve literally been in school my entire life; do I even know how to do anything other than be in school?” So that was how I ended my second year, full of self-doubt.

I didn’t intend to waste my final summer vacation, though. I reached out to numerous veterinary practices in my hometown area and asked if I could do an externship at their clinics. Many of them said yes and were very happy to have me. I was very excited to spend time in these clinics, but also still very nervous.

Once there, though, I was surprised to find that at the clinics I went to, I was treated by the veterinarians and their staff not as a student who didn’t know anything but as a future colleague. Veterinarians and technicians alike were happy to answer all of my questions and teach me new skills, as well. Many of the clinics I went to even allowed me to get a large amount of hands-on experience doing different things, which really helped my confidence.

Among all of the vets I shadowed this summer, their years of experience in practice ranged from one year to 42 years! This was very helpful to get to listen and learn from years of wisdom but to also get to hear from someone who was just in the same situation as I am now.

As the weeks went by, my confidence grew and my fear diminished. I realized that I was more capable than I initially thought I was.

I also realized that while I still have room for improvement in certain areas (and likely always will), there is no need to try to be perfect or even to know all of the answers right away. That is what colleagues and mentors are for—to help you along the way. And sometimes it’s important to know when you need to ask for help.

I realized from watching and working with all of these vets that I will get there someday, too, and until then I will just keep working hard and worrying less.

“Never be afraid to try something new. Remember, amateurs built the ark, professionals built the Titanic.” —unknown

‘Flying’ Through the First Semester

Hayley MorganWe are entering the seventh week of veterinary school, and I cannot believe how much time has flown by and that I am almost halfway done with my first semester!

Vet school has been a whirlwind, but I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. Yes, I’ve had to study more than I ever have before, but seeing it pay off in the end and knowing that it’s helping prepare me for my dream career makes it worth it. Learning and practicing how to perform a proper physical exam on all kinds of animals has been my favorite, so far, because it ties in the information we have learned in lecture and allows us to apply those concepts to a living animal—plus, we get to be around the animals.

Another thing that I have really enjoyed is how willing all of our teachers are to help us learn and grasp concepts and to help prepare us for the future; they keep telling us that we’d be amazed at how much we know already, even in the first semester in vet school. As we progress through the semester, I’m starting to see how true that is. Family and friends who know that I’m in vet school will contact me with questions and concerns about their pets and I feel so elated when I’m able to give them an educated answer. It really makes me feel like I’m on my way to becoming a doctor!

Adventures in Puppy Sitting

Cora and Daisy
Extroverted Daisy, posing for a picture like a good girl

Anyone with a busy internship schedule understands the time and hard work put into these opportunities. Even during the summer, these internships—combined with classes, extracurricular activities, and other obligations—leave very little time remaining in BIMS students’ schedules, to look for a job that fits around your availability.

However, my luck came in the form of a Facebook post and pushed me into some form of an entrepreneurial venture I had never imagined—pet sitting!

My neighborhood’s community Facebook page has proved to be an efficient source for advertising yourself and your experiences. One day, a neighbor posted to our page asking for someone to care for their two dogs while they were away on vacation. Immediately, I was intrigued. Taking care of cute dogs and getting paid to do so? It can’t get much better than that!

Throughout the summer, I was able to fit in multiple families at a time. I quickly formed a routine of waking up early before my internship to attend to the various dogs. In the evening, I would return to the route of dogs I cared for. The days were long and often tiring, but the dogs made it all worth it.

I pet sat for more than 20 families during a few months. Typically, the dogs were friendly and energetic; they would welcome treats as warmly as they welcomed me. That is, until I met a black and white whippet named Gracie. She has a Border Collie-mix sister named Daisy, who was Gracie’s polar opposite, personality wise. Daisy was the first to greet me at the door and the first to beg for love and attention. Gracie was naturally scared of everything, particularly strangers. I knew I would have a hard time getting through to her, but I never realized how it would affect me.

Cora with Daisy playing
Gracie finally emerges to play with Cora!

The first few days I cared for Gracie, I spent hours sitting outside of her hiding place (her kennel) and slowly feeding her small pieces of treats. I thought I could lure her out of her kennel with food and show her I wouldn’t hurt her once she emerged. Every time I thought she trusted me, I would reach out to her, but she would quickly dart back inside. After days of doing this, I was at a loss of what to do. I could see deep inside her was a happy, playful dog; yet, I just wasn’t sure how to let her know she could show that side to me.

Finally, the treats and my patience won her over. It started with a few pats on the head, until eventually Gracie was jumping up and down on me, wanting me to play with her. Gracie’s trust in me meant so much more than I had anticipated that it would. In fact, Gracie reminded me of why I love animals so much. Once you prove they can trust you, they’ll love you forever.

Last summer, I gained great experience in animal handling and care. I had expected to learn about animals during my internship at a small animal hospital. Yet, I never knew I could learn so much about animals by simply caring for them.

More importantly, I didn’t know how much I could learn about myself.

Taking on Phoenix

Rebecca at Quizbowl
Third-year veterinary students Ryan De Vuyst, Reagan McAda, Rebecca Gooder, and Kale Johnson prepare for the Quiz Bowl Competition.

Recently, 10 Texas A&M veterinary students, including myself, traveled to Phoenix, Arizona, for the 51st annual American Association of Bovine Practitioners (AABP) Conference. As if simply attending my very first AABP conference wasn’t exciting enough, three fellow third-year veterinary students and I had the opportunity to compete in the Quiz Bowl competition!

The Quiz Bowl is bracket-style competition, during which students must not only be well-versed in a variety of bovine veterinary medicine related topics, but also have lightning-fast fingers in order hit the buzzer before another team does! While our team, unfortunately, did not advance out of the first round (congratulations to University of Georgia for winning our round and the entire competition!), it was still a very fun, worthwhile experience and I am proud of our team!

The AABP Conference also offered a trade show with more than 100 exhibitors ranging from pharmaceutical and ultrasound companies to our very own Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory! The most beneficial part of the trade show, for me, was learning about a student loaner ultrasound program, through which students can request to borrow an ultrasound for use during a two-week externship. As someone who plans to practice dairy medicine, the opportunity to have substantial reproductive ultrasound experience prior to graduating from vet school is HUGE and I am so excited about taking advantage of this opportunity.

When not wandering around at the trade show, talking to company reps and snagging some cool freebies, you could likely have found me sitting in on the dairy sessions. What was neat about the AABP conference is that they offered concurrent dairy, beef, practice-management and student sessions—something to pique everyone’s interest! Talks on the use of thoracic ultrasound to monitor lung health in dairy calves, antimicrobial stewardship (presented by Texas A&M’s own Dr. Virginia Fajt), and field necropsy were just some of the many diverse topics aimed at equipping us to embody this year’s conference theme to “Become Indispensable.”

Another highlight of the conference was the opportunity to reconnect with friends made at past externships, as well as meet other students and veterinarians. We came to Phoenix from all over the country, but we all have one thing in common—we are proud to be future and current bovine practitioners and will continue to strive to do the best job we can protecting the beef and dairy industries.

The countdown is on for next year’s AABP conference in St Louis, Missouri! 🙂

A ‘Test’-y Situation

carter mcadooAs I’m writing this, I am finishing up my fifth week of classes in my first year of veterinary school.

At this point I have had an anatomy exam, a physiology exam, and my first immunology exam.  I am a little worn out, but the one thing that never fades is how much I am loving vet school. I have been working toward this goal my whole life and because of that I am truly enjoying my time.

The things we are learning have a new level of pertinence to them and I am trying to soak up as much as I can. We have had multiple opportunities to get hands-on experience with animals, which makes the whole process so much fun.

It is a lot of hard work being in vet school, but my experiences during my undergraduate career are helping me to be successful. Being a biomedical sciences student as an undergraduate, I learned how to effectively manage my time and focus on my studies. Taking classes like anatomy and physiology in my undergraduate days also set me up for success in my first graduate years. I am very happy that I made the choice, four years ago, to pursue a degree in biomedical sciences.