Finding Ways To Serve In Veterinary School

By Reagan S. ’27, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine student

As I go through vet school, I find I’m grateful for the many veterinary learning opportunities I had access to in my high school years. Recognizing the importance of these opportunities has made me want to find ways to serve and provide similar opportunities to others while I’m in veterinary school.

Taking Inspiration From Mentors

Early on in high school, my vet and mentor Dr. Jason Thorne taught our 4-H club how to bandage horses, take vital signs, and other important aspects of horse care. He continued to serve through teaching the FFA veterinary science team different tools and treatment techniques that he used in everyday practice.

Another opportunity I had was the Oklahoma 4-H program, through which our local Equine Extension Specialist put on a Horse Science Academy. Every year we learned new skills, including how to test the nutrient levels of hay, horse first aid, tests for intestinal parasites, equine heart anatomy, and more. There were many more events I attended, and many of these opportunities were events or programs that required many volunteers to make it happen.

Paying It Forward

I realized in high school how important these opportunities were for me. The leaders of the events encouraged me to pursue vet school, and they gave me connections, opportunities to gain useful skills, and a space to explore veterinary medicine. I decided to ‘pay it forward’ and help with some of the activities that had been crucial in helping me explore my passion for animals and veterinary medicine. I gave speech writing and speech coaching workshops in the barn where the group met (with breaks to visit the horses of course!). The 4-Hers were all interested in horses, so I helped them find different horse topics they were curious about, helped the younger ones with typing their speeches, and coached them through how to practice and deliver them.

Creating Ways To Learn

Knowledgeable owners are key in keeping their animals healthy, so I designed a scavenger hunt for my local 4-H Horse Club with puzzles and clues that had to be solved with knowledge of horse diseases. The week before the hunt, I gave the kids a packet of information I had compiled over vaccines and how common diseases are spread, what causes the specific disease, and disease symptoms. The kids read over the information that week and then got to apply their knowledge working in teams to solve puzzles and get the next clue. Everyone had lots of fun during the event, and one mom told me her daughter liked it so much she wanted to do it for her birthday party!

Inspiring The Next Generation

I continued to find other service opportunities in veterinary school. One opportunity was Veterinary Education Day at the Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, where over 200 local elementary-aged kids got to explore being a veterinarian. I was selected to be a co-leader to plan events focused on learning about large animals (horses, cattle, sheep, goats, and pigs). As the co-leader, I planned and gathered supplies for a horseshoe matching game, learning how to rope, a model on how horses see, how to make butter and where it comes from, and more fun and educational stations! I also continue to coach the local FFA veterinary science team and do educational workshops for my local 4-H club.

Giving Back In Veterinary School

I have discovered that there are many ways to serve while in veterinary school, and often many service opportunities closely align with my schedule as well as my interests and passions. For anyone looking to give back to their community, there are often several groups in your area that align with your interests that need volunteers throughout the year. I know volunteers were a crucial part of encouraging me and helping me discover my passion for veterinary medicine. Volunteering is a rewarding experience and can take many different forms, and you never know when you might make a positive, lasting impact on those you serve.

5 Tips for Surviving Vet School Finals

By Blake O. ’26, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine student

Finals week is scary. No matter what stage of education you are in, a week of high-value exams is not for the faint of heart.

In vet school, it can understandably be quite daunting with the volume of material you are learning. However, just because finals week is scary doesn’t mean students need to be afraid of it. I have found that with the right mindset and a few key perspective changes, I have learned to survive (and dare I say, even enjoy) finals week.

Here are five of the tips I follow to help me get through finals week each semester.

No.1 – Set Reasonable Goals

Vet school finals are challenging enough! There is no need to set goals that make it even harder. Before the exams start, sit down, grab a calculator, and figure out where you stand. Set your final grade goal and figure out what you need to score to make that grade. The only difference between a 100% and that minimum score is that the 100% is going to require a lot more stress and work on your part.

    No. 2 – Get Into A Routine

    Once the week starts, it’s time to get into your marathon mindset. Come up with a schedule that is sustainable and leaves room for self-care. Set a sleep schedule, mealtimes, and time to relax. Then, protect that time! No matter how stressed you are about studying, you will be better off with a balanced schedule instead of cramming.

    No. 3 – Take It One Day At A Time

    Effective goal setting requires short and long term goals. Finals week is a time to focus on the short-term. While looking ahead is great, don’t let the exam on Friday stress you out all week to the point where Monday through Thursday’s exam grades suffer. I try to dedicate as much of my study time as possible to the immediate next test, and if I feel confident, only then do I start looking ahead.

    No. 4 – Don’t Be Afraid To Switch Your Study Style

    The part about finals week that trips a lot of people up is that you have to switch mental gears much more quickly than usual. So, if you want to avoid the pitfalls of finals, be flexible! This is especially true when it comes to study techniques. Reading radiographs and performing surgery are very different skills, so why would studying for classes like Diagnostic Imaging and Principles of Surgery look the same? If you feel like you are hitting a wall, try a different approach.

    No. 5 – Remember Your Self-Care

    Yes, finals are important. They hold a lot of weight and can even make or break your success in certain classes. But, ultimately, your well-being is more important. In the long run, staying up all night, chugging coffee 24/7, and rewatching every lecture in the entire course will cause more harm than a bad grade on one test. So, don’t hesitate to take breaks when you need it, and don’t feel guilty about studying less than you feel you should.

    Finals week is scary. But it is just a week. It will happen, and then it will be over. So, don’t let stress take control of your life. Hopefully these tips help you. Happy studying!

    Tips For Being Married In Vet School

    By Soha L.’25, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine student

    A young man in a navy blazer and a woman in a white medical coat standing in the shade under a tree.

    If you find yourself taking an alternative route before applying to or starting veterinary school, know that you are not alone! Soon after completing my undergraduate degree in 2019, I got engaged and therefore decided to take a couple of years off from school to work, live life, and get married.

    At the time, I had no idea how much having a spouse during vet school was going to shape my life. If you are lucky enough to be in a committed relationship with someone who is willing to move anywhere with you and help you follow your dreams, then I have some tips for being married in vet school for you!

    Make Time For Each Other

    Always make time to go on dates and spend quality time together that does not revolve around vet school. You will spend more time than you think sharing your experiences with your partner/spouse, and while I’m sure they want to be supportive, it’s considerate to give them a night off and just make time for them.

    Take Your Spouse To Outings With Classmates

    It was a little difficult at first for my husband to make friends with everyone since we talked about school a lot and he couldn’t relate. You will form a family-like bond with your classmates over the years with people that genuinely love you and will be supportive of everything about you. Over time, my classmates and I realized how much we have in common aside from school, and not only did my friendships grow with them but my husband has become much closer with them as well.

    Don’t Forget To Support Them, Too

    Lastly, you will feel like you’re having some of the hardest moments of your life during vet school due to the academic rigor, isolation from friends and family who predate your veterinary school admission, and constant pressure. At the end of the day your spouse is who keeps you smiling through it all. But understand that they are going through hardships too and constantly supporting you, so always give your support back.

    It may seem difficult to prioritize and set aside the time for a partner/spouse during vet school at first, but you quickly realize that this person is going to be there with you every step of the way and be there for you when you need support most. From when you get your acceptance letter, Aggie ring, and white coat, to when you’re feeling burnt out and defeated, your better half will always be there cheering you on.

    Gearing Up For The Fourth Year Of Veterinary School

    By Elizabeth G. ’25, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Student

    Five young women wearing white physician lab coats standing in a line with their thumbs up.

    In less than two months, the Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences’ Doctor of Veterinary Medicine class of 2025 will begin their clinical rotations at the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital! This is a very exciting time for third-year veterinary students as we get closer and closer to finishing the classroom portion of the curriculum and start applying our knowledge to real-world situations.

    Last fall, in November of the third year of our DVM studies, we selected which clinical track we wanted to participate in for fourth year, which decides the types of two-week rotations we take during our final year. We were able to choose between small animal, mixed animal, equine, production animal, as well as alternative. I chose the small animal track. 

    Throughout our fourth year we are also allowed time off-campus for externships. Externships are a great way to visit prospective clinics where we may want to apply after graduation or gain unique clinical experiences. For example, I have an interest in small exotics and have decided to visit small animal and exotic animal veterinary clinics for my upcoming externships.

    At the beginning of the spring semester, we received our fourth-year clinical schedules.  It’s an exciting time to find out which rotation will be your first, as well as comparing with friends to see whom you will be working with throughout fourth year. As a part of the spring semester leading up to clinics, we are also enrolled in a course called Clinical Experience. This class allows us to get familiar with the many moving parts of our clinical year so that we’re better prepared when we hit the clinic floor!

    Most recently, on Saturday March 23, the class of 2025 received their white coats, signifying our transition into our clinical year. The ceremony was such a wonderful and happy time as everyone’s loved ones came to cheer us on.

    I’m excited to see what the future holds!

    Maintaining a Seasonal Job While in Veterinary School

    By Sarina M. ’26, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Student

    A nighttime photo of a woman driving a horse-drawn wagon at a Christmas theme park.

    Two years before getting admitted to veterinary school, I became interested in a rather unconventional job opportunity: being a horse carriage driver at Santa’s Wonderland. Santa’s Wonderland is a Texas-themed Christmas amusement park that brings hundreds of thousands of people from all over the state to College Station to experience good food and millions of Christmas lights. Within the park, they have a mile-and-a-half-long “Trail of Lights” that visitors can see either with a tractor-pulled hayride or a private horse and carriage.

    Before hearing about this opportunity, I had no experience with draft horses, much less any knowledge of how to drive a team of them. I devoted hours to learning how to properly harness and hook up a pair of horses to a carriage or wagon and how to drive them safely. I had only ever ridden horses before, but I soon fell in love with this new experience.

    Thanks to working at Santa’s Wonderland, I was able to handle many different breeds of draft horses, including Percherons, Clydesdales, Belgians, and Haflingers. This was my first hands-on exposure to any of these breeds and it opened my eyes to how different these huge horses can be from standard riding horse breeds, like quarter horses. Handling and controlling two horses at one time were also brand new experiences that I found challenging in the beginning.

    This past winter marked my fourth season driving horse carriages and showing visitors the “Trail of Lights” at Santa’s Wonderland. Now, two years into veterinary school, it is harder to carve out the time to work around classes and studying; however my biggest motivation is the excitement I have developed for the job that now truly feels like a passion.

    A young woman practicing how to drive a team of white horses.

    Learning to drive a draft horse team also opened the door for other opportunities I would have never thought I’d have. For the past three years, I have been able to drive a horse and wagon in the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Parade in downtown Houston. In 2023, I was even the driver for that year’s Grand Marshal, leading the parade and being able to meet Leon Coffee, a rodeo clown and bullfighter who is famous for his contributions to the rodeo industry.

    Many people think that veterinary students aren’t able to maintain the hobbies and interests they had as undergrads, but striving for a healthy school-life balance has afforded me many unique opportunities, a means of income, and has even allowed me to develop new passions that I will take with me even after I leave Texas A&M.

    How To Navigate An Unexpected Injury In Veterinary School

    By Marisa M. ’25, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine student

    Five individuals, one in a wheelchair, pose for a photo with Reveille, a dog who is the Texas A&M Mascot.

    In the middle of the fall 2023 semester, I had a very unexpected injury. I broke my hip and was out of class for a month. When I was finally able to join my classmates again, I was in a wheelchair for the remainder of the semester.

    As a third-year veterinary student, this sort of unexpected disability threw me for a loop. I didn’t even know where to start in order to continue on in my veterinary school curriculum. Thankfully, Texas A&M made it possible for me to 1) finish my semester without delay and 2) gain the same education as my veterinary classmates!

    In light of my experience, here are a few tips to help you if you run into anything unexpected, including a disability, while going through veterinary school.

    Tip No. 1: Communication Is Key

    The first step in adapting to vet school in my wheelchair was communication, which also happens to be one of the most important skills in veterinary medicine! Whether you are communicating with an owner or with colleagues, making sure everyone is on the same page is critical to ensuring animals receive the best care.

    This injury allowed me to practice communicating with colleagues on a massive scale, and fortunately, Texas A&M professors and staff are extremely receptive to open communication.

    At first, I was worried the school would tell me I would just have to postpone my education until I had recovered. This was never the case. Every single professor, associate dean, and staff member I talked to was open to making things work for me.

    As long as everyone was in the loop, we were able to work as a team to get me caught up on exams and the material that I missed while in the hospital.

    Tip No. 2: Be Flexible

    Veterinary school is often a practice of being flexible! Regardless of disability, unexpected schedule changes and the multitude of different teaching styles one encounters in veterinary school ensures you are ready to take on whatever walks into your practice.

    My injury reinforced the lesson that there is always a way to continue on, as long as you are willing to adapt!

    For example, one clinical skill we learned this semester was how to “pull a calf.” This means to help a mama cow deliver her baby if problems arise during labor. This is typically something done standing in order to manipulate the calf how you need to. Working with my professors, we were able to modify how the teaching model was set up to ensure I could learn the same skill while sitting in my wheelchair. This minor adjustment and flexibility by all involved meant I didn’t have to wait to learn an important skill!

    Another way we were able to adapt my learning was via Lecture Capture. This is a system that records all veterinary school lectures and makes them available to the class afterward. Many vet students use it as a study aide to go back to portions of lectures that they didn’t quite understand. This was very favorable for my situation because the school allowed me to watch lectures through Lecture Capture while I was in the hospital. This ensured I kept up with material and got the exact same education as my cohort, rather than falling way behind.

    Tip No. 3: Lean On Your Support System

    It is often said that your veterinary school friends will be friends for life. We go through a lot together. Between stressful exams, tough labs, and spending all day together, we become extremely close. Of course, we also do a lot of fun activities together too outside of class.

    I always believed that having this support system while in school was important, but now I have proof that it is more than that. It is 100% necessary. While I was out of class, they visited me in the hospital to keep my spirits up, planned a coming home party, and brought teaching models for me to practice skills I had missed! One friend even made mini videos of how she learned a specific knot tie to make sure I was able to master it.

    Once I returned to school, they pushed my wheelchair through the halls to give my arms a break and helped me at every turn when things got challenging. Texas A&M students are some of the most caring and genuine people I’ve met, and their support was invaluable during this unpredictable semester.

    So, if you are going to take one thing from this blog, remember this: when you get to veterinary school, build that support system, or better yet, become a part of someone else’s, because you never know when you (or they) might need it. 

    Tip No. 4: Accessing Disabled Parking

    Lastly, one very practical aspect of returning to the school was where I was going to park. All students get an assigned parking lot with their parking permit. My lot was about a five- to seven-minute walk from the school.

    I usually enjoyed this time to be outside and get a little exercise. After my injury, that far of a walk (or roll, which would be more accurate for my wheelchair) was going to be a challenge.

    Fun fact: If you have a valid Texas A&M parking pass and a disabled parking placard, you can park in any disabled parking space across campus!

    Unfortunately, it took me a while to get my temporary disabled parking placard form the DMV, but once I was able to return to school, our Dean’s Office helped me get access to a much closer parking lot until I received my placard. This enabled me to be much closer to the building and not have to worry about getting to class on time, since rolling takes a heck of a lot longer than walking!

    While I know, in general, most people going through veterinary school won’t become temporarily disabled, a lot of my classmates have dealt with uncontrollable life hardships that had the potential to derail their schooling. I am proud to say that, using the skills I formed in my first few years here (such as communication and adaptability), Texas A&M was able to help me through my tough time without impacting or delaying my veterinary degree.

    Continuing Hobbies in Veterinary School

    By Gabriela H. ’27, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine student

    Many students believe that once they begin veterinary school, they will not have time for anything other than studying, especially time for extracurriculars. However, as a first-year veterinary student, I am proud to say that I continued my hobby of dancing.

    Three young women in purple glittery Latin dance costumes under purple and yellow lights.

    During my first semester of veterinary school, I learned that your studies can easily warp your priorities surrounding your physical health when you’re not paying attention. Yet, it is incredibly important to make sure that all aspects of your health are taken care of, including mental health, emotional health, and physical health.

    Latin dance is something that I started as an undergraduate at Texas A&M by joining a student organization called the Salsa Fusion Latin Dance Company. I quickly fell in love with dance and, luckily, was able to stay on my dance team throughout this semester. Not only is it a great way to relieve the stress that studying can cause, but it also allows me to be mindful of my own wellness.

    Although I was scared at the beginning of the semester that I wouldn’t have time for dance, I knew that it was something I needed to prioritize in my life. As I continued the semester, I realized that I made the right choice; my dance team was the physical and creative outlet I needed. I became mindful of other parts of my life and more disciplined in my studies. In turn, I was able to enjoy my first semester of veterinary school so much more!

    About 30 college students posing for a group photo at a dance competition in green (back and front row) and red (middle row) costumes.

    When you’re in veterinary school, it’s important to prioritize what is important to you. Vet school will take up some of your time, but you have enough to invest in yourself! When you take time for yourself, everything becomes easier to manage — including school. My advice for future veterinary students is to try to aim for a balanced lifestyle of both education and wellness. These habits will only benefit you once you begin and continue your veterinary career!

    Summer At The Hattiesburg Zoo

    By Nikki

    During veterinary school, the summer is a great time to take a much-needed break from all the studying and information-processing that happens throughout the academic year. However, many students also use their summers to gain more experience, find potential employment upon graduation, or to explore new fields of veterinary medicine.

    For example, I have worked in small animal medicine for six years and I had plenty of offers to work with other small animal practices this summer. However, I decided to go outside of my comfort zone this summer after I received the amazing opportunity to work at the Hattiesburg Zoo in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

    A young woman in a blue shirt holding a two-toed sloth.

    I grew up in Petal, Mississippi, which is a small town outside of Hattiesburg. As a kid, my family and I would go to this zoo weekly, so getting to work there all summer was a “full-circle moment” for me.

    The Hattiesburg Zoo is home to more than 100 different animals including a hyena family, giraffes, zebras, a variety of birds, reptiles, and amphibians. While I was there, I got to work with the veterinary team on a variety of cases while also growing more confident in my exotic animal-handling, physical exam, technical, and communication skills.

    My favorite thing about this externship was learning how to change the way I give physical exams based on the animal I was examining.

    One of the most interesting cases I got to participate in was when a female ostrich named Twig broke her humerus. This accident happened the day before I started working with the zoo, so I was there to assist in her care from start to finish.

    First, we helped transport Twig from Hattiesburg to the zoological medicine service at Louisiana State University to have her humerus surgically repaired. After her surgery, she was placed in a quarantined area to make sure she was able to heal appropriately.

    I assisted with bandage changes, taking radiographs to ensure proper healing, anesthesia, blood sample collection, and proper handling of an ostrich during my time at the zoo.

    By getting to work at the Hattiesburg Zoo, I was able to expand my comfort zone and work with species I never thought I would have. I plan to use this experience to help me gain further opportunities and pursue a career in the zoo field in the future.

    Practice Partners: A Great Way To Network

    By Alyssa H.

    Hoping to get a job when you graduate from veterinary school? Yeah, me too. Veterinary students are frequently told about the shortage of veterinarians and the need for new graduates to fill positions in the field, but how does one begin to find these opportunities?

    Thankfully, the Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (VMBS) makes that very simple for students.

    Practice Partners, a program organized by the Texas A&M Student American Veterinary Medical Association (SAVMA) Chapter, helps connect current veterinary students with job opportunities. Students can find out about participating veterinary practices in several ways, including the monthly Practice Partner Digest email.

    Practice Partners also hosts an exhibition in the fall semester, during which veterinary clinics from all around Texas — and beyond — come and speak with current veterinary students. Students have the opportunity to engage with these clinicians and practice managers through both presentations and social events.

    This year, 43 organizations from all over the country attended, wanting to speak directly with students about what they have to offer. Whether you are looking for a summer externship, a post-graduation internship, or a full-time job, presenters had it all.

    They also provided fun, informal social events for students to attend, including happy hour at restaurants around town and dinner at places like Big Shots, a golf range with virtual games. This provided an opportunity for students and veterinary professionals to interact in a non-academic setting and spend more time getting to know each other.

    These informal events are a huge benefit for students because they allow us to get to know our potential colleagues on a personal level. These interactions also create an environment for students to see the culture of the clinic in action, which is a crucial component of deciding where to work. Since connecting with potential co-workers on a professional and personal level is important for job satisfaction, these social events are a great opportunity to see where you’ll best fit in.

    Regardless of your year in the veterinary program, Practice Partners is a unique, fun way to build your veterinary network and expose yourself to new and exciting experiences that may result in that coveted job at the end of your degree.

    A Veterinary Tour Of Texas: My Summer Externships

    By Hannah J.

    As we approach the halfway mark in the fall semester of my second year of veterinary school, I can’t believe time has flown by so quickly! It seems like just yesterday that I was celebrating the end of my first year of vet school and preparing to travel around Texas for my summer externships.

    In veterinary school, we receive three months of summer vacation in between the first two years of our four-year program. Some students spend their summers taking a well-deserved break and choose to relax or travel while others spend their time completing externships at clinics, though most do a mix of both. I chose to do three two-week externships and spend the rest of my time traveling or hanging out with friends and family.

    My first externship was located in San Antonio, where I got to stay with my sister, who currently goes to medical school there. On my first day, the clinic welcomed me with open arms and made it a priority that I learned as much as I could every day I was there. Right away, I was able to start practicing taking patient histories from the clients, which is one of the major things we spent time on during the first year of veterinary school.

    An ultrasound of a patient’s urinary bladder.

    In vet school, we practice taking histories by having simulated encounters with local actors hired by the school play the role of a pet or livestock owner, which allows us to learn a variety of communication skills. In San Antonio, I put these skills into practice by greeting real clients in the exam room, building rapport, and taking the history for their pet. I was with the veterinarian on each case from start to finish, and I also got to observe a variety of dental procedures and surgeries.

    My next externship took me about 40 minutes away from San Antonio to the city of New Braunfels. I had never visited New Braunfels before and was very excited to be staying there for my externship.

    One of the most exciting parts of this externship was getting to work with a variety of exotic patients as part of the daily caseload. During my undergraduate years, I went on a study abroad program to South Africa and was an intern at the Dallas Zoo, so I have some experience with large animal exotics and was looking forward to having new experiences with small animal exotics such as snakes, cockatiels, and guinea pigs. One of my favorite memories from this externship was going on a house-call to a kangaroo ranch where we treated a kangaroo that had been bitten by a rattlesnake.

    An X-ray of an otter from one of my externships.

    My last externship took place in West Texas in a town called Big Spring. I was looking forward to this externship because it would be at a diagnostic hospital that receives unique referral cases in the area. This hospital also routinely uses ultrasound and CT scans to help diagnose patients.

    A smiling woman performs an ultrasound on a dog.
    Performing an ultrasound on a dog during one of my externships.

    As an extern there, I got to use many of the clinical skills I had learned during my first year of veterinary school. I practiced blood draws to use for canine heartworm tests, physical exams on cats and dogs, and even abdominal ultrasounds. For each case that came in, I worked closely with the veterinarian. The most memorable part of was performing my first spays on dog and cat patients. I also got to see how a CT scan is set up and performed.

    Reflecting back on my summer experiences has made me realize how much I have learned and how often I was able to put the knowledge and clinical skills that I gained during my first year to use in a real-life setting! It was a very busy summer of continuing my veterinary education, but it was worth it because of all the opportunities I had. Thankfully, there was still plenty of time to relax with my family and friends and get ready for the next year.