As veterinary medicine continues to evolve, there has been an increased focus on innovation and entrepreneurship in the field.
Since the summer of 2016, the Veterinary Entrepreneurship Academy (VEA) has combined veterinary students, academic institutions, startup partners, and veterinary practices to accelerate animal heath innovation and empower the next generation of veterinary practitioners.
As a part of the program, students from all over the country participate in internship projects with startup companies and a challenging curriculum designed to give the students real life experience with innovation and entrepreneurship.
This past summer, four students from the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) and one from the College of Agriculture & Life Sciences embarked on their journey with VEA—one that would advance their learning and unlock new tools, technology, and resources for veterinary medicine.
Registration for the 2019 program will begin in October. For more information, visit www.vea.vet.
With a passion for agriculture and an entrepreneurial mindset, first-year veterinary student McCalley Cunningham searched for a career path that would allow her to combine both of her interests. After learning more about the veterinary program at Texas A&M and the opportunities offered by the VEA, Cunningham knew she had found her calling.
“I love creating something, taking an idea and turning it into a product or service,” Cunningham said. “I love seeing that you can actually make your own impact in your own way, and that’s how I knew that was what I wanted to do. Whatever career I went into, I wanted that to be my focus.”
Cunningham was placed on the independent track with VEA, meaning she did not work with a company but instead worked online to develop her own ideas and business plans.
“We walked through the business model canvas, learning about value proposition and customer segments, and we gained an understanding for what those things meant,” she said. “We were able to get a basic understanding of business and entrepreneurship, what that looks like, and how you need to go about doing those things.”
Her team held video meetings each Tuesday and Thursday to discuss their experiences, challenges, and new business plan developments.
For Cunningham, the most valuable aspect of these video meetings came from listening to guest speakers who offered their insight into the world of veterinary medicine.
“I feel like the VEA really prepared me to come into my first year of veterinary school,” she said. “Now, I hear my teachers talking about something and I can actively solve the problem because I have the resources to do so. This will be a huge platform for me to use the next four years.”
Elizabeth Crowling, a second-year veterinary student, began her summer with the VEA with an open mind and an eagerness to learn.
Crowling, who has always had an interest in veterinary medicine, worked remotely with the startup company BabelBark. Throughout the summer, she learned the ins and outs of developing a business, created demos, and traveled to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) convention in Denver to present those demos.
Along with her influential internship at BabelBark, Crowling enjoyed the classroom aspect of the VEA, where she learned to think like an entrepreneur.
“I didn’t even know what a business plan was before I started, so I loved getting to go through that process and learn about finances and what we actually need to look for in our businesses,” she said. “Now I feel like whenever an idea comes, I have the tools to actually make it happen, and I know the people to contact for help.”
With the experience of the VEA under her belt, Crowling feels confident and excited to take on the next year of veterinary school.
“I feel that going into this year, I am going to think about things differently,” she said. “Now, when I come up with a new idea or run into a problem, I will be able to reference and connect the knowledge I learned during my summer with the VEA and make things happen from there.”
For Brianna Boyle, a third-year veterinary student, the VEA was an exciting, intriguing way to gain more experience in the veterinary industry.
“I was searching for something different than the typical clinical or shadowing experience that you do over the summer as a veterinary student,” Boyle said. “Plus, I’ve always had an entrepreneurial mindset, so when I heard about the VEA, I thought, ‘Why not?’”
Boyle, who discovered her passion for animals at a young age, interned with the Veterinary Innovation Council.
“It was energizing to see inside the industry and learn about what’s going on in our profession,” she said. “Having the opportunity to network with industry veterinarians was really inspirational.”
Before the VEA, Boyle said she was expecting to learn the basics of how to run your own veterinary practice. However, the in-depth knowledge and experience she gained over summer exceeded all of her expectations.
“I never thought that I could actually create a product, but I always have new ideas, and this really opened that door for me and got me thinking, ‘Wow, I could really do this,’” she said. “I think it’s important for those of us who have been through the VEA to go out and tell others that there is so much out there and so many different things they can do with their DVM degree.”
As a young boy, Thomas Peltier knew he wanted to pursue a career in the medical field. As he got older and his love for animals grew stronger, Peltier knew veterinary medicine would be the perfect profession for him.
Now a third-year veterinary student, Peltier felt the VEA would supply him with the experience and knowledge necessary to own his own practice later on in life.
While he enjoyed learning how to create and budget for a business, Peltier was pleasantly surprised by how much he enjoyed working with Scopio, the startup with which he was placed.
“Working with Scopio was one of the best experiences I have ever hand, hands down,” he said. “To be a part of a company that is still up-and-coming in veterinary medicine was huge for me. Where else do you get the opportunity to influence a startup company and suggest things that could be beneficial for them down the road? I would do it again and again, 100 times over if I could.”
Since the VEA, Peltier’s has extended his sights and career aspirations far beyond what they once were. He recommends the academy to any veterinary student looking to make a difference in the industry.
“This experience made me aware of what else is out there,” he said. “Before this program, I was resigned to working in a small animal practice and making that my career, but now I know there are things other than a clinic that can have a lasting impact on the field; to have an impact that’s far reaching is a great way to leave your mark on the industry.”
Growing up around the medical field, Stephanie Young, a sophomore animal science major, always knew she wanted to pursue a career in medicine.
It was not until high school that Young become passionate about veterinary medicine, and after noticing a gap in post-operative care while shadowing at a clinic, she began inventing a wireless monitoring device for dogs.
Once in college, Young set her inventions aside, thinking her ideas were too far-fetched, and focused her attention on school—that was, until she discovered the VEA.
Through the VEA, Young worked in Portland with Mars Banfield. She assisted a startup digital health team, running trials, and implementing ideas in the BluePearl and Banfield Hospitals.
“When I first started, I did just about anything I could get my hands on, and as I kept working, the projects got bigger and bigger,” she said. “I loved working with them, and they even gave me the opportunity to represent their Pet Insight Project at AVMA, which was really fun.”
Young kept track and wrote down everything she learned through the VEA curriculum, and said she constantly refers to that information for guidance.
“I feel like the VEA gave me all of the resources to succeed because I went in not knowing how to get from point A to point B and then learned everything I need to get there,” she said.
That included renewing her energy toward the device she had invented in high school; she has now started the patent process for that device.
Although Young said she is not where she wants to be on her inventing and veterinary path just yet, she is more confident in her ideas and her ability to make things happen.
“Knowing all of these like-minded people that want to advance the industry is great because a lot of people in the veterinary industry have tunnel-vision when it comes to innovation,” Young said. “Having students, especially undergraduate students, able to relay this message and let others know that there is more out there for them has been the greatest impact of the program.”