Story by Dorian Martin
Growing up in Houston, Asucena Ochoa ’17 had few opportunities outside of her high school agriculture classes to be around livestock.
Now thanks to the innovative Veterinary Education, Research and Outreach (VERO) program, a partnership between Texas A&M University’s College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) and West Texas A&M University (WTAMU), Ochoa and seven other Texas A&M students spent the summer gaining that experience by participating in a veterinary internship in the Texas Panhandle.
The VERO Food Animal & Rural Practice Summer Internship Program, housed at WTAMU, in Canyon, gives students a chance to explore another side of the veterinary profession through working with beef cattle, swine, and dairy cattle, the latter of which has been the focus of Ochoa’s summer studies.
The setting is ideal because of the VERO’s close proximity to a significant percentage of the beef industry; approximately 30 percent of the nation’s beef cattle are raised within 200 miles of Canyon.
Cattle, swine, and horses
The summer internship program, now in its third year, deepens students’ knowledge base by placing them with ranches and feedlots to work with food animals and the attending veterinarians.
Interns gain a wide variety of experiences, including delivering feed, doing animal welfare checks, and working with the doctoring crew.
“Students find out whether this career path is something they want to do,” said Dr. Dan Posey, clinical professor and academic coordinator for the VERO program. “Even if they rule out practicing as a beef cattle veterinarian, they have extensive knowledge of how the feedyard works.”
Aspiring veterinarians also spend part of the summer at rural veterinary clinics in small communities such as Dimmit, Muleshoe, and Claude.
“These are excellent rural veterinarians,” Posey said. “I would stack them up against any practitioner in Texas or around the world because of the quality of medicine that they do. This experience probably defines what students do in their career because this is where we see the light bulbs really turn on.”
The internship also offers several other meaningful experiences.
For instance, students assist Posey in providing clinical services to horses at feedyards and Panhandle prison units. And in an important addition to the 2019 internship program, interns are learning about the secure beef supply plan. This plan is used to secure livestock in case of an outbreak of highly infectious and dangerous diseases, such as foot and mouth disease.
Applying classroom learning
Ultimately, these internships give students a wealth of unique experiences and the opportunity to apply what they have learned in the classroom.
“After a year of veterinary school and learning and practicing all these new things, we have all these new knowledge and skills,” said Orville Tucker, who is focusing his internship on beef cattle. “This internship has challenged me to become more competent in talking to clients about dentals or vaccines. It’s also given me practice in technical skills, such as scrubbing in for surgery and placing catheters, and critical thinking about what we want to do for our patients.”
Contact Information: Jennifer Gauntt, Interim Director of CVM Communications, Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Science; firstname.lastname@example.org; 979-862-4216