A group of Texas A&M Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (VMBS) students recently hosted the school’s first Veterinary Education Day, a high-energy, education-driven event during which approximately 200 elementary-aged children from underrepresented populations in Bryan-College Station (BCS) experienced hands-on learning opportunities and explored the field of veterinary medicine.
Organized and hosted by VMBS Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) students, the first VetEd Day, on Feb. 25, featured a teddy bear hospital station, which provided a hands-on introduction to surgical practice through an adult-supervised stuffed-animal surgery experience; a special reading of “What’s a Real Doctor?” by Dr. Cherice Roth, a 2013 DVM graduate and the author of the picture book, which was also signed and given to each child; a reptile room, which was popular with the VetEd Day participants; presentations on animal care and guide dog interactions; and photos with Texas A&M’s mascot, Reveille.
Gregory Johnson brought his two daughters to VetEd Day and said they had a blast while exploring the field of veterinary medicine.
“This is important because it gives our kids an opportunity to be able to explore their potential,” Johnson explained. “There are some who don’t know veterinary medicine is a possible career and this gives them time to say, ‘Hey, you know what, this has awakened something within me and I want to become a veterinarian.’ So this is a great opportunity and experience.
“Kids like my daughters get to explore and define their potential on the inside of them at events like this,” he said. “It awakens some of them and inspires them in their education and future careers.”
As a student-led event, VetEd Day was entirely planned and implemented by a committee of 16 student leaders who desired to host an outreach event for underserved children in the BCS community who otherwise might not be exposed to veterinary medicine, according to Hannah Lam and Kathleen Gartner, who are third-year DVM students and co-directors of Veterinary Education Day.
“It’s really important when you’re young to dream big and find new passions,” Gartner said. “If you can start that passion early, that can help give children the intrinsic motivation to continue with that passion. It’s super valuable, and I don’t think that’s something that anyone can take away from them.”
The VMBS students who hosted the event partnered with The REACH Project, a nonprofit organization that aims to give back to Texas A&M’s “essential Aggies,” the contract and service workers on Texas A&M’s campus.
“Opportunities like these are truly transformational; many times, these children have never been to the Texas A&M campus and have no idea what it means to be a veterinarian,” said Max Gerall ‘18, the founder of REACH. “When someone grows up in a neighborhood where everyone has a service job, the youth in those neighborhoods seldom learn about any other forms of work. This was a chance to help expand their horizons and to further include them in our Aggie Family.”
Likewise, Gartner said it was important to the DVM students to give back to the families of the people who prepare their cafeteria meals, clean their classrooms, and maintain the facilities in which they become veterinarians. Texas A&M’s essential Aggies maintain nearly 5,000 acres, feed almost 68,00 students campuswide, and clean more than 200 buildings on a daily basis.
“They pour so much into the school and a lot of times they are the unsung heroes of our community,” Gartner said. “It can be easy to walk by the cafeteria or the bathroom and take the work that happens within them for granted. Those workers often go unnoticed. It’s really important to make them feel seen and appreciated. It’s also important to make sure they feel a sense of community, because they play such important roles in making our community the place we know and love.”
The inaugural Veterinary Education Day was supported by more than 130 student volunteers, along with key faculty and staff members who contributed to the outreach program’s success.
“The veterinary students, faculty, and staff who volunteered to work the event were genuinely excited about the opportunity to connect with people and to serve,” Lam said. “Selfless service is one of the core values at Texas A&M, and I think we’re all pretty passionate about it in the veterinary community. Our profession thrives when we get to work with the local community and see the value of what we do from a different perspective.”
Contact Information: Jennifer Gauntt, Director of VMBS Communications, Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences; firstname.lastname@example.org; 979-862-4216