Student Explores Texas Panhandle Veterinary Careers with VERO Tour

Story by Dorian Martin

The sweeping vistas of West Texas offer many opportunities to practice veterinary medicine–and Hannah Johnson wanted to explore her options firsthand.

A group of student, Hannah Johnson in center in black shirt, give thumbs up in front of a doorway, through which you can partially see a veterinarian preforming a surgery
Hannah Johnson, in black shirt in center, and other students visit rural veterinary clinics during the VERO Food Animal Production & Rural Practice Tour.

To do so, the third-year Texas A&M University veterinary student decided to devote part of her summer participating in the Veterinary Education, Research and Outreach (VERO) Food Production Tour.

The six-day tour, offered through an innovative partnership between Texas A&M’s College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) and West Texas A&M University (WTAMU) in Canyon, takes students to different sites involved with the food animal production industry, as well as to rural veterinary clinics.

“For me, the tour was a chance to see more of the medicine I want to practice in West Texas and to meet new people connected to the field,” Johnson said.

Living in rural West Texas and working with animals has always appealed to the Idalou resident, who is entering her third year as a veterinary student; she sees practicing in a city like Idalou—with its population of about 2,300 people—as an opportunity to serve where veterinary services are needed most.

“I grew up in small town, Texas, and fell in love with West Texas when my family moved to Idalou before my junior year of high school,” said Johnson, who earned her bachelor’s degree in animal science from Texas Tech University in 2017.

“I can’t say there was ever a defining moment were I decided to become a vet. I was one of those kids who just always wanted to be one,”  she said. “I love working with animals and I love the medicine aspect of it, as well. Working as a technician through undergrad just cemented my desire to pursue vet school.”

A group of students pose for the camera in an indoor facility, with a row of black and white cows looking down from an upper level in the room.
Hannah Johnson, fourth from left in front row, and other students visited numerous production facilities during the VERO tour.

The Food Animal Production & Rural Practice Tour, which first started in 2008, is based at WTAMU, which is situated near a significant percentage of the beef industry. Approximately 30 percent of the nation’s beef cattle are fed within 200 miles of Canyon.

Students visited clinics in Muleshoe, Panhandle, Dimmit, and Dalhart, where they saw a wide range of veterinary practices that serve the needs of their rural communities. They offer traditional veterinary services for their food animal producers but offer veterinary care, including acupuncture, for their companion animals and equine clients.

They also saw how these practices interacted with the beef cattle, dairy, and swine industries. The students also learned more about the animal production industry through visiting a Holstein feed yard, a packing plant, WTAMU’s meat science facility, and Texas Cattle Feeders Association’s diagnostic lab.

Johnson, who was among 13 Aggies who participated in the 2019 Food Animal Production & Rural Practice Tour , found the trip deepened her knowledge and sparked her interest.

“I learned so much about practicing medicine in the food animal industries,” Johnson said. “It is very different from small animal medicine where each individual patient is brought in, versus with food animals, where the herd is the focus.”

Ultimately, the tour is designed to provide insights into potential career paths that students might not otherwise consider.

“When they go to the dairies and feedlots, they see how these animals are actually cared for and the important leadership role that the veterinarian plays,” said Dr. Dan Posey, VERO academic coordinator. “It’s all about taking care of animals.”

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For more information about the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, please visit our website at vetmed.tamu.edu or join us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Contact Information: Jennifer Gauntt, Interim Director of CVM Communications, Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Science; jgauntt@cvm.tamu.edu; 979-862-4216