Year of Graduation: 2009
Major: Liberal Studies
Continuing Education: Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, University of Illinois
Please give a brief description of your graduate program and what it entails?
The veterinary program at the University of Illinois is for those who want to get a DVM (Doctor in Veterinary Medicine). The program is four years in length and consists of both classroom work and clinical work. During the first year, you'll be introduced immediately to clinical experience during the first half of your first semester and the rest of your first year will consist of classroom work. Second and 3/4 of third year will be mostly classroom work with about a semester of purely clinical experience interwoven between the 2nd and 3rd years. The latter half of third year and 3/4 of fourth year are entirely clinical experience.
Getting a DVM is not by any means an easy road. It requires diligent studying, self-discipline, organization, and a right mind set. However, it is very "do-able" - if you are serious about it and are able to do what it takes to achieve it.
As far as the degree itself, a DVM will take you so many places and will absolutely take you out of the clinic or office setting if that is what you can't stand (if you're like me!). You can work in a vast array of settings (government jobs, private industries, drug companies, etc.) and have flexible hours. Veterinarians are in such high demand almost everywhere in the US and abroad, you will never have a problem finding a job.
What path did you follow to arrive to this graduate program?
I deviated from the norm on this one. Instead of going with a plain ol' biology or chemistry degree, I chose Liberal Studies because it allowed me to complete the required course work (pre-requisites) for vet school and connect my various internships with animals with my learning in the classroom. In the Liberal Studies major, I concentrated in the sciences and psychology because I felt a good vet needs knowledge of both to succeed in the "real world". Vet med is just as much a people-orientated profession as it is animal-orientated.
What advice/suggestions would you have for students who might be interested in your career?
Go with your heart on choosing a major in college before vet school. Don't go with something that you think the admissions people will want to see. Go with what lights your fire the most. Remember, you can major in art and still get into vet school and do well as long as you have all the required courses. If biology is your charm, then go for it! But, if not, don't sweat it. Just find the major that best fits with your passion and can accommodate your future goals in life.
The best thing my parents told me to do during college was keep an open mind. Let college happen to you and take it for all it's worth. Take classes you want to take, challenge yourself, and try new things. At the end of it all, if vet school is still your calling, then that's great; but if something else pulls you in a direction you'd thought you'd never take, let it take you. Vet school will always be there as an option for you.
What skills are important in your field?
The number one skill in veterinary medicine (for the most part) is being a master at communication with people. The profession is just as much a 'people practice' as it is an animal practice. Animals can't speak for themselves and the data you are collecting comes from the owner, producer, farmer, etc., and you have to learn to work with them in order to get to the bottom of the issue, which is not always easy!
What are the most challenging and satisfying parts of your job?
The most challenging part of the field is figuring out what the problem with an animal (or animals) is with the information the owner has given to you. Sometimes this information is limited and you have to play "detective" a lot of the time. One of the other challenging aspects of veterinary medicine is having to accept the fact that you will not be able to save every animal that comes in the door. However, for every animal you do save, it makes up for the ones that you don't. It has a funny way of balancing itself out.
The most satisfying part of my job is helping to make the lives of people and animals (and yes, I guess the world) a little bit of a happier and healthier place. Animal medicine is people medicine in the public health sense. And usually, when the animals are happy, their owners are typically happy as well. I like to see a smile when I leave a farm or when a client walks out of the office. My hope is, I've made their lives a little bit brighter by ensuring they have healthy animals.
What activities/experiences were helpful at CSB/SJU (and elsewhere) in preparation for your current career?
Needless to say, CSB/SJU has an excellent science program. These classes absolutely were helpful in my veterinary classroom work. However, the other courses I took helped me as well as they rounded out my education. In total, my experience at CSB/SJU instilled in me the self-sufficiency, discipline, wisdom, and the heart to carry on with my aspirations in life. I could have chosen any other school, but the smallness and tight-knit community at CSB/SJU allowed me to thrive rather than to stay alive as I would have at another institution. It's a wonder that a small school in MN has made such a big impact on my life!