When did you decide to pursue veterinary medicine?
A lot of veterinary students say that they've always wanted to practice veterinary medicine, but at first I wasn't exactly sure what I wanted to do in life. When I was very little I was convinced I would be a paleontologist, and I seriously considered a career in physics and also a Ph.D. in biology when I was in high school. However, I knew that if I could swing it, I wanted my job to include animals in some way, so as a high school student I decided to experiment and see how I would enjoy life as a veterinarian.
What did you do to prepare for veterinary school?
I began shadowing at a local veterinary clinic the summer before my senior year of high school to "test the waters" of veterinary medicine. I also worked at a therapeutic riding stable for special needs children that summer to see what other types of animal-related jobs appealed to me. I loved working with horses, but I found that the medical element of veterinary practice was actually more appealing. I also worked for four years as a research assistant in a biology/immunology lab in college. Although my project was interesting, it convinced me that lab work was not necessarily the main career path for me.
What advice to you have for high school students who are interested in becoming a vet?
My advice to high school students is don't be afraid to try careers you are interested in! I was very nervous about contacting clinics about shadowing, but it ended up being a great learning experience and the veterinarians I worked with were used to teaching students. Also, try other animal and non-animal jobs! All experience is good experience (within reason), even if that means cleaning stalls for hours or waiting tables in a restaurant. Any skills you gain will help you in your future career!