When did you decide to pursue veterinary medicine?
I cannot exactly pin down when I decided I wanted to be a veterinarian, but sometime between 2nd grade and 6th grade (after I got over the paleontologist thing). I'm not sure there was one specific point. As always there is more to the story, but that was the start.
What did you do to prepare for veterinary school?
My preparation was a bit all over the place. Much of my early experience and enjoyment of the profession came from going to work with my father (also a veterinarian) during summers as a kid. Along those lines: having dogs, cats, horses, and other small fuzzy things exposed me to the animal care aspect of an animal profession. As I got older I spent part of my summers shadowing a dairy practice along with a solo small animal practitioner. Those were my only veterinary experiences. Although at some points it is hard to delineate what wasn't veterinary experience.
I really focused on what courses I took in undergrad, and I think that has made the biggest difference in what I could get out of the classroom experiences here, as well as the transition into this learning style. I really pushed my course work, not for grades, but trying to get exposed to as many relevant courses as possible. I took many non-required courses; biology of x, y and z, chemistry of every level I could get into, zoology and behavior classes, environmental and evolution courses, and most importantly human anatomy and physiology (human A&P is nearly identical to the animals we learn). I had very good exposure to nearly everything in the first year and a half of the veterinary curriculum, although I likely could tell you nothing impressive or relevant in August before starting vet school. When starting the course work, it all seemed to come back. Everything is easier the second time through!
What advice to you have for high school students who are interested in becoming a vet?
My advice to someone in high school looking to pursue veterinary medicine... In the words of Voltaire, “On dit quelquefois: ’Le sens commun est fort rare.’” or; "Common sense is not so common." Stand out, have some common sense and importantly become a well-rounded person, because this is a well-rounded profession. That sounds hokey but I could not mean it more. Veterinary medicine is a science, yes. Every 'ology' out there is applied to this profession, and we know something about each (some more than others). However, veterinary medicine is arguably a great art that is unique to how you will make it. There is not a science for being good at interacting with people from all walks of life, which is something a vet has to be able to do. Starting with veterinary school admissions, onto your classmates and professors, soon clients in the clinic, after graduation classmates and predecessors become colleagues, the local veterinary supply salesmen, the pathologist on the phone for a consult... this list goes on. You can do anything with a DVM, you control your own destiny. Have the right attitude and doors will open at the drop of a hat. It is a wonderful profession for which we are the new face.