When did you decide to pursue veterinary medicine?
I decided on veterinary medicine when I was seven or eight years old, but I didn't formally prepare for vet school until college besides building a rapport with my dog's vet and shadowing a few surgeries.
What did you do to prepare for veterinary school?
I went to Yale and majored in Molecular, Cellular & Developmental Biology. Although there weren't many hands-on animal handling opportunities on campus, I took many high-level biology classes and did six semesters of research in a genetics lab studying zebrafish embryology. I knew that I needed to use my school breaks to get as much veterinary experience as possible and fully understand the profession.
After freshman year, I completed a summer internship with the New England Wildlife Center and worked part-time with the live animal center at the Boston Museum of Science. I didn't have any previous experience with birds or reptiles, so this was a great opportunity to work with many species.
Sophomore year, I traveled to Nicaragua with World Vets over spring break to run a spay/neuter clinic. Animal overpopulation has always interested me, and I loved the challenge of preparing animals for surgery under field conditions while communicating with an underserved community that spoke limited English.
That summer, I interned with Days End Farm Horse Rescue and solidified my horse handling abilities. It was very rewarding to rehabilitate horses and help out whenever the vet or farrier came by.
After junior year, my family vet hired me as an assistant. In addition to helping with appointments and understanding how a small animal clinic operated, I got lots of client communication practice and found that I really liked talking to pet owners. I knew for sure that small animal general practice was the path for me after that summer!
What advice to you have for high school students who are interested in becoming a vet?
My advice to high school pre-vet students is first and foremost to attend a college that fits their academic, extracurricular and social goals. While there are many wonderful animal science programs out there, college can also be a fantastic opportunity to pursue other interests. (Four years of vet school is more than enough time to take serious animal classes!) I encourage everyone to be involved in their community, keep up hobbies, and develop leadership skills. Veterinary medicine involves a diverse skill set, so activities that are seemingly unrelated to animals can still be very helpful! For example, I worked as a student tech in college, a job that required learning how to troubleshoot and fix computers, talking to students about their concerns, and providing excellent customer service. I also built more people skills through running a student orchestra than I could ever learn from classes or jobs.
Of course animal experience is important too, and I suggest working with a variety of practices and species. Many organizations have structured internship programs, and it never hurts to ask if hospitals offer student shadowing or summer job opportunities. Approach each experience with a positive attitude and eagerness to learn, and the technical skills will come with time.
In terms of preparing for applications, I recommend talking to older students about their pre-vet experiences, researching vet school requirements early, keeping a personal checklist for pre-requisite classes, and logging animal experiences. I kept journals of interesting cases and pearls of wisdom from all the vets I worked with, and it was incredibly helpful to look back on those journals when it came time to fill out applications.