55th Open House brings surrounding community together

On April 6, the College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) opened its doors to nearly 7,000 members of the local community, inviting them into the world of veterinary medicine. This year’s Open House represents the 55th anniversary of this beloved tradition, one that aims to connect and inspire people of all ages.

“One of the main reasons we have this event is to give a chance to everyone in our community to share what we do, provide an overview of the scope of veterinary medicine and inspire a couple of kids to go in that same direction,” said John Grealish, D.V.M. ’25, who is one of four student co-chairs on this year’s Open House planning committee. Grealish also served on last year’s planning committee.

This student-run event consisted of a team of four D.V.M. students, three licensed veterinary technicians, one faculty and two staff members, who have spent the past four months working diligently to make this day possible. The event itself had nearly 150 student volunteers and 20 CVM staff and faculty present to make things run smoothly and provide expert knowledge for the guests.

“I really enjoy being a part of Open House and seeing it all come together,” said Leslie Hopkins, licensed veterinary technician in neurology and a returning volunteer. “I work in the hospital and being able to come work with the D.V.M. students before they are fourth-year students is great.”

A family favorite event is the petting zoo. This year, the zoo was filled with goats, cows, llamas, horses, chicks, lambs and the notorious camel named Kramer. Alongside this herd was CVM legend Blossom, who educates students and the public on the inner workings of the complex cow GI tract.

A volunteer shows a raptor to the camera
The Cornell Raptor Program was one of the exhibits at the Open House. Photo: Carol Jennings/CVM

“Blossom is retiring after eight years of service,” said Emma Davis, D.V.M. ’26, student co-chair. “This event is her last appearance, and it is a bittersweet goodbye. She will spend the rest of her years grazing in a nearby pasture.”

Other classic events took place, like the local police K9 unit demonstrations, the parasitology tick races that had a stacked tournament bracket, and a horse on a treadmill.

“Historically, the Teddy Bear ER and Dress Like a Surgeon are some of our most anticipated events,” said Shareen Wong, D.V.M. ’26, student co-chair. “I was helping as a volunteer last year, so I didn’t get to see it myself, but this year, I oversee planning this event, so I am really excited. My family is coming, and my little cousin is bringing his little teddy bear to fix up.”

But there were some new activities as well that showcased the growing CVM community.

“We have an ultrasound demo on a horse this year, more focus on reproduction medicine and more entertainment for our guests,” said Davis.

The planning committee for the 55th Open House
The planning committee for this year's Open House with Gus, a golden retriever Cornell Companion, owned by Janet Gray. Top row, left to right: Amanda Mae Atkinson, Iván Solís Cruz, Dr. Keila V. Dhondt, Dr. Jai Sweet. Bottom row, left to right: Mikaela Frost, Leslie S. Hopkins, Emma Lynn Davis, Xin Rou Natalie Tan, Shareen Wong, and John Patrick Grealish. Photo: Carol Jennings/CVM

Co-chair Xin Rou Natalie Tan, D.V.M. ’26, was in charge of this entertainment. She also created a stamp passport for the kids to collect as they navigate to different activities and booths.

“We wanted to encourage visitors to explore the Open House and venture to different floors to see the range of activities being offered, even the less traversed areas are filled with fun things to do,” said Tan.

The 55th celebration also included a midday performance from viral Cornell undergraduate drumming group, the YAMATAI. Founded in 2006, this energetic group performs traditional Japanese taiko drumming and has had nine sold-out shows in recent years. “It is an honor to be here,” said YAMATAI members. “The organizers have been wonderful to work with and we love spreading the joy of taiko and seeing people happy and enjoying the music.” Some audience members remarked on how it is nice to connect with other parts of Cornell at this event.

People travel from across the Fingers Lakes Region to attend Open House. Meghan Noonan, incoming Cornell D.V.M. ’28, volunteered last year and has visited in years past with her local high school. “I love being able to see the community come together and get interested in vet med,” Noonan said.

YAMATAI performing at Open House
YAMATAI, the Cornell undergraduate drumming group. Photo: Carol Jennings/CVM

All CVM specialties had interactive rooms with specimens to touch, like an elephant heart the size of a watermelon, and animals to hold, like sugar gliders and snakes, all to demonstrate what a day in the life of each profession looks like. This includes dentistry, ophthalmology, internal medicine, neurology, cardiology, zoo and wildlife, theriogenology and an admissions panel for aspiring future Cornell veterinarians.

Joining the group this year was the Pathology Club. Microscope slides, baby elephant bones and cancerous lesions were on display with eager residents and volunteers present to answer any questions.

“Everything came together nicely this year,” said Davis. “Next year, we are hoping for a few more students to join the fray, as we want to continue to grow and add new exciting activities that really show what the CVM has to offer.”

Written by Megan Keller