Creature Comforter

Why I'm becoming a vet

“Everybody says, ‘I’ve loved animals since I was kid.’ Which is one hundred percent true for me. I would bring stray animals home constantly. I decided I wanted to get into veterinary medicine when I had an internship at the Humane Society in Waukesha. I liked the idea of being a spokesperson, in a way, for animals that [can’t communicate] how they’re feeling. It’s kind of like being a detective.

“Veterinary school is hard to get into. Almost every student has a bachelor’s degree, but you don’t technically need a bachelor’s to get in. It’s as tough as getting into medical school or dental school. There are only around thirty [veterinary schools] in the U.S., but there are a lot more medical schools than that.

“Quite a bit of human health is integrated into our curriculum. We have a large role in protecting human health. We look at what happens in animals and how that affects humans.

“The first three years of school is all bookwork, mostly. The third year we do physical exams, vaccinations, blood draws and spays and neuters on dogs and cats from the Humane Society. Your fourth year is like an internship where you [learn from] the best doctors in the state. [In your fourth year] you’re in the hospital working with veterinarians in rotations like small animal surgery, opthalmology, dermatology, radiology and more. It’s the exact same thing [as medical school], but with animals.

“The hard thing about vet school is that you have to learn about every species. You’re not just learning about the human body. You have to learn about pigs, goats, cats, dogs, horses, cows. We have to learn intimate details about these animals and their systems, and they’re all really different. It’s trying to master a large amount of material.

“I grew up around dogs and cats. But I love large animals, too, so I might end up being a mixed-animal doctor, where you work with both large and small animals.

“I don’t like birds a lot; it’s easy for them to bite you. We do labs where we work with parrots as teaching animals. One of our worst labs last year was when we had these parrots that were scared to death, and they were trying to bite us! It made me not want to work with birds; I think they’re dangerous. But I have classmates that love birds.

“We have people in our class who love large animals and are scared to death of cats. We have people who are scared of larger animals like horses, because they think they’ll be trampled. That’s the beauty of becoming a vet; there are so many different areas you can go into.”

— Amanda Stowell, 25, third-year veterinary student at the UW School of Veterinary Medicine (as of December 2008)

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