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Thursday, April 14, 2011


Author, Donald F. Smith, DVM
Date of posting: April 14, 2011

Congratulations to you who have been accepted to one of the U.S. veterinary colleges this fall. As you anticipate starting classes in just four months, let me offer some specific suggestions.

READY!  Don’t waste this Summer.  Whether you need to work, take a vacation to re-energize before classes start, or reconnect with family and friends, plan this summer in a purposeful manner. Don’t just ‘let it happen’. Determine what your personal, professional and financial goals will be for the fall, and establish a plan to achieve all of them.

Write a thank you note to those in your support network, the veterinarians and mentors who inspired your interest in animals and medicine, and your parents and family members who encouraged and helped you achieve your goals.

SET!  Get to know your College and Begin to Explore the Profession:  Every veterinary college has a story and a legacy. Discover the historical roots of your school, perhaps online or in a book commemorating an anniversary. Search your college’s web site, identify faculty whose interests match yours; write to them, introduce yourself, and make plans to meet them this fall.  

Resolve to learn about what it means to be a DVM (or VMD). Veterinary medicine is a versatile profession because the breadth and scope of our activities are almost limitless. Discover opportunities available to veterinarians beyond your own interest in shelter medicine, zoological medicine or equine practice. Read a great book on some aspect of veterinary medicine, for example, the biography of Dr. James Steele; and also on human medicine, for example, the biography of Dr. William Halsted (I have referenced these two on the side bar to this blog). Periodically check for veterinary news on the web: I find the AVMA and DVM360 sites excellent for this purpose. Also check out your state and regional veterinary association.

OPTIMIZE!  Prepare for next summer now: Your experience next summer (2012) may be one of the most important learning opportunities in your first year. Start planning now by talking to upper class students, faculty, advisors. For many students, getting out of the university town is important so you can experience the practical world of veterinary medicine. If you don't have a paying veterinary job for next summer, and earning money is important (as it will be for most of you), consider working part time as wait staff in a local restaurant during the afternoons and evening – and pursue your veterinary career during periods of times when you are not working (such as shadowing a veterinarian, working at dog or horse shows, or volunteering in a nursing home that uses animals).

Finally, I invite you to write about your experiences and goals in the comment section of this blog, sharing your ideas, challenges and opportunities. The veterinary community is small, so let’s take advantage of each others’ experiences and wisdom.

Dr. Smith invites comments at