Our love affair with all animals is astounding. Veterinarians are regarded with a high degree of respect by animal lovers the world over. However, it takes much more than a love of animals to succeed as a member of this proud profession. A passion for the sciences and an analytical mind are also essential!
Veterinary medicine consistently ranks among the most respected and admired professions. Pet owners and animal lovers think highly of veterinarians, but many don’t know the incredible amount of schooling and debt incurred when striving for the degree of Doctor of Veterinary Medicine.
Also, many do not know that we do so much more than just “take care of animals.” While true, many are unaware of the incredible diversity of careers found in the veterinary profession. Not only do veterinarians care for our companion animals and our livestock, but also veterinarians play important roles in medical research that benefits both people and pets or even helping governments track and prepare for newly emerging diseases. Veterinarians are active in the military, our food inspection services and in the public health sector. Veterinarians are a major factor in pharmaceutical companies that develop new medications to help animals and humans.
So, what does it take to become a veterinarian?
First, good grades throughout high school and an undergraduate program in college are essential. Course work should be strong in math and sciences, but it is also important for the student to be well rounded. As an example, communication courses are vital as the majority of veterinarians will need to effectively explain complex medical diseases and terminology to pet owners or ranchers and farmers.
These early years are also a great time to focus on finding a job or volunteer opportunity that provides hands-on experiences with animals. Veterinary hospitals and animal shelters often accept school-age volunteers, but don’t forget about the possibilities offered by Future Farmers of America programs or the local 4H. These days, weeks and months of working closely with animals can help a prospective veterinary student understand the challenges of animal care.
After a minimum of two years of undergraduate work, the process for applying to veterinary school can begin. Competition for the open spots is extremely fierce. There are 28 schools of veterinary medicine in the United States, with four in Canada and another four in the Caribbean. Compare that to the 134 human medical schools in the U.S. Also, each of these universities generally only accepts about 100 students for each veterinary class, meaning that about 3,000 slots are available for each new class. Human medical schools graduate about 20,000 new doctors each year.
Once accepted, new veterinary students will find their school days regimented and filled with an incredible amount of information. For the first two years, the focus is on the sciences. Lectures on the anatomy of various animal species, physiology, microbiology and many more subjects are the focus.
Then, as the students progress into their third and fourth years, all of the information they committed to memory can now be used in a practical manner, as they move toward more hands-on work in the veterinary teaching hospitals and labs. Students interact with veterinary instructors and actual clients as they learn the important skills of client interaction. These soon-to-be veterinarians also find opportunities to assist in surgeries, extensive dental procedures; and, of course, daily rounds with the attending veterinarians at the hospital.
When graduation finally arrives, the learning and education process is not over. In order to practice veterinary medicine, new graduates must pass national and state board exams. Then, even as they are learning the expertise of daily routines at their new job, continuing education is a requirement of all veterinarians. CE helps veterinarians stay on top of a variety of technological and treatment protocol changes.
Some veterinarians continue their education, specializing in areas like dentistry, radiology or even lab animal medicine. There are almost 40 different specialty organizations, and veterinarians who seek to become a specialist may add another four to six years to their education.
As you can see, becoming a veterinarian not only takes passion and intelligence, but a lifetime commitment as well. The degree of “Doctor of Veterinary Medicine” is one of diversity, and is certainly a rewarding profession.
Dr. Jim Humphries is a house call veterinarian in Falcon. He also serves as a visiting Professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M University. He lives in Falcon with his wife, horses and Great Danes. http://www.MobilePetDocs.com