Twenty-two undergraduate students from around the country now have a better understanding of what it takes to become a veterinarian after spending a week at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech.

The third annual VetTRAC Summer Program offered hands-on experiences, lectures, and tours for students interested in veterinary medicine. Drawing record attendance this year, the program is one of three initiatives developed by the veterinary college for InclusiveVT, Virginia Tech’s approach to diversity and inclusion.

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VetTRAC Summer Program participant Audrey Billips, of Abingdon, Virginia, a rising junior majoring in animal and poultry sciences at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech, decided to pursue a career veterinary medicine after her first semester at the university.

“I have always grown up around animals and always loved animals, but after the first semester at Virginia Tech, I had to decide between medical school … and veterinary school,” Billips said. “After my first semester, I got a feel for what I wanted to do, especially here where there are so many resources, and we have a great veterinary college.”

According to Billips, the summer program provided information about the process for applying to veterinary school and real-life veterinary experiences. “This helped open my eyes … about the best ways to increase my chance of getting into veterinary school and also what it’s like if I actually am accepted,” said Billips, whose interests range from small animal medicine and surgery to wildlife conservation. “And you get a better feel of what it will be like as a student here.”

Throughout the week, participants like Billips gained an up-close view of veterinary medicine with tours of the university’s animal facilities and hands-on experiences.

“I really liked when we were milking the cows, and the pathology class that we had in the anatomy classroom,” said Jodi Crudup-Baker, of Newport News, Virginia, who is studying at Thomas Nelson Community College and realized her calling to become a veterinarian a couple of years ago. “I just want to save lives. I was working at a shelter and had an experience where a dog actually was having a seizure. Seeing that but not being able to do anything about that was really discouraging. That was another stepping stone as to why I want to be a veterinarian.”    

After checking in on Sunday, participants took part in introductions, ice breakers, and a tour of the college’s 270,000-square-foot complex. On Monday, they met Dean Cyril Clarke and learned about microscope setup, anesthesia basics, and radiology. Participants also learned about the veterinary college’s admissions and interview process.

On Tuesday, the students visited the college’s multidisciplinary laboratories before having lunch with the Virginia Tech women’s basketball team and touring Cassell Coliseum and the university’s athletic practice facilities. They spent the afternoon working on group projects.

On Wednesday, participants learned about the rules of surgery and career opportunities and talked with a panel of current veterinary students. In the afternoon, they toured Virginia Tech’s Dairy Science Complex at Kentland Farm, where they viewed the milking process first-hand and continued work on their group projects.

“I really enjoyed the dairy farm, mostly because in New York City we don’t have many cows,” said Ivanka Juran, of New York, New York, a sophomore biomedical engineering major at Binghamton University. “We also had a lot of great lectures, especially the one about the different career paths available in veterinary medicine.”

Juran is studying biomedical engineering because it gives her an opportunity to meld her interests in physics and biology. She also hopes that it will give her a unique perspective into veterinary medicine. “I think that an engineering background is great no matter what profession you go into,” she added.

On Thursday, the VetTRAC participants enjoyed hands-on sessions about physical exams and body condition scores before hiking the Cascades, and on Friday, they wrapped up the week with a presentation on stress-free cat handling, their group presentations, and a closing lunch and graduation ceremony.

Throughout the week, participants stayed in a Virginia Tech residence hall and had a chance to experience life at the university and in Blacksburg.

View a Facebook photo gallery with more images from the VetTRAC Summer Program.

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