Three questions for … CSU’s Shehnav Sekhon

Colorado State veterinary student Shehnav Sekhon, class of 2021, with a giraffe.

One of the things I enjoy most about today’s veterinary students is that they seems to have a better grasp on the range of possibilities their profession provides. Our latest featured student, Shehnav Sekhon (2021) of the Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, already knows this! He was chosen by field veterinarian Dr. Kristen Britton during her recent visit to Fort Collins.

Will you please share something unexpected you discovered on your path into veterinary medicine?

I went into veterinary medicine thinking I wanted to be a wildlife vet! I get to be outdoors, work with cool animals, travel —  what could beat that? Then I showed up to veterinary school and have been exposed to so many career paths. Army veterinarian to entrepreneur to emergency medicine: Veterinary school has been so overwhelming that during my second year I felt I lost track of my path. I had trouble focusing on school because I was worried about not knowing what I wanted to do.

I began reaching out to mentors and talked with faculty who gave me advice. They expressed to me that it’s OK not know what I want to do right away, because I have my whole life to find out. I am mindful not to shut down potential opportunities and I acknowledge that I can switch to a different career if I don’t like one .

You can only plan so far, but you can’t predict what life will be like in 10 years, or even a year from now. Veterinary medicine is a great career in that there is always more to discover, we can move on to new adventures just like that!

Shehnav Sekhon, Colorado State veterinary student, hiking with his dog. What is your vision for the future of veterinary medicine and how does it influence the way you’re preparing?

This is a question we went quite into depth with while I attended the Veterinary Entrepreneurship Academy last summer. I was matched with the Mars Digital Health Team, where we helped create new and innovative ideas for the veterinary field and would see if they fit. We explored concepts like a microscope that can scan a slide and be sent out to pathologists for interpretation, implementing a mobile truck with a surgery suite to see if it can be scaled up to use in multiple cities, and how to provide veterinary access to pets in veterinary deserts. I had no idea this side of veterinary medicine existed until this experience.

But, where do I think vet med is going? I think it’s due for a shake up. I think we need to change our practice of medicine in general. Why is it acceptable to be 5-10 years, if not more, behind than human medicine? Why is it some people say, “but, you’re not a real doctor, right?” Why is it that the cost of veterinary school can be the same as medical school, yet we get paid half that of MDs? Why is it that we have three times the patients as MD’ and have to be anesthesiologists, surgeons, dentists, pharmacists, and so much more, all in one? Why is wellness something we have to negotiate?

Do I have a solution for all these questions? No. What I can provide is a discussion of how it can change.

One of the biggest differences between human and vet med is insurance. Imagine how many more animals could be seen if all owners could afford it. A world where finances are not an issue and a 6-month-old puppy with a femur fracture doesn’t get euthanized. The way I practice will incorporate more wellness plans/ insurance options. The way I practice will incorporate effective communication with the owner. Where the owner isn’t lost once their pet is taken to the back, but is informed throughout the entire experience.

An important part of this improvement involves more communication, possibly tele-medicine and more specialized or personable care. Over the years, pets have become more and more part of our lives, which will continue to grow. I believe hospitals that don’t adapt to the changing environment of vet med, are bound for failure. Lastly, I think One Health is going to play a large part in the future of veterinary medicine as well. Not only as translational medicine from research on our pets to humans, but also from a more global scale.

Veterinarians can contribute vastly in the discussion of climate change. Our wildlife populations are feeling affects of these increased temperatures, and it is part of veterinarians’ responsibility to help find a solution.

I may not know what type of veterinarian I want be in the future, but I do know that I’ll be prepared for anything. Keeping my options open and my mind active.

Can you tell us one thing about yourself that would surprise your veterinary colleagues?

I took a year off during my undergraduate to join the Nevada Air Guard, where I became an Avionics Technician. This involved me learning how to repair and troubleshoot wiring, autopilot, and gauges on the C-130H. I was enlisted for six years and my contract ended just this year!

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Thank you, Shehnav  and Dr. Britton!

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