Three questions for … Annie Heo, Illinois (2019)

Annie Heo

Today’s featured veterinary student is Annie Heo, of the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine. Thanks to Nationwide Field Veterinarian Dr. Cyndie Courtney for choosing her!

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

I was surprised to learn the morbidly increased rate of depression and suicide in this profession. There already exists a stigma toward mental illness, and for the predominantly type A population in this field the illness may be viewed as a weakness or something to be hidden in shame. I was pleased to see that AVMA and other national organizations are shedding light on this sensitive issue and making an effort to emphasize the importance of both physical and mental health in all those who are in the field of veterinary medicine. Previously, I simply believed that the patient care comes utmost before anything else. Through this movement, I’ve realized that I can only provide quality care for my patients by having a healthy body and mind.

What is your vision for the future of veterinary medicine, and how does it influence the way you’re preparing?

Annie Heo 2As a 1.5-generation Korean-American, I was able to experience how disabling a language or cultural barrier can be. My parents had extreme difficulty learning the language and adapting to the American culture. My sister and I easily learned English through ESOL, so we helped our parents by translating all letters and phone calls. Ultimately, this helped me become proficient in Korean and English, and this bilingual ability was especially helpful during my employment at an animal hospital with a high volume of Asian-American clients. Many elderly Korean clients were appreciative of having the physical exam findings and lab results for their pets explained in their native language. Even when I couldn’t speak other languages like Chinese or Japanese, my understanding of Asian culture was beneficial in enhancing their experience.

My vision for the future of veterinary medicine is that cultural diversity would be more readily embraced. Veterinary Medicine is still considered one of the least diverse professions, which I can still see in my own classroom and hallways. I would like to work with the Illinois student chapter of AVMA to promote similar programs like AAVMC’s DiVersity Matter to help students better understand how diversifying clientele will affect our future as practicing veterinarians. I also hope to expand and increase opportunities for students to learn other languages as a part of the academic learning experience. I also proudly support the University of Illinois chapter of VOICE (Veterinary Students as One in Culture and Ethnicity), a student organization that helps to increase awareness of socio-cultural issues in the field of veterinary medicine and promotes multiculturalism and diversity.

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

I have a 5-year-old Standard Poodle named Blackjack. He was one of the guide dogs I had raised through the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind puppy raiser program, where young future guide dogs like Blackjack is raised by students on campus to expose the puppies to various environment setting and modes of transportation. He was released from his training a few years ago and now enjoying his retirement. Thanks to his thick curly hair, I’ve been learning how to groom him myself. My favorite clip style for Blackjack is the “Miami clip”!

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Thanks, Annie! And thanks for teaching me something new: I had to look up the “Miami Clip“!