Three questions for … three Western veterinary students

CandaceTam

We’ve started our fall lecture series at veterinary schools and colleges as we’ve typically done: With me going to my “neighborhood” — by which I mean Southern California — school, the Western University of Health Sciences College of Veterinary Medicine.  I used to speak at more schools myself, but now we have an outstanding team of field veterinarians who have taken over most of these visits.

At each lecture, we try to find a veterinary student to profile here on my blog.

This year at Western, three students expressed an interest, so we asked the student closet to graduation to answer three questions, and then gave each of other two a question each.

Starting with the student closest to graduation, here they are!

Candace Tam (2020)

Are you already thinking beyond graduation?

CandaceTamWith fourth year rotations around the corner, I often think about life after veterinary school and my role in this profession. Something I am constantly amazed by is how multidimensional this profession is; there are always new opportunities to experience and learn from, which allow us to continuously evolve as doctors. Another aspect of veterinary medicine that makes it unique is that we are not limited to treating one species. Not only do we provide care to different types of animals, we also contribute to the advancement of human health through public health, more specifically, One Health – an initiative that recognizes that the health of humans, animals, and the environment are all connected.

Veterinarians play a pivotal role in the progression of One Health locally and globally. Because of the flexibility in our profession, I believe that every veterinarian has the ability to participate in One Health. We are in a unique position where we have the opportunity to be contribute to public health in a variety of ways. This ranges from identifying emerging infectious diseases to educating clients about the benefits of vaccinating their pets. The role of the veterinarian is dynamic and irreplaceable, and I am excited to collaborate with colleagues, other health professionals, and environmental experts to better the lives of all species — humans and animals. With that being said, I am eager to contribute to the growth of the One Health Initiative and to see what my own role in their mission will be following graduation.

What do you see for yourself and your classmates as you head into a profession that’s changing?

One of the best parts of veterinary medicine is the multi-faceted and evolving nature of our profession; it truly is a unique and matchless career with a constant steady presence of change. Currently, there is a growing movement in the veterinary community raising awareness around the well-being of veterinarians. I believe that my classmates and I will continue expanding this movement, especially with regards to discussing self-care and mental wellness.

As the profession changes, I see our integrity and compassion continuing to be the mainstays for our wellness. It is no secret that veterinarians are empathetic individuals who readily give more than they take. We care so deeply for our patients and clients that sometimes we forget to take care of ourselves. For whatever reason, when we find ourselves suffering, we tend to cast aside our problems and continue to “push through.” Why is this the case? Is it because we don’t want to be a burden, complain, or be judged for having flaws? As this profession grows, we must be an advocate for our own well-being and create an atmosphere where we can support one another.

At the Western University of Health Sciences, we have created an environment of camaraderie and openness that enables us to speak about our difficulties without fear of judgement. I feel secure in the knowledge that after our time at Western, each of us will continue to instill this culture of sharing in our future communities. This will allow us to comfortably speak up when we see another colleague suffering or are suffering ourselves. For myself, I hope to enter our profession with an open mind and be someone who creates an environment of acceptance and awareness on well-being. I am optimistic and see a future where we no longer struggle in silence or suffer alone.

Do you see yourself as an instrument of change?

I definitely see myself as an instrument of change in the veterinary community. Bringing attention to mental health is something I am extremely passionate about and feel should be discussed more. I am inspired by the amazing work of groups like “Not One More Vet” and individuals like Dr. Kimberly Pope-Robinson who have committed to bringing awareness to mental health within the veterinary community. Their work truly illustrates the strength of friendship and compassion within our profession. I strive to contribute to the work they have started in regard to mental health and be a proponent for change within my community.

Sarah D. Padget (’21)

SarahPVeterinary Business Management Association (VBMA)  activities take time away from a very busy and demanding school schedule. Why do you think the program is worthwhile, and how do you feel about your contributions as VBMA Event Coordinator?

I would recommend becoming part of the VBMA to any veterinary student, regardless of what specific niche they are hoping to break into after graduation. This program offers a wide variety of opportunities to learn about different aspects of the “business side” of veterinary medicine. We host speakers from all over the country and from various backgrounds who teach us about the many components of the veterinary business that aren’t necessarily covered in school. I wholeheartedly believe in this club, and I believe it is crucial to getting a head start before graduation.

As VBMA Event Coordinator, I make it my mission to find the best speakers to give our members the most complete picture of the veterinary profession outside of the medical content we learn in our classes. Although this position requires a great deal of commitment outside of class, I have had the opportunity to meet some of the most extraordinary speakers, while gaining contacts and building relationships for the future. Being in vet school is a tremendous task, and it requires a great deal of drive and focus, even after structured school hours. However, I feel that being a part of the VBMA is worth the extra effort, and I love having the opportunity to help be a part of supplemental learning for other students. My position requires me to reach out to potential speakers and sponsors and to set a calendar for the 25+ lunch and dinner talks throughout the school year. Being part of VBMA has also given me seven of the most wonderful cohorts who share in this responsibility with me and who go above and beyond in order to bring opportunities to our club. Without having a team of people working together to achieve our goal, we would cease to exist, and I think this translates well into life after vet school. We will be entering into a really tough profession in just a few years, but being given the tools to enhance my leadership abilities and my cooperation with other has made me hopeful for what is to come.

Shannon Gregoire (’22)

ShannonGHow long has veterinary school been your goal, and how have you prepared yourself for the program, and for your career after?

I have wanted to be a veterinarian for as long as I can remember, ever since I knew that I could be a “puppy doctor.” I’ve always loved medicine and being able to touch the lives of animals.

I prepared for the veterinary medicine career by attending undergrad at UMass Amherst, which has an amazing agriculture program that allowed me to obtain a variety of experiences with species from pigs and cows to chickens and horses. I believe that preparing for a career in veterinary medicine is something that never ends; it’s constant progress towards improving yourself and your knowledge in the field to become a better doctor.

I also believe that in such a demanding career you have to not only do what’s best for your patients, but also do what’s best for yourself and your well-being outside of your career, taking time to reflect and decompress from the stresses of medicine.

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Thank you all!