Even though 2011 is just days old, my focus has already shifted to planning for 2012. Not that 2011 won’t be a big (and terrifying) year filled with externships, external electives and the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam (even typing out the name scares me a little!), but 2012 is the true beginning of my career as an equine veterinarian. As many veterinary students who wish to pursue equine medicine do, I have begun to look into a yearlong Internship at a large equine veterinary clinic following my graduation.
Although the thought of one more year of education, long hours and no pay after 6-8 years of post-secondary school makes many students cringe and run the other way in search of real jobs in the “real world”, some of us who are equine-oriented graduate and are left wanting more (well, maybe not the no-pay part!). Veterinary school provides a solid foundation for all species, and teaches us the basics for each, but for those who wish to specialize, sometimes a DVM degree is not enough. Horse owners are an intelligent, well-read bunch, who know the industry inside and out, and they expect nothing less from their veterinarian. A year spent in a large equine clinic as an intern provides invaluable experience and a chance to learn from the best in the field, not only on specialty referral cases, but also the day-to-day cases that are often not witnessed in academia.
Applying for an Internship is not an easy process. Many of the large referral clinics that accept interns are located in the United States, and most request that you visit for at least two weeks on an external rotation in fourth year before applying for an internship. Not only do you have to be the right match for the practice, the practice has to be the right match for you, creating an environment in which you can learn and further your clinical skills. Choosing these practices takes significant research, as well as the costs and time associated with traveling to each one. It’s difficult to know which practices are positive and progressive learning experiences and which are best to avoid. In fact, after hours of staring at a computer screen and playing “20 questions” with all the vets you know, one begins to wonder whether or not an internship is even worth it.
But today, it seemed like the academic gods (or at least one of our Professors) understood the internal struggle myself and other classmates are going through and gave us hope; in the form of a panel of veterinarians. A group of four practice owners, including McKee-Pownalls’ own Melissa McKee, shared their insight on what they look for in a new graduate and what would help set us apart when looking for our first jobs. When asked about specific characteristics they look for in a new grad, the response was unanimous for a great team player, but all of them also agreed that a vet needs the clinical proficiency and work ethic to back it up. In equine practice, the best way to achieve this is through an internship, and any spare hours spent out with equine veterinarians, observing what you can. This hour of discussion certainly helped us all gain perspective on what we can do to become successful (and employed!) veterinarians.
In school, it is so easy to forget that the purpose of our education is not simply to achieve the best grades, or to graduate knowing everything. It is instead the foundation for the education we will receive the rest of our lives as practicing veterinarians. Right now we don’t have all the answers, but we are learning which questions to ask. As Malcolm Forbes said, “Educations’ purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one.”
Now my open mind and I need to keep trudging away, finding more opportunities for education, both in and outside the classroom.