From intubating a model dog’s head and suturing bananas, to practicing canine eye examinations and milking dairy cows, a group of aspiring veterinary students from around the country now has a better understanding of what it takes to become a veterinarian after participating in a summer enrichment program at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech.
The fourth annual VetTRAC summer program offered a week of hands-on activities, lectures, and tours for undergraduate students from underrepresented populations interested in veterinary medicine. For the first time, organizers expanded the program to two weeks, allowing 19 participants each week to explore veterinary career options through experiential learning.
VetTRAC program participant Mia Felix, of Middletown, New York, a rising senior studying biology at Albright College, chose the visit to Virginia Tech’s Dairy Science Complex at Kentland Farm as her favorite activity of the week. “Where I’m from, we are so far from a veterinary school. Being able to have a true farm animal experience, when I have never gotten to before, opened my eyes to the different veterinary career options that I have to choose from.”
Rebecca Stinson, associate director of student support and admissions, was the driving force behind this year’s program. “Our key focus is to expose young people to veterinary medicine who may not have been able to experience it in its full breadth previously. We are fortunate to have students from all over the East Coast and as far as California,” Stinson said. “These students were selected from a record number of applicants from racially and socio-economically diverse backgrounds. We look forward to continuing to grow this program in future years.”
Two incoming veterinary students in the college’s Class of 2022, and alumnae of the VetTRAC program, served as program counselors - Ariana Rahman, of Chico, California, and Ashlyn Reis, of Virginia Beach.
When asked what drew them to serve as counselors, they both highlighted the desire to help their peers see their potential as veterinary students. “A lot of people think that vet school is impossible. VetTRAC proves that it’s not,” said Reis.
Rahman shared her fellow counselor’s sentiments, “I came back as a counselor to help new students feel comfortable and to positively impact their journey through vetmed.”
On Monday morning, Gregory Daniel, interim dean of the college, met with the VetTRAC students in small groups for informal discussions. Students then attended sessions covering the diversity of career options in the veterinary profession as a whole, as well as in-depth lectures given by faculty experts about pathology and research. In the afternoon, they met with admissions representatives to receive guidance on preparing a competitive vet school application before gathering in small groups for interactive projects.
On Tuesday, students received tips on navigating a veterinary career path and explored integrative medicine. They spent the afternoon focusing on surgical and clinical skills in the college’s multidisciplinary and clinical skills laboratories.
On Wednesday, participants learned about pharmacology and math in medicine, as well as performing canine physical examinations. They also talked with a panel of current veterinary students. In the afternoon, they toured dairy science facilities, where they experienced the milking process first-hand.
On Thursday, the students enjoyed sessions about bodily functions, mental well-being, and stress-free cat handling before heading out to explore the Virginia Tech campus through an interactive scavenger hunt. They capped off the week on Friday with objective structured clinical examinations (OSCEs) and group presentations, followed by a closing luncheon and graduation ceremony at the Inn at Virginia Tech.
For the duration of the program, students stayed in a campus dorm, ate dinner in a dining hall, and had a chance to experience life as a Hokie.
The VetTRAC program is one of three initiatives developed by the veterinary college as part of InclusiveVT, Virginia Tech’s approach to diversity and inclusion.
— Written by Sarah Orren