Promoting Equine Veterinary Practice to Vet Students

More than 800 third-year veterinary students were given a fully sponsored trip to attend the Opportunities in Equine Practice Seminar (OEPS) in Lexington, Ky., over Labor Day weekend. Members of the veterinary class of 2010 were given the opportunity to visit horse farms, veterinary clinics, a therapy farm, and other equine-related attractions to get a feel for what equine-specific veterinary practices have to offer veterinarians.

This is a critical time in a vet student's career, as the fourth year in veterinary school offers students the ability to study specific areas of interest, such as small animal, wildlife, livestock, or equine. That also breaks down into opportunities to delve more into internal medicine or surgery.

Students arrived and were able to take tours on Friday or visit with practices from throughout the United States at the Practitioner Exhibit area in the host hotel. The Practitioner Exhibit offered the students an opportunity to meet equine practitioners from around the country who represented their practices and to discuss the career opportunities in their fields and part of the country.

Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital acted as the host group for OEPS (which was the brainchild of one of the hospital's founders, Bill Rood, DVM), but there were many individuals, practices, and sponsors who participated and supported the event (including The Horse).

Saturday and Sunday featured formal "presentations" for students. Presentations included:

  • Opportunities in Sport Horse Practice, Duncan Peters, DVM;
  • Success in Your First Few Years, Jeffrey Beshear, DVM;
  • Opportunities in Internal Medicine & Academia, Bonnie Rush, DVM;
  • Opportunities in a Group Practice/Building a Hospital, Monty McInturff, DVM;
  • Get a Life, Jay Merriam, DVM;
  • Opportunities in Western Performance Practice, Shane Miller, DVM;
  • Opportunities with AAEP Membership, Luke Ramsay, AAEP Student Programs Coordinator;
  • Opportunities in Equine Surgery, John Madison, VMD;
  • Financial Remuneration, Andy Clark, DVM, MBA;
  • Opportunities Among the Generational Gap of Practice Ownership, Betsy Charles, DVM;
  • Why Equine? Larry Bramlage, DVM, Dipl. ACVS, and Steve Reed, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM.

The group that attended seemed split about 75% female and 25% male. The Horse caught up with some of the students to get a feel for whether they were decided to go into equine practice, or if they were still trying to decide.

J.D. LeClair of Colorado State University (CSU), said he is "lined up" to go into equine practice upon graduation, but "is not truly set." He has an interest in equine reproduction and has worked in CSU's equine reproduction lab. However, LeClair grew up on a dairy farm prior to moving to Arizona with his family. He also has worked for a small animal vet. LeClair said there are 25 men and 105 women in his graduating class. He said the next class below him is a little more balanced, at 35 men and 95 women. Twenty-three of CSU's third-year students attended OEPS.

LeClair said he enjoyed having veterinarians from all over the country available to discuss their clinics and opportunities with students. "There are lots of internships offered," he said. "It gives you an awareness of where there are availabilities and internships."

LeClair said a friend of his from CSU graduated two years ahead of him and now is practicing in Lexington. "I like talking to him and getting the 'scoop' on what it's really like," said LeClair.

Jennifer Jares of Washington State University attended OEPS with 13 of her classmates. Jennifer wants to be a racetrack veterinarian.

"I love the sport and love watching (horses) as athletes," she said. "I know this practice gets a bad rep, but (the horses) need someone to take good care of them.

Kristen Pierson grew up showing Paint horses and has always wanted to be a veterinarian. However, Pierson said she thought small animals would be her best choice because of where she wanted to live (in Washington). "This conference has helped me look at equine (as a career), but I'm not sure I want to turn my hobby into a job."

Elly Burnett grew up around horses and currently owns two of her own. "I'm trying to decide if I want to work with horses and totally neglect mine at home, or work with cats and have plenty of time for my horses," she said.

Burnett discussed something that is of great concern to many women (and men) entering equine practice: the balance of home and job.

One of the vet students who is married said she wanted to have kids, and that equine veterinarians have a more difficult time with those choices. The "life balance" problem is a big negative for equine practitioners that OEPS presenters have been trying to overcome, not only by talking to young vets entering practice on how to better balance their lives, but by trying to change the profession to allow bright, young veterinarians to balance work and home.

Virginia-Maryland's vet school had 10 students attend OEPS, and that group won "The Price is Right" game during the Saturday night dinner. The game involved pricing tools of the veterinarian's trade, from instruments to a truck with a vet box.

"We are very in touch with our debt load," said one of the members of the winning team. She said networking with the veterinarians about internships was one of the key benefits to attending OEPS.

Eight students from the vet school at the University of Wisconsin attended OEPS. One said being in the same room with students passionate about what she wants to do (work with horses) was great. "The video (about horses and equine practice) Dr. Rood showed wouldn't have gone over well with my classmates at home," she said. "It's nice to see the industry is changing and we will have a life (if we go into equine practice)."

About the Author

Kimberly S. Brown

Kimberly S. Brown was the Publisher/Editor of The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care from June 2008 to March 2010, and she served in various positions at Blood-Horse Publications since 1980.

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