The Li Ka Shing Center at the Medical School hosted Stanford’s fourth Pre-Vet Expo on Sunday. The all-day event consisted of multiple presentations and panels with veterinarians in multiple fields and disciplines as well as former Stanford students who are currently in veterinary school.
Dr. Donna Bouley, a veterinary pathologist in the comparative medicine department at Stanford, organized the first Pre-Vet Expo in 2008 in order to give students exposure to the different options in veterinary medicine.
“I thought it would be a neat outreach type of thing to have … to introduce people in the community, high school and college students, to the diverse careers within the vet profession,” Bouley said. “Everybody knows that vets treat their pets and their horses, but they don’t know how many different disciplines veterinarians are involved in.”
One presenter at the Expo was Dr. Emily Graff, a veterinarian at Auburn University.
“When I was an undergrad, I went to a small school that had no pre-vet group … when Donna [Bouley] told me about the pre-vet opportunities that this was going to provide for undergrads who go to schools that are not in the veterinary group, it really inspired me,” Graff said.
For students wanting to go into veterinary medicine, it can be a difficult choice between a college with a strong pre-vet program or getting the benefits of a liberal arts school.
“I didn’t have anybody to help guide me through how to find the classes that I needed to do the career I’ve wanted to do my entire life,” Graff explained. “I wanted to get a broad education … I wanted to get a liberal arts education … and major in something other than just biology and yet still go and do the career I’ve always wanted.”
Stanford students hoping to become veterinarians can also find it difficult to not attend a school with an established pre-vet track.
Being a pre-vet at Stanford is “definitely different from if you were a pre-vet at a big vet school. UC Davis has a large undergraduate population that’s pre-vet, so they have all their classes set, all their extracurriculars set,” said attendee Julia Tsai ’16. “For us [those at Stanford interested in vet school] … things come by and it’s like, ‘oh, we gotta take that class, okay, we gotta take that class.’ We’ve kind of banded together as a group and [we] advise each other on what classes to take and what we’re supposed to be doing.”
“There definitely aren’t as many opportunities, because we don’t have a big vet school associated with Stanford,” agreed attendee Shannon Smith ’15. Smith added that Stanford pre-vet students have to “be creative and … network within the pre-vet club.”
Attending a school like Stanford as a pre-vet does have some benefits, however.
“I actually like [the small community] better, that we don’t have like a huge vet school,” said attendee Amalia Saladrigas ’16. “There’s not as many pre-vets and it feels like the advising is like a lot more focused.”
Bouley and the other members of her department try to build community for Stanford pre-vets and provide students with opportunities in the field.
“All of our faculty teach either freshman or sophomore seminars,” Bouley said. “We’ve had horse medicine taught, comparative hematology, or looking at blood, how it differs between animals, and globally emerging zoonotic diseases.”
Those classes are also often of interest to pre-med students, Bouley added, but some opportunities are reserved exclusively for pre-vet students.
“I’ll bring in invited speakers … for dinner meetings for the pre-vets,” Bouley said. She also “offer[s] to [her] very dedicated [students] some scholarship help for summer activities.” In addition, the department makes certain events and opportunities available only to seniors who have “shown dedication.”
Holding the Expo is another way that Bouley and her department try to provide opportunities for students to learn about what different career options veterinarians have and what veterinary school is like. In addition to presentations and panels, the event features displays describing research and an opportunity for students to eat lunch with current veterinarians and ask them questions.
“We have a number of posters, both information posters as well as some undergraduate research [and] some One-Health posters … that discuss diseases affecting both humans and animals,” Bouley said. “I have my anatomy specimens out on display. We have a place where students can try their hand at suturing on some practice little devices,” she continued, adding that the event also displays “information on Foothill’s vet tech program as well as the San Jose shelter.”
The Expo has grown in size every year since its inception and is particularly popular among high school students local to the Bay Area.
“I’m super interested in becoming a vet,” said Samantha Gill, a high school freshman attending the Expo. “I’d really like to know about how I could get there and what things I need to do to become a vet and what area of veterinary sciences I want to get into.”
Tsai said that attending the Expo as a high school student is a very different experience than going as an undergraduate.
“I went when I was a high school senior,” Tsai explained. “But it’s very different perspective going as a high school senior … not even knowing what a veterinarian is, and then doing it now as a junior in college, having a little bit more experience.”
The increased size and number of young attendees has introduced potential problems for the Expo in the future.
“If it gets too big … it loses some of its effect, because there isn’t as much potential for these people to really get to talk a lot with a vet,” Bouley said. One solution might be to create two events out of the Expo in coming years.
“We actually had to put a limit and cut out the youngest group, because we had such an overwhelming response that we were not able to take the 14-year-olds that we have [taken] in the past,” she said. “We may be faced with having to actually have a split type of event in the future, where it’s college and above and then maybe one that’s just geared towards high school.”
For all of the Expo-goers, whether they attend Stanford or not, Bouley hopes that the event is informative and helps hopeful veterinarians learn more about all of the different options and career paths.
“There’s a lot that vets do beyond what most people are aware of,” Bouley said. More than “being clinicians and taking care of dogs and cats and horses.”
Contact Sarah Wishingrad at swishing ‘at’ stanford.edu.