Give thanks. Be thankful.
Giving back to the veterinary profession instills a sense of gratitude that was expressed by aspiring veterinary students at VetSummer 2021.
As we approach the holiday season, it always gives me great pause to be thankful for so many things. This year has been another challenging one, but I am happy to be in a profession that understands the meaning of gratitude, appreciation, and giving back.
Giving back to the profession is one huge way of giving thanks to a profession that is hungry for talented future veterinary professionals. This is something that I am personally passionate about and hope you will find inspiration in this story to do the same.
Over the summer, my very good friend and colleague, Dr Robert Mankowski from Mount Laurel Animal Hospital in Mount Laurel, New Jersey, and I participated in VetSummer (https://vetsummer.com/). This fantastic program is a weeklong, high-level, immersive experience for students ages 12 to 17 years who are interested in entering the veterinary medicine field. We all know the importance of creating a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable profession for vet med, and when I was approached about helping the director out with the program, I instantly jumped on the opportunity.
The VetSummer camp is housed at the College of Mount Saint Vincent in Riverdale, New York. Students experience interactive, hands-on classes to better understand the variety of fields and careers within veterinary medicine. These are students from all walks of life with the same common denominator—the love of the human-animal bond and the goal of entering our wonderful profession.
On the last day of camp, the 80 students had the privilege to take a bus south to Mount Laurel Animal Hospital, where they had the ability to hang out with Dr Mankowski and me. The happiness, the intrigue, and the passion we saw on these kids’ faces were far too similar to the look he and I had as children, when we had that glorious opportunity to shadow a veterinarian. The students were hungry to learn and eager to tour the veterinary hospital.
Dr Mankowski and I provided an interactive session sharing the life of a veterinary professional and how meaningful our profession is. Afterward, students had a pizza party with us where they asked us fantastic questions about the field and what subjects they should continue to focus their attention on as they enter high school. They were diligently writing notes (yes, that’s how passionate they were about this field!), laughing, engaging, and enjoying our company as well as each other.
After showing them an extensive tour of the veterinary hospital, we also showed the students the onsite farm! The veterinary hospital sits on a large farm full of beautiful animals that include goats, chickens, pigs, emus, sheep, cows, alpacas, and zebus. Not only that, but we also showed the students how to pet, feed, and care for these farm animals.
It was one thing for them to observe us, but it was another when they did something impactful for the animal. To watch these children have these incredible lightbulb moments truly put a tear in my eye.
Some of them said they never had the opportunity to pet animals like they did that day. To summarize what a group of students said when they got on the bus to say goodbye to us, “this was the best day ever! We can’t wait to become veterinarians!”
Dr Mankowski and I looked at each other, high-fived, thanked the hospital team for being so welcoming to these students, and drove home knowing we affected, inspired, and motivated 80 students to consider entering our glorious field of veterinary medicine.
So, you see, giving thanks is giving back. Give back to a profession that so desperately needs to inspire future veterinary professionals. Whether it be career day in an elementary school, Zoom visits in classrooms, or just an hour of job shadowing, you will truly affect the lives of children. Have a phone call with them. Talk to them. Make them feel welcome to the supper table of veterinary medicine.
Our profession is unique because it is truly a calling from within. Most of us knew we wanted to become a veterinarian when we were young. I was 6 years old when I knew I wanted to become a veterinarian and never veered off that challenging path.
I invite you to keep your doors, your hearts, and your minds open to students of any age that inquire about the field of veterinary medicine. Every profession has its flaws and ours is no different. However, it is not our duty to discourage, demotivate, or deny anyone from their calling. It is our mission to encourage, motivate, and allow them to feel inspired by us. Remember, we are superheroes to them. Can you imagine a superhero not signing an autograph to a child that looks up to them?
During this time of thanksgiving, please give thanks to a profession that has welcomed you into it when you were young.
Pay it forward.
Let our lives be full of both thanks and giving.