Recently, a thread appeared on one of my Facebook groups. The initial poster discussed a visit to her MD about broken ribs. She talked about how much money she spent there, versus what she spent right after that getting veterinary services for her horse. She and her veterinarian discussed her broken ribs, and the poster felt she received better advice from her vet than from her doctor! The discussion generated significant feedback, with many responses concurring with “ask your vet” over “ask your doctor”. There was also a discussion about veterinary school versus medical school.
I have wanted to be a veterinarian since I was 5 years old. My parents gave me a book about dog breeds when I was 6 years old. In it they inscribed, “To our future veterinarian.” It is all I ever really wanted to do… I didn’t really have a “Plan B”.
As a child, I devoured James Herriot’s books. My family took a vacation every summer. My James Herriot books and a few packages of Regal Sour Cherry lifesavers made me a wonderful traveler! For whatever reason, this particular passage in Herriot’s first book always stuck with me…
He’s womitin’ bad, sorr!
Years later, after slogging through veterinary school, I can remember a client telling me that their dog was vomiting. “Oh, he’s womitin’ bad, is he?” I replied with a smile on my face. The client looked at me as if I had lost my mind…
The competition to get in to Vet School
I received my veterinary degree from Purdue University in 1982. When I entered veterinary school, there were 25 veterinary colleges in the United States. I grew up in Indiana. Veterinary colleges gave precedence to in-state students over out-of-state students. Therefore, students applying for admission from states without a veterinary school were at a distinct disadvantage. Consequently, it was a given that I would attend Purdue which was located in West Lafayette, Indiana.
I had been an excellent student in high school. The pre-vet competition was fierce; however, I doubled down and achieved excellent grades during undergrad. (The exception was that nasty “C” in Organic Chemistry!) Unfortunately, in early August of 1977 I contracted Hepatitis A and the first week of class started without me. My poor health precluded me from taking laboratory classes or maintaining my 19 credit hour schedule. I dropped my load to 12 hours and barely made it through my junior year. Although my classmates took Biochemistry, I had to drop it… an issue that came back to bite me in vet school.
One of the requirements for admission was experience in the veterinary field. This meant working at a clinic, riding around with a large animal veterinarian, or some other means of gaining experience. I had done both. The admissions committee wanted to ensure that students knew what being a veterinarian was all about. They didn’t want a student taking a coveted spot and then dropping out. In this era of denouncing sexual harassment, I can share that I “forfeited” my opportunity to accompany an equine veterinarian on farm calls because I had put an end to his advances at the close of the previous summer. Theoretically, this had the potential to impact my chances of admission.
Men vs. Women
In 1978, the Veterinary school granted me admission. There were over 900 applicants for 72 spots. It was possible to apply after 2 years of undergrad. I applied but did not get in. I did get accepted after my junior year of undergrad. My class consisted of 4 students accepted after 2 years of undergrad, 21 after 3 years, and the remaining students after 4 or more years. There was one guy who applied at least 5 times.
Out of 72 students, 24 were female. As of the first day our class convened, there were 12 married students. I was one of them, and the only married woman. This chart shows the dramatic shift in gender percentages that has occurred in the past 40 years.
Stay tuned for more great vet school stories, including the fact that the county morgue was housed in the basement of the veterinary school…