‘Vet for a Day’ gives students an up-close look at veterinary medicine

For a group of high school students from Philadelphia and Newark, AVMA Convention 2022 delivered hands-on veterinary experience – plus a lot of great advice and encouragement from some well-known pros.

The AVMA teamed up with partners to offer “Vet for a Day” at Walter B. Saul High School, a Philadelphia agricultural public school with an operating farm. Joining the AVMA in sponsoring the program were Banfield Pet Hospital, the Zoetis Foundation, the Pennsylvania VMA, and stars of the Nat Geo Wild television show “Critter Fixers: Country Vets.”

Twenty-eight students met with “Critter Fixers” stars Dr. Vernard Hodges and Dr. Terrence Ferguson and learned about treating a wide range of animal species, including dogs, cattle, rabbits, and more. They were joined by more than 25 volunteer veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and other attendees from AVMA Convention 2022, including AVMA Board of Directors members.

Two days, much learning

On July 29, Drs. Hodges and Ferguson walked the students through a case involving a Maltese, discussing how they would go about diagnosis, treatment and after-care planning for a dog experiencing frequent urination.

The program moved to a working dairy barn at Saul High School on August 1. There, Drs. Hodges and Ferguson highlighted the critical role of veterinarians in food safety and taught the students how to palpate a cow for pregnancy diagnosis and how to diagnose other health issues. Students then paired up with veterinarians to learn how to properly suture, using practice suture kits and pads rather than live animals.

Next, they visited the exotic animals lab, where Drs. Hodges and Ferguson demonstrated how to examine a rabbit, guinea pig, and other small animals. Their presentation included taking heart rates, examining teeth for malocclusions, and checking for other possible health issues.

Helping students define career paths

Other veterinarians taking part in the program shared their expertise and recounted their veterinary journeys for the students.

“This is a tremendous opportunity to learn so much about veterinary medicine,” Dr. Lori Teller, president of the AVMA and a clinical associate professor at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, told the students. “Take advantage of it. Pick the brains of all the veterinarians who will be in the room with you. Look at what it takes to get into college and veterinary school. I want to see some of you in my classroom in about 10 years!”

One student, Zachary Crawford, said the exposure to real-world veterinary practice definitely helped him in mapping out his career path.

“I’d like to be a vet because I’ve always had a strong interest in animals,” he said. “I thought being a vet would be the best outcome, but there are a lot of different fields in veterinary and animal science. So now I just need to choose what kind of vet I want to be.”

‘Critter Fixers’ at AVMA Convention

Drs. Hodges and Ferguson also met with veterinary students and made other appearances at AVMA Convention 2022. They spoke with SAVMA members ahead of the SAVMA House of Delegates meeting and participated in a question-and-answer session in the exhibit hall. Read more about these events in the Convention Daily News coverage.

“Vet for a Day” started as an annual event at the Critter Fixers’ clinic and now has become a national program. Drs. Hodges and Ferguson have also held “Vet for a Day” events in Las Vegas, Atlanta, and St. Louis and plan to host more this year and next.

“The AVMA support has been fantastic,” said Dr. Ferguson. “The AVMA is the largest veterinary medical association, and when they reached out and said they wanted to partner with us, we were ecstatic. That support is invaluable.”