Like many of you reading this article, I was also one of those kids that was absolutely determined to be a Veterinarian when I grew up. Throughout high school, I took many AP classes and studied really hard for the SAT to help get in to a good college.
In college, I double majored, worked at a veterinary clinic, did research and volunteered at an equine center. I felt like I was in overdrive but I knew that it would be worth it if I got accepted to veterinary school. At the time, it seemed like nothing else really mattered.
Then, in my fourth year of college, I attended a pre-veterinary club meeting that still resonates with me over a half-decade later. The speaker, a well-respected local veterinarian, basically said, “Every pre-veterinary student only thinks about one thing: how can I get into veterinary school?”
This absolutely was the all-consuming thought that had been on my mind for the majority of my adult life. She went on to explain that the real question is, “What difference will I make in the world once I am a Veterinarian?” I was absolutely stunned. It was probably the first time I realized that there are other things that matter! Finding your purpose and meaning within your career, helping others and making a positive difference in the world all really, really matter too.
I had such severe tunnel vision as a pre-veterinary student that it was beyond me to even think about life or making a difference after veterinary school. The great news is: there is life after vet school! The next piece of good news is that that our profession itself is benevolent and diverse and there are so many ways to make a difference in the world after you graduate.
I encourage each of you to think about this question- “What difference will I make in the world after I graduate?” while you’re in vet school because ultimately, the electives you take and the clubs you join and the activities you participate in are likely the things that motivate you and also the things that can help you make a difference in our profession and in society after vet school is over.
You may not have all the answers right now (and I don’t have them all either!) and that is okay. Just start with asking yourself: what is my purpose, or what is my goal? Maybe your goal is to become a specialist and offer the most advanced care. Maybe your goal is to work in research and develop new solutions for challenging problems in our industry. Or maybe your goal is to be a general practitioner and build strong relationships with your clients and take amazing care of your patients.
Defining your goal, purpose and meaning is the first step to knowing how you can best use your talents to make a difference in the world. The next step is to use the little free time you have while you’re in vet school to develop the skills, networks and tools you’ll need to start making a difference.
So while it may seem like a lot to ask while you’re busy studying for exams or labs or on clinics or studying for NAVLE® and sometimes maybe doing a combination of all of those, it is important to remember to seek out the opportunities that will help shape and influence how you impact the world. Becoming a veterinarian is a tough journey, but try to remember that as you are going through vet school, you are also on a journey to better yourself and benefit society.
I came across a quote that I am strongly convinced can apply to every veterinary student so I will share it here to conclude this post: