I am a proud recent graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine. When I walked across the stage at my graduation ceremony in May, I looked out across the crowd at the smiling faces of the family, friends and faculty members, all who helped make this dream become a reality. Words of encouragement and support sounded from the podium, the veterinarians’ oath was recited, and suddenly, we were official veterinarians. Within a matter of days or weeks, my classmates and I entered the “real world,” beginning to practice what the past four years had prepared us for. While the majority of my classmates started jobs in private practice, I decided to stay in the academic setting for an additional year and pursue a Livestock Medicine, Surgery, and Field Services internship at Colorado State University.

I was born and raised on my family’s dairy farm in Baraboo, Wis., so choosing to pursue a career in livestock medicine has always been my dream. I believe the training I received during my four years of veterinary school was second to none; however, there is definitely a learning curve associated with being a new graduate. Upon graduation, I felt that I had the medical and surgical skills necessary to start practicing individual and herd-based medicine. One of my greatest assets as a new graduate was the specialized training I received in production medicine. I was equipped with the tools to not only treat sick animals but also act as a consultant in the areas of ventilation, building design, ration formulation, vaccine protocols, milk quality and much more. While working with larger dairies, I have found that it is essential for veterinarians to play a consulting role and help farmers make decisions that will ultimately help increase production and efficiency, improve animal welfare and decrease disease.

One of the biggest challenges I encountered during my first months of practice was the ability to make decisions independently and confidently. Throughout vet school, there are interns, residents and faculty clinicians overseeing your decisions. Rarely did I have the opportunity to develop diagnostic and treatment plans without oversight. Now as an intern with primary case responsibility, I still consult with clinicians, but I am allowed much more freedom to develop and defend my own treatment plans and strategies. Having the ability to work with colleagues that were trained at different schools across the country has opened my eyes to the many different but equally effective ways to manage cases and treat patients.

In retrospect, I could have benefited from additional training in client communication. While there were communication courses offered in school, I was of the mindset that it was more important to learn the clinical skills. I now realize the importance of client communication and how much owners rely on their veterinarians to not only treat their animals but also to be able to thoroughly explain and rationalize our ideas and decisions. Even though we are doctors trained to treat animals, our relationship with the owners of our patients is equally important.

I strongly encourage veterinary students to step outside their comfort zones and try new things, especially during their fourth-year clinical training. Some of the greatest experiences I had during vet school were on externship. I urge students to travel to different states, universities or even countries and experience the diversity that veterinary medicine has to offer. 

See more articles about reproductive services, BVD, salmonella and more in the November-December digital edition of Bovine Veterinarian.