As part of ValuePenguin’s Future of Veterinary Care series, we will be interviewing students across the nation’s pre-veterinary and veterinary programs to learn more about their experiences and paths towards becoming certified veterinarians.
Samantha Fanelli is a Penn State University senior majoring in Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences major and minoring in Equine Science, She is President of PSU's Pre-Vet Club, and will be attending the School of Veterinary Medicine at University of Pennsylvania to pursue Veterinary Medicine this fall.
What influenced you to pursue a pre-vet or vet program?
I've been riding horses for over 17 years, so it was inevitable that I'd end up working with animals in some capacity. The medical field has always fascinated me, so I ultimately decided to pursue veterinary medicine.
Why should other students consider a focus in Veterinary Medicine?
If you're looking for a challenge in the sciences, you've come to the right place. You'll never find yourself bored with this major. Despite the tremendous amount of work associated with this field, veterinary medicine is definitely one of the most rewarding careers to pursue. Our pets can have a pretty thankless existence if we let them, and it's a rare skill to be able to give back so much to them. Plus, who doesn't want to play with puppies and kittens all day?
What has been your experience with Pre-Vet medicine at your college?
I've never doubted this was the right place for me at Penn State. The other students, staff, and professors have been incredible, and I've found a truly unique group of people here. My adviser has opened numerous doors for shadowing top veterinarians, summer programs at veterinary schools, scholarships, and even study abroad opportunities that my experience would not have been has as rewarding or meaningful without.
What are the latest developments or trends in veterinary medicine?
Veterinary medicine sprouts from and keeps close ties with human medicine. Apart from using similar drugs and remedies (they even have Prozac for cats and dogs), a lot of research is being done on just how close animals and humans are and how this can be used to predict behaviors. Studying cognitive degeneration in dogs, for example, is leading to some interesting findings that can be related to Alzheimer's, dementia, and other cognitive dysfunctions in humans.
Please share and describe your best experience working with animals.
My best experience with animals was studying abroad in South Africa at the University of Pretoria for 3 weeks in July '11. Besides getting to play with the standard lions, elephants, and giraffes one would expect, I also gained experience with shelter medicine, as well as food animal health and production in a third world country. The course focused on wildlife management and rehabilitation, so I came away from the experience with a better understanding of how these facilities are run and the premises behind them. The hands-on experience with exotics coupled with the other species I encountered could not have been replicated anywhere else, and I took away lessons I could use for a life time.
Have you participated in any volunteer or veterinary internships? If so, please share your best experience.
I have shadowed at two veterinary practices, one of which I was ultimately paid for. The one I was paid for was with a veterinarian in my area who was just opening her own practice. She taught me how to be her technician while we were doing her mobile house calls, and I transitioned those skills into a hospital setting once her practice was opened. I also had the opportunity to observe and assist with the "behind-the-scenes" work of opening a practice (i.e. meeting with advertising and pharmaceutical reps, picking out tile and paint colors, and choosing equipment), which is a rare and valuable find. I ended up working there as a technician for two summers.
Please share an interesting or little-known fact you’ve learned about animals.
Elephants can be used for tracking even better than dogs can. They can be and are used to sniff out mines, bombs, and drugs, and their sense of smell can sniff out an orange from 10 miles away.
What are your future aspirations and career plans?
I'll be going for my VMD at the University of Pennsylvania in the fall, so apart from surviving that, I hope to go into small animal clinical work. I intend to either open my own practice or pursue a master's degree and come back to academia, or both. We'll see how it pans out.