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.
Kaitlyn Koenning is a senior Animal Science major with a minor in Spanish at University of Georgia. She is president of UGA's Pre-Veterinary Medicine Club, and will be attending the University of Georgia's College of Veterinary Medicine this fall.
What influenced you to pursue a pre-vet or vet program?
Not only does being a veterinarian require a love of animals, but it also requires a love of science and medicine. Once I realized that veterinary medicine fulfilled my love of constantly learning new things and experiencing the unexpected, I was hooked and dedicated my years in college to my classes and volunteer opportunities.
Why should other students consider a focus in Veterinary Medicine?
It is A LOT of hard work and dedication, but veterinary medicine pays off when you get to experience the bond between an animal and their owner. Your hope is to keep these beloved creatures healthy and happy for their entire lives, ensuring the bond will not be broken.
It is the perfect career for people who love a challenge. Animals cannot express how they feel, so veterinarians have to become detectives and piece together what the owner has observed with diagnostics to discover the problem. It is immensely rewarding to heal an animal with such limited tools!
What has been your experience with Pre-Vet medicine at your college?
If your college has a Pre-Vet Club, I would highly recommend joining it. You form friendships with people who have the same goals and passion as you, listen to awesome speakers, and the club provides many volunteer experiences. I also recommend getting varied experience with animals, and think outside the box, as you want to stand out to admissions. For example, research is something easily overlooked, but a large and vital part of veterinary medicine.
Please share and describe your best experience working with animals.
My favorite animal experience was studying abroad in Costa Rica and Nicaragua with an amazing volunteer group called “VIDA.” I gained hands-on experience spaying and neutering animals in clinics we formed throughout the two countries. You never realize how advanced veterinary care is in the US until you travel abroad and see how absent the care of animals is in other countries. They aren’t a member of the family, but rather a possession that guards the house or a nuisance that freely roams the streets. Education about veterinary care is extremely critical in these countries. If we can teach the children how important a healthy animal is, we break the cycle of abuse and neglect.
Have you participated in any volunteer or veterinary internships?
I began in high school as a kennel worker at a small animal clinic in Marietta, Georgia. Once I went to college, I returned during the summer for an internship as a veterinary assistant and then was hired to seasonally work there as an assistant. Don’t turn down a position because it is not paid, because a lot of times you just have to prove yourself and it will eventually turn into a paid job, and you get amazing experiences in the mean time!
Also, I volunteered at a hippotherapy farm, where children with disabilities learn to ride a horse while also improving their motor and sensory skills. It was truly remarkable to see these children blossom while riding a horse! They formed a strong bond with the animal and it was inspirational to see how an animal can change a child’s life for the better.
Please share an interesting or little-known fact you’ve learned about animals.
I love reading about animal behavior, and I would highly recommend picking up Animals in Translation by Temple Grandin. She has autism and yet has achieved so much including setting guidelines to make meat facilities more humane in the treatment of their animals. Because she has autism, she sees animals in a way most people cannot, and her observations are truly groundbreaking in how we can understand and form better bonds with animals.
What are the latest developments or trends in veterinary medicine?
What some people don’t realize is that animal medicine is implementing the same advanced treatments and surgeries as human medicine. Chemotherapy, acupuncture, and the use of MRI machines are just some of the many advances implemented in veterinary medicine. At The University of Georgia, there is a wide range of specialties that have board certified veterinarians (at least 4 more years of learning a specialty after vet school) including oncology, neurology, and ophthalmology. And the possibilities for what lies ahead excite me most about veterinary medicine!
What are your future aspirations and career plans?
I begin my first year at the University of Georgia's College of Veterinary Medicine in August, and four years later will receive my DVM. From there I plan on working at a small animal clinic or doing an internship for a year first to gain more experience.