In their own words:
A series of student autobiographical sketches as told to Kristin Burlingame
Betsy Helbing DVM ’17 Some people think that you need to have a bachelor’s degree in animal science or biomedical sciences (BIMS) in order to be accepted to veterinary school. Although this is generally advisable because these degrees cover the prerequisites needed to apply, you can still get in with an undergraduate degree in something unrelated. I graduated from Texas A&M University in 2011 with a degree in finance. I decided to pursue finance because I have heard many doctors and veterinarians say that they do not know much about business, but wish that they did. I also thought it would be a good degree to have in case I decided to not pursue a medical career. Since anatomy was not required either through my degree or as a prerequisite, I knew that I would need to take an anatomy class before starting veterinary school to catch up to my classmates. I took Dr. Anton Hoffman’s summer anatomy workshop, which I would suggest for anyone who has never taken anatomy. It’s a condensed semester of anatomy, and it transitions you well into veterinary school. I was able to meet a lot of people, too. I wasn’t always interested in medicine, but after getting into an accident at a Texas A&M Fish Camp event during the second week of my undergraduate career, I lived in a rehabilitation hospital for three months. From watching and interacting with my doctors and physical therapists, I became very interested in how the body can work and heal. I found myself wanting to read up on medical cases. It was then that I knew I wanted to go into medicine, but I was not sure which field. I fell in love with veterinary medicine because of my love for animals and for their owners. A lot of people say they want to go into veterinary medicine because they do not like interacting with people, but I enjoy talking to clients and watching their animals grow up. You get to know the owners very well, and it almost feels more personal than human medicine. Plus, in veterinary
medicine, you are able to do so many different surgeries, whereas in human medicine you tend to specialize more. Even though I missed my whole first year of college, I earned my finance degree, and even some of my prerequisites, in three years. After graduation, I moved back to Austin and started shadowing and then working as a veterinary technician at a clinic while completing the rest of my prerequisites. Something that surprised me at the clinic was that people would come in because their human doctor believed that a disease had infected their child from the family dog—whether or not the disease was actually transmissible through that route. It impressed upon me the idea that if a medical doctor could actually talk to a veterinarian, they could more efficiently discuss possible causes and transmissions. This is where the One Health Initiative could play a big role in both human and animal medicine. After two years of working and finishing prerequisites, I was able to finally start as a veterinary student! I am currently the president of the class of 2017, and in this role I lead bimonthly officer meetings and help other officers with their duties, including raising money through fundraisers and different events. My finance degree has helped me with this, because we need a financial base set to start fundraising. I like to make financial statements so that we know how much money is going out and coming in. As we get the funds, we can throw events for our class and participate in projects like a fundraiser for Heifer International, a program where we send a veterinarian and a heifer to a developing area that needs them. Next year we will start a mentor/ mentee program for the new class of veterinary students. My focus as president changes depending on the needs of our class.
I have been amazed by the level of commitment our professors provide to us. Many of them are willing to help us in any way they can; some even offer to come in on the weekends. I’ve also been happy with how much information I have retained. In undergraduate classes, you tend to learn something for an exam, and then it’s gone immediately after. But in veterinary school, you continually build upon what you learn. You can study the same disease through many different perspectives. I can remember almost everything I was taught last semester. In the future, I would like to have my own small animal neighborhood practice. However, I would like to also be able to do surgeries, such as splenctomies, cruciate ligament repairs, and perineal urethrostomies, so that, in cases where my clients cannot afford referrals, their animals can still be treated. Healing animals is my main goal, but getting to know their owners and developing relationships with their families is an added bonus that I also hope to accomplish.
Summer 2014 •