Uga Veterinary Students Prepare For Competitive Career Paths

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Get ready, Veterinary Advantage readers. Tomorrow’s veterinarians are going to be smarter, wiser, more business savvy and motivated than ever before. They can use your guidance – if you’re up to the task.

Recently Vet-Advantage was invited to visit the University of Georgia (UGA) College of Veterinary Medicine and attend their 35th Annual Drug, Service and Supply Fair that was held at the newly constructed UGA Veterinary Medical Center.

More than 100 registered veterinary students and 124 registered faculty, staff and guests attended. Several Vet-Advantage sponsors were on hand as well, sponsoring booths and taking advantage of the opportunity to talk directly to future veterinarians about their products and services.


During the Fair, Vet-Advantage spoke with three UGA College of Veterinary students, thanks to Hospital Communications Director Cindy Rice and Drug Fair Coordinator Heather Lindell, PharmD, DICVP, FSVHP.

All three students have their own unique story of what brought them to veterinary medicine and to UGA’s program, and each have different career paths in mind after graduation. Their stories offer insight into some of the resources available to today’s students and how these resources are responding to and shaping the changing needs of the animal health industry.

 

Tyson Strickland, May 2016 UGA DVM Graduate

Pursuing a career in herd health, beef cattle consulting

Tyson Strickland earned his undergrad degree from the UGA in animal science and finished his veterinary degree at the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine in May 2016. He’s trying to keep his options open, but so far is executing a business plan for a career in herd health, food animal beef cattle consulting. The trick is he’d like to do this while staying in Georgia, where he and his fiancé live and where generations of his family have grown up.

Strickland is from Perry, which is smack in the middle of Georgia with a population of 9,600. In high school Strickland participated in FFA and 4-H. His family had a small hobby farm, so he grew up around the food animal industry but not as a primary source of income.

When he started at UGA he knew he wanted to go into medicine and took science courses in order to pursue a degree in medicine but was still open to either animal or human health.

 

Food Animal Veterinary Incentive Program

In his junior year, while working in the meat science and technology department at UGA, Strickland applied for a position in the Food Animal Veterinary Incentive Program, or FAVIP, a program that started in 2011.

“You apply and go through an interview process,” he says. “If selected, you’re guaranteed a spot into the College of Veterinary Medicine as long as you fulfill requirements of gaining food animal experience and maintaining a 3.2 GPA.” Strickland clarifies that he still had to apply to the veterinary school.

UGA’s FAVIP was started to fill the need for veterinarians in the area of food animal health, especially in rural Georgia, and to encourage students with agricultural interests to consider a career in this important field.

“I really enjoyed growing up in that industry,” says Strickland. “By my junior year going into the field of veterinary medicine clicked. That’s when I starting working in the meat lab. With that and my education and internships and FAVIP position, I got to see the full spectrum of the industry, including retail sales of meat.”

Strickland is getting licensed in Georgia and Florida to provide service to producers in rural Georgia and North Florida. “In certain parts of the country it’s more of an established business practice, but not necessarily in the Southeast,” says Strickland. “So I think there’s lots of opportunity in this area of the country. Not a lot of people are doing what I want to do yet.”

Getting into the business aspect of veterinary medicine is a little nerve wracking, Strickland admits, because it’s so different from what he’s learned so far. “In school you get to focus on animals and not much on invoicing or building up a client base. As I get farther into my business plan, I will set up meetings with product manufacturers. A lot of them have programs to help vets get started.”

“I’ve spent time in the Midwest in Nebraska working with larger practices there and also with a veterinarian in West, Virginia who does a lot of herd health consulting,” says Strickland. “He practiced in a five-state area: West Virginia, Maryland, Ohio, Virginia, and Kentucky. That’s covering a large area. He’s only been out of school for two years and already has that going on. That’s encouraging to see that going on in the East.”

There’s a lot of marketing opportunity for producers in the organic and small farm area of production, but there’s also a lot of government regulation coming down,” he continues. “Also in the animal production industry, like other industries, you have to be more and more efficient to be profitable and to stay successful.”

“I’m excited and looking forward to the challenge. I’m going to move forward like it’s going to work well, and if it doesn’t happen, well at least I gave it a shot. But I love this part of the country, so I want to try and make it work here and serve the producers that are in this area.”

 

Cody Mannino, May 2016 DVM Graduate

Pursuing a career in small animal specialty and emergency care

Cody is from Los Angeles, and while the music industry is part of her family culture, she plans to fulfill a childhood dream of practicing emergency medicine on small animals.

“It’s been such a journey,” says Mannino. “I lived in Atlanta for three or four years prior to going to veterinary school. I knew very early on that I had a connection with animal health. Every kid wants to be a veterinarian. I never thought it would stick.”

For undergrad, she ended up majoring in biological sciences at the University of Southern Mississippi just in case. “When I got out into the real world I worked a job that wasn’t a good fit. I always thought I would end up in music – my mom is a musician – but you get out there and realize that even though you grew up being exposed to something, that doesn’t mean that’s what you’ll do. I think people should do what comes naturally and what they connect with.”

 

Preparing for a competitive industry

“Every student in veterinary school is really motivated, and UGA promotes that drive and culture,” says Mannino.

The auditorium at UGA’s new veterinary teaching facility allows for an increased class size, from 102 to 114, but getting in is still pretty difficult.

Mannino applied three times before getting accepted into UGA College of Veterinary Medicine. “The first year I applied, I applied to 12 or 14 schools. That process helps you to get to know the schools and how well they navigate having a student’s future in their hands. I fell in love with UGA. At UGA there is someone to talk to and help you understand where you are in the application process. It makes you hopeful rather than the opposite. My last year I applied only to UGA and thought, if I don’t get in here I’m not going.”

UGA wants a diverse class population. Applicants need experience working in the industry as a veterinary assistant or volunteer, and also experience working with a diverse animal population. Prior to getting accepted into UGA, Mannino worked in small animal health as a veterinary assistant. She also volunteered for an equine rescue and considered going into equine medicine. But the lifestyle was too different and too physically demanding. “It’s not an easy road. I have some back injuries, so the small animal focus seemed more in line with what I was looking for.”

 

Preparing for the business side

In addition to completing requirements and courses focused on animal health, Mannino has taken steps to prepare for the business side of the industry. “I have a Business Certification with Honors from the Veterinary Business Management Association (VBMA).” The national student-driven organization offers an optional lecture series on practice management topics and also prepares students to get a job or internship after school.

“We had to get a headshot, create a LinkedIn profile, cover letter, resume, social media presence, obtain a proper email address, and be prepared to walk into an interview,” explains Mannino.

To further her professional skills, Mannino served as a student ambassador with an interest in small animals for the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine. In this role she assisted with recruitment, outreach and College-related activities to enhance the public image of the College, its students, and its program. This commitment included attending training sessions on public speaking and media relations and presenting to groups.

“You have to have a strong portfolio beginning to end.”

 

Practicing in a private hospital setting

Upon finishing her clinical rotations, Mannino will move to New Orleans to do a rotating internship at a small animal specialty practice managed by MedVet Medical & Cancer Centers for Pets, based in Columbus, Ohio. The organization is privately owned and has several hospital centers in Ohio, and also Alabama, Louisiana, Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky.

“I will be a veterinarian, but when it’s your first year in practice, you need mentorship. It’s similar to a university setting. So I’ll have rounds and there will be a focus on medical literature and there will be someone to guide me. Some people go to a university setting, similar to UGA, but I chose to get private practice experience.”

“The internship is a prerequisite for a residency,” explains Mannino. “When I finish, if I want to apply for a residency I can do that, or if I want to go into private practice I can do that too. So I’m still keeping my options open. Whether private practice or hospital, I hope to be an emergency doctor.”

 

Miles Flanders, May 2018 DVM Graduate

Pursuing a career in conventional private companion animal practice

Miles Flanders is two years into veterinary school and has two more to go. He’s from Thomaston, Ga., and plans to join a conventional private companion animal practice where he’s worked previously near his hometown.

“I started in college with no idea what I wanted to do,” says Flanders. “I was a business management major, but halfway through school I realized it wasn’t for me. I was listening to a management systems technology class lecture by a guest speaker. It was that day I realized how I was not as engaged and excited about what the guy was saying as the others in the class.”

After Flanders changed his major he only took the bare minimum animal health classes because he was already so far along in school, and it still took him an extra year to graduate. It then took him two tries to get into the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine.

 

Veterinary-related experience pays off

“My experience hours weren’t a problem, but my grades were,” says Flanders. “I’d always had vet-related experience. I was really fortunate because there was a clinic back home that I was able to get on with and started in the back grooming and boarding dogs. I worked my way up and did that for two or three summers. After I graduated from undergrad, they let me come work full time. They were very supportive even though I didn’t get in to veterinary school on the first application.”

Even though Flanders had to take an extra year of undergrad and apply twice to the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine, he’s not too worried about getting a job after school. “My emphasis is mixed, but the two owners of that [small animal] clinic have offered me a job when I finish. They said whenever I graduate they would love to have me come back. I’ve thought about it some and will think more this summer when I don’t have school. But I don’t have any current reason to doubt that I’ll go there. They know me, and I know them. I’ve already developed relationships with their clients.”

There are four doctors at the clinic now but it’s busy enough to justify five, explains Flanders. He believes they’ll hire a relief vet, who isn’t attached to a particular clinic and can work in a contracted way, until he can start.

While Flanders has taken classes at the main College of Veterinary Medicine campus so far, in his third year he’ll get to experience the auditorium at the new facility for his coursework before starting his clinical rotation.

As of yet, he hasn’t had a class on practice management. But in his case, he will most likely learn what he needs to know from those in the practice waiting for him near his hometown. “They seem to have the business management handled,” he says.


UGA’s New Veterinary Medical Center

By Cindy Rice, Hospital Communications Director

UGA College of Veterinary Medicine Veterinary Teaching Hospital

The University of Georgia opened its new Veterinary Teaching Hospital on March 25, 2015. The hospital is part of the new UGA Veterinary Medical Center, which also includes an education building for teaching third-year veterinary students. The center encompasses just over 300,000 gross square feet and was built to enable the College of Veterinary Medicine to better meet its students’ educational needs and its current and future patient care demands.

The previous hospital, which opened in 1979, handled more than 24,500 visits per year in one of the smallest veterinary teaching hospitals in the U.S. Now, the hospital operates out of a building more than double the size of the old facility and outfitted with top-of-the-line equipment and improved functionality.

“This facility allows the college to be on more equal footing with peer veterinary hospitals in the Southeast and across the country,” Associate Dean for Clinical Services and Hospital Director Gary Baxter said. “This was an essential step to be able to attract the highest-caliber faculty, staff, interns, residents and students to the University of Georgia and to further improve clinical teaching, client service and patient care within the hospital.”

Other features of the new hospital include a flexible design to meet current needs and allow for expansion; separate emergency entrances for large and small animals; numerous teaching and collaboration spaces; expanded diagnostic imaging capabilities; and the ability to offer advanced radiation therapy.

The Veterinary Education Center, which is part of the Veterinary Medical Center campus, features a 160-seat auditorium, an 80-seat technology-enabled active learning classroom and two smaller classrooms for teaching veterinary students.

“Providing advanced animal healthcare for large and small animals while training the next generation of veterinarians is the hallmark of our program,” Baxter said. “Our new hospital and education center allow us to continue this tradition of excellence.”

The new UGA Veterinary Teaching Hospital treats more than 26,000 small and large animals each year and offers 25-plus specialty services, including a 24-hour emergency service. It is part of the College of Veterinary Medicine, which was founded in 1946. A leader in veterinary medical education, the college is dedicated to producing the best veterinarians in the country. Taught by world-class faculty, every graduate is prepared to promote animal health and welfare, combat emerging infectious diseases, advance safe and sustainable food animal production and conduct research to enhance the lives of people and animals. For more information, see www.vet.uga.edu/hospital.

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