Mentor veterinary students to encourage a love for equine practice

Mentor veterinary students to encourage a love for equine practice

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Aug 01, 2010

Students gain vast knowledge in veterinary school, but making the leap from school to the real world can be a bit daunting for them. As a wise and experienced practitioner, you can help new veterinarians find their way. Here's how experienced equine veterinarians help students find a love for the profession and sharpen their skills.

Bo Brock, DVM, Dipl. AVBP, and owner of Brock Veterinary Clinic in Lamesa, Texas, enjoys mentoring the constant flow of students that come through his clinic. In some instances, interns live with him for a period of time. But Brock doesn't think of it as an inconvenience. "It's my role to educate the next generation," he says.

Brock sees providing mentorship as a rite of passage. "Students need to run into somebody who will teach them how to have a passion for what they do," Brock says. "If they completely miss out on that, they get disgruntled. My role is to teach young doctors how to think like a horse owner instead of a veterinarian. And when they do, the job is rewarding."

Throughout veterinary school, students learn the science of veterinary medicine — the way things heal and how to work on medical problems. But, according to Brock, they don't learn how to deal with the people who own the animals.

Brock's newest intern just arrived from Colorado State University. Brock told him that he can't necessarily teach him what some of his professors taught him, but he can show him how to love to be a veterinarian — he tells young veterinarians that all the time. "That's what I want you to do, learn how to enjoy what you do," he says. "And if you love it, you'll be good at it."

Brock says that as you go through your career, the veterinarians that stick out in your mind are maybe not the smartest ones, nor the most surgically adept ones, but the ones that paid attention to you and gave you credit when you did things well. Mentoring a young veterinarian gives you the opportunity to change someone's life. Work with students and teach them how to interact with people and to absorb their environment so that they like what they do — that is Brock's favorite thing to do. "I think that's part of the mentoring process, at least that's my part in it," he says.

Fun for you and the student

Besides helping new students learn to love what they do, you might also find yourself enjoying the process, too.

"I definitely love what I do, horse medicine, everything about it," says Betsy Charles, DVM, radiology resident at Western University. "It's fun because I love interacting with the students, and as a non-traditional resident, I get to do that a lot."

Previously, Charles developed the extern program at San Dieguito Equine Group, where she practiced and supervised third- and fourth-year veterinary students from Western Veterinary College as well as other veterinary colleges as they rotated through the practice as part of their core equine rotations. Charles is also involved with the Veterinary Leadership Experience as a speaker and facilitator and serves on the Student Relations Committee for the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP).

"I'm honest with students about the positive parts of equine practice, but I'm also honest with them about what's challenging about it," Charles says. "Especially because there are a lot of women coming into equine practice and it's still a male-dominated profession. That presents many challenges, but I'm pretty up front about them and how I handle those situations. I think that students appreciate that. I'm not going to sugar-coat it. I just love what I do so much, I hope my enthusiasm for the profession is contagious," Charles says.

She says it takes a long time to become good at being a horse doctor and that your guidance for young doctors is invaluable. "It can be frustrating for the young kids coming out of school. Within the specialty are surgeons and big personalities, and a lot of ego is involved. I was shocked when I first started practicing in southern California — how intensely competitive it is and that we all just can't get along in the sandbox," Charles says. "I tell the students that there are a lot of things that are going to be challenging in all areas of life, and this is just one of them."