THE WORLD OF ANIMALS IN THE 21st CENTURY
The Urban Vet
In the waiting room of the Center for Veterinary Care in New York City, one may temporarily forget that he is not in his own physician’s office—at least until the first patient arrives on a leash. There is a comfortable divan lining two walls, a receptionist’s desk, and several pet magazines. Dr. Amanda Walter wears a long, white jacket and a stethoscope around her neck. She has been a practicing veterinarian since graduating from the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine six years ago. “I’m one of the lucky people,” Walter asserted in an interview with Education Update. “At six or seven years old I knew I wanted to be a veterinarian. I then proceeded to treat all of my stuffed animals.” In high school Walter worked in a kennel at a veterinary clinic and with the Humane Society. “Even on bad days when I would get bitten or scratched, I wanted to go back to work the next day,” she confessed.
With admission to veterinary schools more competitive than ever, Walter’s early choice of career worked to her advantage. All twenty-seven nationwide veterinary schools require an intensely focused undergraduate course load in the sciences. The Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences had an acceptance rate of 11.62% in 2007 academic year. According to Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine online resources, its admissions formula is divided into 25% grade point average, 25% GRE, 5% quality of academic program, 20% animal/veterinary/research experience, 10% non-cognitive skills, 10% all other achievements and letters of evaluation, and 5% personal statement. Students must be fairly focused early on to excel in these categories.
Veterinary school is not just for those looking for professions as a neighborhood veterinarian. “Veterinary medicine is broader than most people realize,” remarked Dr. Ann E. Hohenhaus, Chairman of the Department of Medicine at the Animal Medical Center in Manhattan. Veterinary work stretches to a variety of fields including cancer research, public health and infectious diseases, military service, and homeland security. Veterinary school does not however, require students to choose a focus or specialty. Dr. Hohenhaus, explained that “everyone is licensed to do everything, though it would be unprofessional for me to work with a cow,” in her urban practice. After schooling, veterinarians can begin practice immediately or elect to participate in a two to three year residency program, where they specialize in one of the tens of specialty fields that exist in veterinary medicine. According to the AVMA, the mean first-year salary of all veterinary medical college graduates in 2007 was $46,128.
Currently, the veterinary profession is in the midst of a significant shift from being predominantly male to largely female. “When I was growing up it wasn’t entirely socially acceptable for a female (to be a veterinarian),” Hohenhaus stated. “I kept it to myself until I got to college.” In contrast, women today comprise 80% of entering veterinary students. After graduation, many of these female vets struggle with the time demands of their professional and family lives. Part-time veterinary practices often present problems of access of medical care for pet owners, especially in case of emergencies. “Veterinary medicine is extremely demanding and you don’t just leave it at the office,” noted Walter. “One possible solution might be a shift to larger practices so people can have more time with their families.”
Despite this personal balancing-act that Hohenhaus and Walter each personally face, they derive immense satisfaction from their careers. “I like being able to take care of patients that can’t care for themselves,” Walter said. “Having someone thank me for helping his pet makes my day.” Dr. Hohenhaus, who is a third generation veterinarian, asserted, “I can’t imagine what else I’d have done.” With specialties in oncology and internal medicine, she appreciates “the strong relationships I build with the owners and their pets,” in addition to the actual care she provides for the animals. “I love the hunt of figuring out what’s wrong with the pet. It’s like a good mystery novel.” #