When you tell people you want to go to vet school, you are generally met with either one of two responses: (1) a floodgate of animal medical questions from people eager for answers from someone who knows they have no reasonable solutions for you because they are not yet veterinarians, and (2) the sentence all aspiring students have heard, echoing in the back of our heads with each step we take on this path, “Good luck, vet school is hard.”
Today I have the privilege of telling every person I meet that I am a member of the inaugural class of the Texas Tech University School of Veterinary Medicine. The mountain of work that it takes to get in – the three rounds (19 total applications) of rejections, the tears, the passion for medicine and this field – was all worth it. I get to stand proudly on top of everything and be absolutely ecstatic about the future as not only a member of our inaugural class but also the first elected TTU SVM Class President. My classmates and I get to begin to develop the rich traditions that will forever flow through these halls. We get to work hand-in-hand with our professors and mentors, aiding in designing the curriculum. We get to participate in the accreditation process and many other pioneering experiences.
One thing I can tell aspiring veterinary students for certain, though, is good luck; vet school is hard.
Vet school is like trying to drink from a fire hydrant, and you truly must be a special kind of “ShamWow” to soak it all up. Texas Tech’s vet school is no different from any other in that regard, except on top of calmly drinking from the high-powered, blast-your-face-off tap, we also get to start everything. Our class can create every club; come up with nicknames for different areas of the building; start traditions that will last for years down the road. We are simultaneously tasked with (and lucky enough to be) making this school and its program into everything we want it to be. Much like being in the inaugural class itself, this has some ups and downs.
My first semester of veterinary school was incredible. Tech’s program is second to none, and I will scream that from every rooftop. Our dean, Guy Loneragan, insists that we only call him “Guy.” Nowhere in the country can a random student be walking down the hall and get to talk to the dean of the program about weekend plans as if they were a long-time peer. Every dean, professor, faculty member, and mentor know all 63 of us personally, and if they realize that they have not met us yet, there is no other reaction than a warm, almost family-like introduction. We are lucky for too many reasons to count, but the Raider family is a tier above. When I say family, I completely mean that. From day one, we have been told we are colleagues; if we feel there are issues with a course or a desire to alter the testing schedule over the semester or a need for additional help, the students are met with an open door and attentive ears. Our class and its small size allow for closer relationships with our professors and increased personalization in helping us all find what we are each passionate about. These aspects, combined with the excitement that we all share about the way the curriculum is designed, getting us practice-ready faster, and traveling all over Texas in our fourth year and physically being with our clinical partners, sets this program apart. It is, however, a brand-new school in a brand new building, and it is not without moments that we all look back and laugh.
Anatomy is a class in vet school about which horror stories are told. The volume of information and the speed at which it is flying by is enough to make any incoming first-year shiver in fear. I did not expect this monster of a class to take place in our outdoor bovine skills lab through the winter months nor to be unloading our cadaver from the freezer semi-trailer, but there we were. Was it the desired situation? Of course not, but we still learned everything. We used our Red Raider grit, and will all have memories of cold fingers and noses staying in bovine skills with the heaters cranked up, yielding our specimens hardly recognizable until the wee hours of the morning. Nobody else will get that experience, for better or for worse, and I can tell you without a doubt that our class is especially grateful for our now-finished anatomy lab.
There are countless little moments of us, our professors, and the deans trying to find the most efficient path, like when you test which piece in the Jenga tower you can tap and slide it right out. Yes, we get to be the little test guinea pigs (or beagles more commonly in our field), but it is exciting under the shaky Jenga tower. We get to help find out the more efficient and effective path, and while our small moments may be crazy at times, we are making this program even stronger in the long run. We are simultaneously first-year students and the senior-most students on campus, so we lack that level above to provide perspective and tell us all that, while it may seem like we are in a tornado of chaos, this is all normal. What we lack in a “big brother” or “big sister” we gain from our colleagues. Our professors have taken on our mentorship, and in an amazing way it has helped bring us even closer. They genuinely care about the feedback we provide, spending more time on areas that we feel went by too quickly or changing how they present materials so that we can better grasp it. This has resulted in improving our performance in certain areas, and I am certain it will lead to stronger students and, in turn, practice-ready doctors in the long run. In the same vein, they know us incredibly well and want us to be as successful as we can about what interests us.
I have always had a passion for small animal surgery and, previously, I assumed I would be in general practice after graduation, occasionally doing some cool surgeries but never really saw anything past that. The mentorship and guidance that I have gained almost as a direct result of lacking upperclassmen has set me on an early course to accomplishing my goals. Since our professors are our mentors, I have the incredible opportunity to get to know a board-certified small animal surgeon on the level of a friend. I get to simultaneously learn skills on how to practice the highest level of surgery that I can at this time while also grabbing a coffee and talking about our weekend.
The interest in our well-being, passions, and success extends to all 63 of us and our many varying interests. One of my classmates is recently published in human medicine for incredibly innovative techniques. Another has a passion for equine theriogenology. Another wants to return to Texas Tech and be integrated into academia. Another is thrilled to return home, run his family’s ranch, and contribute to his local community. There are 63 of us, each incredibly different with vastly different stars that we aim for, but all of us are constantly provided with every piece of help possible to get us there. Hearing that Texas Tech’s focus would be rural, regional, and underserved communities, I assumed that it would be a funnel, of-sorts, to mixed animal practice in the middle of nowhere. Is that a part of it? Yes, of course, and some people are incredibly passionate about that. It also means getting someone who has a passion for small animal surgery and wants to return to the panhandle they fell in love with through all the hurdles board-certification poses.
When you walk through the halls here its different – almost electric. The doctors that this school is going to produce will have an incredible amount of hands-on experience: we had personal portable ultrasounds on cattle and horses in the first semester, we will start small animal surgery within a year from now, and we are already working with simulated clients. We will be practice-ready faster and be ready to help our community the moment we graduate.
What I feel is most significant about our 63-member family is the strong connection we have been able to form with each other, with our professors, the dean, our mentors, and – almost more important than everything else – our practice partners. Other students don’t meet their practice mentors until their rotations, and even still, they don’t meet all of them. Our supportive community is here: they are here during interviews, here during our big events, sponsoring our clubs, popping into class to help teach us what they know is essential for every-day practice. We are engulfed not only in an innovative, forward-thinking program but wholly submerged into the practices that we are all going to be a part of someday soon. The core value of community extends all over the state, and they have made sure that we all know they may be eight hours away, but that is our community, and they will be here in a flash if we need anything. Getting to form these bonds, traditions, and curriculum is an honor.
I may only be one semester into vet school, but I can absolutely attest to the tried-and-true statement: aspiring vet students, good luck, vet school is hard. But I can now add, I cannot wait to help you get through it.
TTU-SVM Class of 2025