Yes, you have to be smart to make it in vet med. A 2.8 GPA may not cut it, although perhaps in some circumstances I am sure it could. A GPA is just a number and, in my opinion, was never an accurate representation of someone’s intelligence and clinical acumen. But, unfortunately, after trudging through the endless maze of academia for the past 20 years (can you believe it?) I have come to see how heavily exam scores and GPAs are weighted in deciding who is selected and who is denied their next step in the veterinary career process. An absurd amount of emphasis is placed on these “accurate” representations of one’s knowledge, and by extension proficiency, and this is a huge reason why I barely got into vet school. I started college with a 2.8 GPA and ended with a 3.4 GPA which was still below average.
It is only when you jump and peer over the tall hedges of the academic maze that you realize you are not even in a maze at all. I am not sure where this metaphor is going, honestly, but it is the honesty in admitting (enthusiastically I may add) the improper use of a metaphor in writing this that is of importance here. Sure, 4.0s and perfect exam scores will get you places, but more often than not it is enthusiasm and honesty that triumphs. Believe it or not, you cannot give enthusiasm or honesty a GPA.
David Eddy, an American physician, and healthcare analyst who coined the term evidence-based tells us, “taking uncertainty into account can enhance a physician’s therapeutic effectiveness because it demonstrates honesty, his willingness to be more engaged with his patients, his commitment to the reality of the situation rather than resorting to evasion, half-truth, and even lies.” Jerome Groopman, another American physician, and lauded author reinforces this by saying it is often the enthusiastic doctors, not the smartest doctors, who have the best doctor-patient relationship and thus provide the best care.
These thoughts challenge the long-held belief, at least that I have had, that one’s success after college and in professional school depends greatly on exam scores and GPA. Of course, this is not to say one should not strive to do their best because, hopefully, in getting high exam scores and GPA one also learned a great deal. One needs to learn, that is the whole point. But, as I am sure we have seen in clinics and on the hospital floor post-graduation, high numbers on paper do not necessarily correlate with knowledge retention. Remember the memorize-regurgitate-purge method? We have all been guilty of that at one point in our academic careers. And, unfortunately, this method does not work well in the real world, especially during an internship.
What I am trying to say is this: numbers may serve as decent predictors of one’s success in vet med, but not all predictions come true. If you want to ensure undeniable success in vet med look at one’s enthusiasm and honesty. I often feel as students we are taught that acknowledging uncertainty (AKA being honest) is a detriment to owner trust. But after much deliberation, being honest with owners achieves quite the opposite. Being honest is much more beneficial and leads to better communication and pet care.
So here we are. We have learned something today. Humans like honesty and enthusiasm. Better yet, and you have heard it here first, humans like enthusiastic honesty. Humans, especially humans with furry or scaly family members, like enthusiastic honesty. This is what vet med needs more of.