What makes the difference between a good class or rotation and a truly spectacular one? What makes the subject material digestible and accessible? What moments in vet school have stuck most in my mind? What has renewed my inspiration for the field, shown me aspects of veterinary medicine that piqued my interest, led me down paths I never thought I would venture on, and given me opportunities that have stretched my academic narrative to include varied and exciting projects and experiences?
At the center of it all, it is the professors and clinicians that can make or break a class or rotation. Vet school is a whirlwind of courses and information, and it became apparent to me immediately the professors who loved not just the field of veterinary medicine but equally loved passing on their knowledge to their students.
So this is to the professors.
To the professors who are so excited about the subject they teach, that their students cannot help but also be enthusiastic about that topic.
To the professors who recognize the monotony or outright tedious nature of their subject and find ways to keep their students’ attention and interest.
To the professors who are honest with their shortcomings and identify when a concept might not have been explained quite well enough, and are modest enough to adjust exams when they recognize that the mistake was theirs, and not their students’.
To the professors who are responsive enough to student feedback to actually make changes in their course that may benefit future classes.
To the professors who come up with study strategies, helpful material and references, and as many opportunities for practice as their students need.
To the professors who can see when a class is struggling and change route and tactic to support the success of their students.
To the professors who know their class is just one of a myriad in any students’ schedule, and promote and allow school-life balance, rather than just talking about it.
To the professors who are willing to meet with students one-on-one or in groups to go over concepts, skills, and clinical technique, no matter how inconsequential the task or subject material may be.
To the professors who intake a never-ending litany of questions, ranging from highly complex, to the most basic, and answers them all with the same level of respect and gravity.
To the professors who are able to guide students to reason through concepts and cases with a balance of self-discovery and avoiding overwhelming frustration.
To the professors who have an arsenal of ways to explain clinical skills, techniques and subject matter and can adapt those explanations to reach even the most befuddled minds.
To the professors who are not interested in bogging down their students with useless facts and information, but cut through to what is truly important and clinically relevant for their careers.
To the professors who are willing to stay to see the even the slowest set of hands throw their last suture, recover their first surgical patients, and are the first one back in the door in the morning to answer questions and problem-solve as needed.
To the professors who can correct mistakes in a manner that is non-condescending but will make sure that the student will be successful in the future.
To the professors who provide feedback that is constructive and realistic, but also points out what a student did well, not just where they need to improve.
To the professors who take mistakes and failure and turn them into opportunities for their students to learn rather than let them sit as points of shame.
To the professors who recognize their students are more than just students – but human beings with complex and unique lives outside of the veterinary school and encourage the cultivation of their students as people outside of their identity as a vet student.
To the professors who are able to see where the system is flawed, where it is detrimental to students, and who are willing to say something, and more importantly, do something about it.
To the professors who advocate for their students in whatever way they can, even when it is difficult or when they are the only voice speaking out.
To the professors who act as mentors, who serve as confidantes, who care for their students beyond what grade they achieve in their course and care more about them as future colleagues, and as people. The ones who are willing to go above and beyond to support their students, and who (whether they know it or not) change the lives of the students who they inspire.
These are the professors who are hard to find and are harder to keep, but who make a monumental difference in the education of the next generation of veterinarians. They are creative, unconventional, outspoken, encouraging, challenging, brilliant, genuine, and passionate. They have a vision for the future of veterinary medicine, and they are helping shape that future by cultivating the next generation of vets.
So, to these professors:
“Thank you” pales to the gratitude they deserve.
The best way I can think to pay homage to these extraordinary educators and professionals is to internalize the lessons that they gave to us. To hold onto the information they impart to us. And maybe more importantly, to continue to pass along what they gave to us. Their knowledge, their time, their compassion, their patience, their tips and tricks, their discipline and precision. It is my goal to take all of these pieces, from these professors that have created the best moments of my veterinary education with me into my veterinary career.
And, I think the very best way to do justice to these professors is if I search for opportunities to pass along their lessons to aspiring veterinarians the same way they did for me.