At the University of Illinois, the first-year veterinary students are thrown (not literally) onto clinical rotations. In their first eight-weeks of veterinary school they work their way through the Veterinary Teaching Hospital and Large Animal Clinic. Often wide-eyed and occasionally terrified, they work with faculty, residents, interns, and fourth-year students. From the perspective of a fourth-year student, it was terrific to work with the first-year students. Their aid was valuable on rotations. They helped me to answer the age-old question: “What’s funnier than seeing a first-year veterinary student get herself stuck between two cows?” (The answer, as it turns out, is “Nothing.”) And they helped me to remember to enjoy being a veterinary student.
The last part is by far the most important thing I learned from these new students. I forgot that even if it’s the hundredth time you’ve done it, it’s still pretty cool to draw blood, that having a giant boar for a patient doesn’t mean you can’t rub his belly on a slow afternoon, and that watching a PCV tube fill by gravity-defying capillary action is still really a neat thing. Their profound excitement, their sincere enthusiasm, and the genuine happiness of these first-year veterinary students struck a chord with me.
In the course of job hunting, NAVLE studying, and clinically rotating I forgot that being a veterinary student is actually a pretty awesome gig. We get to learn medicine and procedures and techniques from experts and specialists and technicians who have decades of accumulated knowledge, skill and wisdom to impart to us. What we do is a pretty amazing and wonderful thing. It is really a lot of fun.
My mind’s eye had too long ago turned its focus from enjoyment of the moment to pining for the future. I sought future successes, planned for the job hunt and interviews. I arrogantly disregarded the happiness in front of me in an unfulfilling but relentless pursuit driven by (what my dad calls) “sinful pride.” I was arrogant to do this. I was wrong to do this. I felt unfulfilled because I was constantly focused not on what I could enjoy, but what I could accomplish. I find myself humbled by the modesty and enthusiasm of these first-year veterinary students. I was reminded to enjoy what was right in front of me by people who almost certainly did not realize that they were doing so. I am very grateful to these students for this. And if any of them read this and wonder whether or not I’m talking about them in particular, I absolutely am. There was not one with whom I worked who was anything less than stellar. I hope they got as much out of working with me as I did out of working with them.