Featured Alums: Yelena Lapova-Garber, DVM, BS UTCVM 2004, CBU Biology 2000, and Jenny Bernard, Biology 2006

 This month we feature two alums, one is a working veterinarian, the other is in vet school.

Biology majors at the research poster session in 2000. Yelena is on the bottom row second from the right.

from Yelena Lapova-Garber: Veterinary medicine is a very diverse profession. Although most veterinarians practice privately, other choices include corporate, specialty, and shelter practice, public health, government/military service, research, academia, etc. Within the scope of private practice, one may choose to work with companion animals, exotic pets, horses, cattle, swine, poultry, fish, and combination of thereof. Also keep in mind that it’s not unusual to change your mind as you go through the curriculum. Some students that dream of nothing but horses end up practicing small animal medicine, vice versa, and some discover joys of a certain specialty, industry, or a particular species. Possibilities are endless, and there is something for everyone. I have tried private and shelter practice, and for now settled on relief work. I enjoy taking a different road every morning, flexible scheduling, helping and learning from different hospitals, and meeting different people. This line of work, however, requires much flexibility and discipline as a self-employed individual and tax payer.

I would like to mention that if you are interested in this profession, you must not only enjoy working with animals, but people as well. Dogs don’t walk into the office with a credit card in their teeth and tell you they’ve been vomiting for three days, or they forgot their heartworm preventative last month. Most have humans attached to the other side of the leash. From clients and your medical team to sales representatives, financial advisers, specialists, etc., you must be able to get along and maintain a working relationship with a variety of individuals. Please do not underestimate this fact while settling on veterinary medicine.

CBU is a fantastic place to start pursuing your dream of becoming a veterinarian, and I must give credit to many courses and professors as I may not have made it without them. Please take advantage of Embryology, Immunology, and Anatomy courses offered at the CBU. Also, check the coursework for the first 2-3 years of the veterinary curriculum at your desired institution, and prepare yourself beyond prerequisites. Keep in mind that veterinary hospital is a business. As many colleges of vet med do not emphasize business education, I would highly recommend to those interested in private practice to prepare at the CBU by engaging in the study of business, finance, and marketing.

Last but not least, work or volunteer at a veterinary hospital, local animal shelter/humane society, the zoo, wildlife rehabilitation center, or any other place that employs a veterinarian. Work the schedule that the doctor works, mentally involve yourself with the problem solving and decision making process, and otherwise try to “walk a mile in their shoes.” This is a wonderful, giving profession, and you will have a chance to help not only animals, but families that love them. Proactive academic, mental, and emotional preparedness will not only help your dream come, but ensure that the profession is true to your expectations.

Jenny Bernard with a baby giraffe. Click on the picture to see Jenny with a Jaguar in her lap.

from Jenny Bernard: I graduated from CBU with a Bachelor of Science in Biology in the spring of 2006, and in just one semester of veterinary school I can see how my education at CBU prepared me for this next step of my career. In some ways, veterinary school has not been that different from CBU. For example, professors in veterinary school are always willing to take time to help students, a key feature of the CBU community. While at CBU, I had the opportunity to work in the research department at the Memphis Zoo on giant panda nutrition and behavior projects. I also traveled to Brazil with the MHIRT program to work on the Jaguar Conservation Project in the Pantanal. Click on the picture to see a picture from that trip. These opportunities were two key learning experiences that not only helped me decide that I wanted to go to veterinary school, but also, undoubtedly, helped me get in the program.

In the first semester of veterinary school I took a combination of all of the upper-level biology courses that I took my junior and senior years at CBU. The undergraduate courses offered at CBU prepared me not only for the classes, but also for the tremendous workload in veterinary school. Having taken courses in physiology, immunology, histology, embryology, and parasitology at CBU, I felt more comfortable this first semester, knowing that I had seen the material before and recognized many of the topics covered. After one semester, I certainly feel that the experiences I had and courses I took while at CBU have prepared me for veterinary school and for whatever lies thereafter.

I am definitely going to South Africa this summer. We’re staying at the vet school in Pretoria. Another first year student is going with me, and Dr. Kennedy is going to go down there with us for the first weekend. We’ll get to see the cheetah reserve and we’re probably going to take an extra week at the end of the summer to travel to Kruger national park and some other places while we’re there.

Also, I was accepted to the Masters in Public Health program at UT. We can do a concentration in community health education, health planning administration, or veterinary public health which is obviously the one I’m doing. Veterinary public health involves working wtih both human and animal health in areas of food safety, zoonotic diseases, biosecurity, and public policy. My main interests are in the zoonotic disease and biosafety aspect. I don’t really want to go into private practice and I know this will open up some other opportunities.