Campus News

UK Pre-Vet Experience Day charts a course for future veterinarians

Pre-Vet Experience Day charts a course for future veterinarians - Part 1

LEXINGTON, Ky., (March 7, 2024) — The University of Kentucky Martin-Gatton College of Agriculture, Food and Environment recently welcomed aspiring veterinarians from across the country to its inaugural Pre-Veterinary Experience Day.

The event was designed to guide, inform and inspire the next generation of veterinarians by providing a real-world, hands-on showcase of this dynamic profession. This educational landmark event brought together students from diverse backgrounds, each with a shared passion for animal health care, to explore the multifaceted world of veterinary medicine. 

“This is the first time we've had a pre-veterinary experience day,” said Colette Tebeau, UK Department of Animal and Food Sciences (AFS) pre-vet academic coordinator. “Our students were requesting more education about what it means to be a pre-vet student. It’s important for them to know what is required for veterinary school and to be well educated in many different aspects of the veterinary industry."

The day was structured into two tracks catering to students at different stages of their education. The first track aimed at undergraduates early in their pathway, focusing on the prerequisites for veterinary school and the skills needed to become a veterinarian. The second track was designed for students nearing the application process, offering insights into preparing a competitive veterinary school application and exploring various post-graduation career opportunities.

Students participated in panel discussions with veterinarians who shared their experiences and challenges in the field. This included working in a small animal clinic, equine practice, clinical practice with other large animal species, and government/regulatory/academic career paths. These interactive sessions, led by UK faculty and collaborators, aimed to give students a glimpse into the day-to-day life of veterinarians and the myriad career options available.

“It's important to bring professionals from around the nation to talk to the students because they have those real-life experiences,” said UK agriculture and medical biotechnology junior Anna Turlington. “They can bring that knowledge and experience to students who might not know that beforehand. Students can learn that they can do it too, it's not impossible and that the industry needs people of all different backgrounds.”

Samantha Gentille, an animal science major from the University of California, Davis, traveled over 2,300 miles to attend.

“I’ve been a pre-vet student pretty much all my life,” Gentille said. “My boss at work informed me of the opportunity. She told me it would be an incredible experience. It's also nice to get different vet perspectives from other schools.”

Gentille said she was particularly impressed with the insights into the veterinary school interview process and the preparation for presenting oneself effectively.

“I learned a lot about the interview process and how to properly present myself. I knew a lot about the animal side of things and how to write an application. Here, I learned how to express myself better through the different questions that were asked today and the different presenters.”

After morning presentations, students had their choice of hands-on locations: the Bluegrass Stockyard, Spy Coast Farm, Nicholasville Road Animal Hospital and the UK Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.

"These industry tours were designed to give students firsthand insight into how a facility works,” said Amber McNamara, AFS associate professor and Pre-Veterinary Advising Program director. “For example, at a practice facility, they saw how a patient moves through the clinic and learn from the experts who are doing this great work every day.”

UK’s Pre-Veterinary Advising program consists of an advisory team, led by McNamara and Tebeau, serving all university students in meeting their requirements for veterinary schools across the U.S., including contracts with Auburn University and Tuskegee University.

The Pre-Veterinary Experience Day also served as a networking hub, connecting students with professionals and peers sharing similar interests.

“I love networking and meeting new people, whether it's from different schools or professionals in the industry,” said Ava Vrany, a UK equine science and management major. “There's always somebody new in the profession I can learn from and help me determine what I want to do in the future.”

Tebeau said the event was a much-needed platform for addressing the growing concerns over the nationwide shortage of veterinarians, particularly in large animal and equine rural practices.

“A lot of it comes back to the industry's lack of veterinarians,” she said. “Large animal and equine but even small animal regulatory areas are struggling to find veterinarians. In veterinary medicine, we’re facing significant shortages that impact not just our rural communities but our urban centers as well.”

By providing an interactive space for education, discussion and networking, the event has laid the groundwork for future veterinarians to enter the field and an informed vision for their careers.

As the veterinary profession continues to evolve, the need for well-educated, passionate individuals entering the field has never been greater.

"I hope that they leave with enthusiasm for the field,” McNamara said. “There are so many paths that they could take within veterinary medicine. There are so many veterinarians who love to get up every morning and do their job. This is a rewarding career because we get to make a difference in the lives of animals. Whether you're in front of the classroom teaching the next generation of veterinarians, or you are hands-on with that animal and their owner, the field is always an exciting one."

The platinum sponsor for the event was Park Equine Hospital and gold sponsor was the Kentucky Soybean Board.

Silver sponsors included Boehringer Ingelheim, Chevy Chase Animal Clinic, Hagyard Equine Medical Institute, Kentucky Association of Equine Practitioners, Kentucky Department of Agriculture, Kentucky Livestock Coalition, Lexington Equine Medical, and Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital.

Bronze sponsors included the Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association and Kentucky Veterinary Medical Association.

Event collaborators included Bluegrass Equine Podiatry, Blue Grass Stockyards, Eastern Kentucky University, Morehead State University, Nicholasville Road Animal Hospital, Orrville Veterinary Clinic, Spy Coast Farm, VisitLex and Zoetis.

The event will be held annually on the Saturday before Presidents’ Day. More information about the event, speakers and topics can be found online at

 the Bluegrass Stockyards
 Nicholasville Road Animal Hospital
Kentucky Horse Park

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