Every year, the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine receives over 800 applications for fifty-six open slots in the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program. That means our students are the best and the brightest: They are selected not just for their grades and test scores, but also for their passion and dedication to the veterinary profession. Kelsey Scanlan is one of those students.
In her third year at OSU, Scanlan is still excited about veterinary medicine despite the hard work, long hours, and overwhelming cost of her education.
On a non-test day, Scanlan arrives at Magruder Hall for her first class at eight in the morning. “If it is a test day, I usually show up between five a.m. and six a.m.,” she says. As a third-year student, she is also assigned patients to monitor. “I may have to go in at 7 a.m. to check on a patient, and if I have surgery that day, I’ll be here until 7 p.m. or later,” she says. Then she still needs to study.
Around Magruder, you’ll often see a T-shirt that states: ‘Real doctors treat more than one species.’ Human doctors may argue that point, but certainly it is true that veterinary students are required to memorize a massive and diverse amount of information: The cranial tibial muscle is superficial in a dog, but deep in a large animal; some animals get antibodies from their mother through the placenta, others get it from mother’s milk; the same drug can work differently in dogs than in cats; and so on. Veterinary students get tested on all of it.
“I came in from undergrad thinking, ‘I’m going to do fine because I know how to study, but this is a whole new ball game,” says Scanlan. “By the second week, when I had a stack of 400 flash cards, I knew this wasn’t going to work,” she laughs.
Now Scanlan studies with her good friend Kelsey Anderson. “We go through our outlines, then quiz each other on important points. We like to sit in coffee shops around town; I like to hear the music and laughter . . . it’s nice to know that life is going on around us.” That is important when you spend all day in classes and labs, study until ten or eleven every night, then study some more on Saturday and Sunday.
But Scanlan is not complaining; far from it.
“It’s amazing,” she says. “It can be stressful, so sometimes you forget how lucky we are to be here. It sounds corny, but every day when I walk into this building, I know that the stress is good because it means I am in a graduate program where I get to help people and animals in a job that millions of people would love to do.”
Scanlan recently completed one of her favorite electives: Cardiology. “Each professor likes to sell their favorite subject so they say things like, ‘The liver! You can’t live without it!” she laughs. “Dr. Sisson hooked me with, ‘You can live if your brain starts to shut down, but if your heart shuts down, nothing will work.’ It is incredible: the heart has its own mind; its own electrical system. I love it.”
Like most students, Scanlan has found Small Animal Surgery to be the hardest class so far. “It was one of my favorites, but it was also the hardest. It came at the start of third year, when I was just getting my foot in the door doing clinical work, and there I am, actually helping with surgeries. It was so overwhelming: all the intricate details and knowing that a life is dependent on it.”
For those reasons, the class also requires a lot of study time. “It was overwhelming but exciting. The professors, like Dr. Milovancev, the skill he has in soft tissue surgery . . . I would leave with my mouth hanging open.”
Unlike many college students, veterinary students rarely take the whole summer off to bask in the sun. They either have internships, externships, or work as volunteers for animal welfare organizations. Scanlan is no exception. She spent last summer on an externship at the Oregon National Primate Center. “That was incredible medicine,” she says. “I learned so much, and got so much hands-on experience.
On top of all the hard work, veterinary students face the worrisome burden of school debt. In the U.S., the average veterinary student graduates with $148,000 in loans. Thanks to scores of generous supporters, a small portion of that debt is alleviated by scholarship money. Every student at the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine gets financial assistance through scholarships.
As a student on the Dean’s List, Scanlan has received several scholarships, but one of the most meaningful to her has been the Otto and Helga Spring award. When she wrote a thank-you note to Helga Spring and they met for coffee, the two women discovered many common interests. “We were going to just meet for an hour, but we ended up talking for three hours. She is an incredible lady,” says Scanlan. “She loves alternative medicine – acupuncture and Chinese medicine.”
Scanlan is active in several student organizations, including the Integrative Medicine Club, who paid for her to attend the American Holistic Veterinary Medicine Conference in Portland. She asked Spring to go with her and they spent the whole day attending workshops on topics like acupuncture, physical therapy, chiropractics, and nutrition. “She loves animals and people so it was fun spending the day with her, learning together,” says Scanlan.
Because Scanlan relies on scholarship money to help pay the bills, she knows how important it is to reach out to potential donors so future students will have the same benefit. “I feel so lucky that I got [scholarship money] because the cost of school freaks me out!” she says. “I delayed coming to vet school because I was trying to work and save. I was thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, how can I do this?’ Every little bit has been an enormous help; it makes me teary-eyed because it is so, so helpful.”