As they approach the end of their undergraduate careers, Honors pre-veterinary students Emily Mangan and Lauren Eyrich feel uniquely prepared to fulfill their dreams.
Emily and Lauren are the first students who will graduate from the Pre-Veterinary Scholars Program, a collaboration between the Honors College (HC) and the College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) at Oregon State that began in 2011. The program was designed by Toni Doolen and Susan Tornquist when they were associate deans of, respectively, the HC and CVM as a way to recruit top students to Oregon State, the Honors College, and veterinary school. Now the deans of their colleges, Doolen and Tornquist see a program that has created the kind of strong mentor relationships that give participants a leg up both during school and after.
“We want to make sure there is good mentorship for students,” says Tornquist. “The mentors volunteer for the extra work, but it’s a great benefit to our program as well. We can identify high-achieving students, get to know them, and take part in planning their careers.”
During their freshman years, students are paired with faculty mentors who stay with them throughout their undergraduate careers. In addition, participants have opportunities to engage in hands-on research that can form the basis for their UHC theses, participate in volunteer and educational outreach programs, and observe clinical applications. All of this is designed to pave the way to acceptance to veterinary schools after graduation.
Lauren says she has long dreamed of being a veterinarian. While all of the opportunities provided by the program have been useful, she sees mentorship as the most impactful.
“You get a lot out of meeting one-on-one and developing relationships with professionals in the industry,” Lauren says. “It was a great balance of research and clinical opportunities. My mentors played a huge role in my opportunities as an undergrad.”
Lauren worked extensively with two mentors: she assisted Dr. Karyn Bird in the Veterinary Diagnostics Laboratory as an intern and worked on her own thesis with Dr. Erica McKenzie studying the exertional breakdown of muscle tissue in Arabian racehorses, a project that contributed to McKenzie’s larger research program.
“That was a great opportunity to have the approval and essentially a lot of the leg work done and to get to work with Dr. McKenzie,” Lauren says.
Emily also found the research opportunities to be an invaluable way of enhancing her undergraduate degree and preparing her to apply to Oregon State’s College of Veterinary Medicine. Emily worked with Dr. Christopher Cebra for her Honors thesis, analyzing in vitro neutrophil functions in new world camelids, llamas, and alpacas.
“The mentorship I have received is by far the most important and valuable aspect of this program,” Emily says. “Having a mentor that actively strives to provide opportunities for growth and to push you to be your best is rare. The hands-on research experience has been incredible, both for my own growth and enjoyment, and also to set me apart from other veterinary candidates during the application process.”
This culture of mentorship extends to the community of students as well. “There is a mentorship among the pre-vet scholars, where the older scholars help the incoming students succeed,” Doolen says. “There is a really nice community among the students and also between the students and the faculty in Veterinary Medicine. To me, that’s a real success.”
“The networking and collaboration with vets and researchers in the field is such an important part of vet medicine,” says Lauren. “We have camaraderie among the scholars as well, which is just an extra layer of support. We all share a similar goal of vet school and pursuing this career.”
Lauren and Emily’s experience in the Honors College has extended their experience and their community of support. “The Honors College’s offerings of high-level, discussion-based classes have been huge,” Lauren says. “All of my Honors classes have emphasized critical thinking, which is really important in veterinary medicine when your patients aren’t able to tell you what’s wrong. You really do have to think outside the box. It’s about drawing the connections between what you know and what you don’t know.”
“I chose to apply to the HC because I was looking for academic rigor and an intellectual community,” Emily says. “OSU had my desired major of animal science and is known as a good agricultural school, but that being said, if I hadn’t been accepted to the HC, I probably would not have attended OSU.”
Emily was a recipient of a National Science Foundation scholarship administered by the Honors College, which she says was also pivotal in putting her through school her first year.
For Emily, the experience has brought her one step closer to realizing a life-long dream. “The pre-vet program served as a way to gain experience in the field and acted as a stepping stone of sorts on the way to my ultimate goal,” she says. “I have always wanted to be a veterinarian. I was that stereotypical toddler with the plastic stethoscope and the teddy bear wrapped in ace bandages.”
She will be attending OSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine this fall and plans to pursue large animal internal medicine. Lauren is moving to North Carolina this summer and anticipates studying large animal medicine with an emphasis on horses and sports medicine at North Carolina State University in the fall of 2016.
By: Emma-Kate Schaake
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