When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Me, I wanted to be a Greek mythology teacher. True story! At the age of 8 I knew I was fascinated by Greek mythology and my mom was in school to become a teacher, so it just made sense. Like many people, I grew up and decided on another occupation… or 2 or 3…
Dr. Haley, on the other hand, knew when she was a girl, all of 4 years old, that she wanted to be a veterinarian. She never lost sight of that dream. She started working to accomplish her goal at the age of 14 when she became a kennel technician. With hard work and dedication, she stayed true to her course and today she owns her own practice. She is also passionate about giving others like her an opportunity to accomplish their goals.
While Greek mythology was not my ultimate academic pursuit, education was. Special education and cross-cultural communication, to be specific. As it turns out, I too am passionate about helping others accomplish their goals. So when we were approached by a local Veterinary Science 4H group to do a tour of the facility and answer some questions, we said, “Absolutely!” We’ve done these types of tours before for different age groups and for students from different backgrounds. It’s always so exciting for us to see young people interested in what we do. And we love it when the students are able to really understand that we do more than cuddle puppies and kittens all day. (Side note: that only comprises part of our day, but it’s a really important part!!)
We got to explain that while we all have a strong desire to help animals, by doing that, we also get to help humans. Did you know that, according to the CDC, only 23 cases of rabies were reported in the US between 2008-2017, and 8 of those people contracted the virus in other countries? That means only 15 humans contracted rabies in the US in about a decade. Other countries aren’t faring so well. 90% of humans that have the rabies virus contract it from unvaccinated dogs. We got to tell them about parasites and diseases that can be transmitted from animal to human and how it’s our responsibility to help keep everyone healthy. We talk about the importance of learning math and science and how cool it is to look at things under a microscope. (It really is cool!!)
When Dr. Haley and her staff of 6 were still in “the old building,” that quaint mid-century, not-so-modern, 2 bedroom house we used to be in, she and her husband, Thomas, had a vision for something more. By the time I started in June of 2014, the foundation was laid and the beams were up on “the new building.” I got to see it in its infancy and watch it grow into a place that would allow more pets to be healed. It would also allow for more people to have opportunities they wouldn’t have had otherwise. It was never about having a “fancy new building.”
Dr. Haley’s intention was, from the beginning, to give back to the community. She wanted a place for college interns and externs to come and learn, hands-on, what it really means to be a doctor. She wanted to be able to teach anyone who wanted to learn, how to be a veterinary technician. We have student volunteers trying to get into school to be a veterinarian that need so many hours in a real hospital as a prerequisite. We have young elementary and middle school students who come as a vet-for-a-day and find out if they really do want to be a veterinarian when they grow up. And we have tours. We have groups of students who are currently in 4H programs that are studying to be Certified Veterinary Assistants who come to see our hospital. This particular program is affiliated with Texas A&M which has one of the best veterinary programs in the United States. It gets them on the fast track to becoming a veterinarian, if that’s really what they want to do.
So what does this mean for the parents of these students? Tracy is one of the moms who helped coordinate this event for their group so I thought I’d ask her a few questions for our blog. Here’s what she had to say.
- How many children do you have in the 4H program and what are their ages? -We have two different 4H Vet Science programs running under the Williamson County 4H chapter. Our group has 10 students ranging from 12 – 18. The 4H Veterinary Science Certificate Program typically takes 3-5 years to complete the college level apprenticeship in order to qualify for the CVA exam/certificate.
- How many total students are in your Vet Science group? -In both groups there are a total of about 22 students.
- Did most of your group enjoy the tour? -Everyone loved the tour and the opportunity to see “behind the scenes” of the daily work (how medicines were given, how the different machines test for different things and what things are looked for under the microscope.)
- Did you talk about it afterwards as a group? – We meet formally once a month for tours or coursework review, so we haven’t had our next meeting yet to discuss, but after our tour I know the buzz was great! Everyone left excited and ready to come work with y’all!
- What was the students’ favorite part and least favorite part of the tour? – I think everyone fell in love with Comet the Office Cat 🙂 There was no least favorite part, only excitement to jump in and get started!
- Did any of the students observe something, or learn something during the tour that made an impact on them? If so, what was that? – One comment that was really interesting was that there is a lot of detailed information to learn in this course, and sometimes it feels overwhelming. But after visiting your hospital, students noted how clean and organized everything is and that there is a defined process for everything. This helps it to seem less overwhelming and chaotic and more manageable!
- In your opinion, how many students do you think would really consider working in vet med, either as a veterinary technician or a veterinarian? – 100% of them are working hard, completing the college-level course work and volunteer/apprentice hours towards their Certified Veterinary Assistant designation!
- How did the parents feel about the tour? – I loved the tour and wish I had been involved in an opportunity like this at the same age! Who knows, I might have had a totally different career given how interesting and exciting it was to visit there!
- Is there anything else you’d like for everyone to know about 4H, the tour or our facility? – Everyone at the facility was so wonderful, helpful and candid about what you do and how you help serve the animals and community. It was so amazing for y’all to take the time to answer any questions and walk the students through what their future career days may look like! We cannot thank you enough for helping the next generation of vets! If anyone is interested in vet tech science program that they can contact the Williamson County AgriLife Extension office.
I really appreciate the feedback from Tracy and the 4H group! I am so thankful we can help answer questions and hopefully bring some of those concepts they’re learning to life. One of the many things I love about my job is that after 5 years of being here, I still learn something new everyday. That means there’s a lot to learn! While these students are just getting started, this program gives them the opportunity to hit the floor running!
What age did you know you wanted to be a veterinarian?
Dr. Nichols – 5 years old
Dr. Long – 5 years old
Dr. Johnson – 5 or 6 years old
Dr. Tackett – 4 years old
So the moral of the story is, it’s never too early (or too late) to start dreaming about your future!