By Dr. Roger Krogstad, DVM
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC
With some frequency we are asked, “What do you have to do to become a veterinarian?” Many times a young member of the family has been intrigued by the various vet reality shows on TV. More girls than boys seem to be interested in this career choice, which is reflected in the current veterinary college enrollment where the female population may be as high as 90 percent.
The common reason for interest in the field is, “I love animals.” A good place to start, but veterinary medicine is equally a people business. For most veterinarians the road to graduation has been a long, hard, self-sacrificing struggle. With a high school graduating class of 300 from Marshfield High School, only one student every three to five years may be accepted into a four-year veterinary program at UW-Madison. Behind each of these veterinary students will be a common story.
First, most will have developed an interest in the field early in life. I personally began riding every Saturday with a country vet at the age of 11. Most will have been serious with academics as high school and college grade point averages are highly regarded. Recent college averages for incoming veterinary classes at UW-Madison were 3.45 for in-state students and 3.75 for out-of-state students.
A high percentage of applicants already have undergraduate degrees before beginning the four years of vet school. These students also represent hundreds of hours of cleaning kennels, volunteering at shelters, and shadowing at veterinary practices.
I try not to discourage the highly motivated youngsters. I recommend reading the James Herriot novels, watching Animal Planet, and developing strict study skills. I also point out the financial reality of eight years of college with tuition costs at about $15,000 per year in state or as high as $50,000 per year when applying out of state.
The personal rewards are many, but the financial rewards are far down on the list. Large tuition debt takes a big chunk out of modest starting salaries. We see, though, that every pet is special, and their relationships with owners are a bond worthy of our dedication.
Every day is different, and medicine is continually changing. We are constantly being academically and emotionally challenged. In the same day, we will be putting to sleep a beloved ailing pet and then seeing a new puppy the next minute.
Veterinarians wear many hats. We are not just medicine and surgical professionals but educators, grief counselors, nutritional and behavior consultants, and public health investigators as well.
Maybe it is a calling because of the many obstacles and sacrifices that are encountered. To be one of a special few graduates in this profession is an honor, and we all do truly love animals.
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC is located at 210 Airpark Road in Marshfield and online at wildwoodanimalhospital.net.