Finding Mentorship

Mentorship is an essential part of the veterinary community. In our curriculum, we are taught how important it is to find a practice to work in that provides us with good mentorship when we graduate, and how much of a difference it can make in our future careers.

While we are still in vet school though, I feel like the mentorship is just as important as once we are out in the ‘real world’, and findings good mentors isn’t a skill I was really taught. Ultimately, the clinicians and professors and technicians who have become my biggest mentors were some of the most unexpected.

As someone on an equine track, and a self-proclaimed ‘horse girl’, I had expected my mentors and favorite professors to be exclusively the large animal professors. I was not incorrect; I have found a lot of amazing mentors within the large animal hospital. My advisor (one of the large animal surgeons here) is fantastic and has provided a lot of great advice to me, and I absolutely adore the community practice veterinarians that I use for my own mare. One of the large animal veterinary technicians that trained me when I worked as an overnight assistant in the hospital is one of my favorite individuals in the hospital and she has taught me so much practical information that is going to be critical for 4th-year and beyond.

But I also have a group of mentors that I definitely did not imagine finding.

Like the manager of the Teaching Dog program. After I became interested in adopting my Canine Educator at the end of the school year, I was spending a lot of time in the kennels with the dogs, and got to know the veterinary technician who is the main caretaker for the dogs. She gave me so many learning opportunities, helped me gain confidence in my small animal skillset, and has become a friend.

Or after one of my externships and one of my jobs fell through last summer and I was scrambling to make summer plans, I sent out an email through one of our school emailing lists asking if anyone had any projects or equine work for a student worker. It was a difficult email to send, putting myself out there on a whim, but I had the most amazing response from several of my professors–one who offered to make a project for me that dealt with horses if I couldn’t find anything and another where I ended up contributing over the summer to her research in the field of equine osteoarthritis. It was an exceptional research experience and she pushed me to make a poster, then provided me with opportunities to present the research which lead to an award. Both were professors whose classes I previously enjoyed but didn’t ever think that I would become so involved with because the work that they do was so different than the equine field I was headed towards. I am happy to say I was very wrong.

And most recently, I have managed to connect with one of the professors who is in the public health field of veterinary medicine–nowhere near what I envision myself doing. We get along well and I am now contributing to research she is finishing dealing with shelter medicine and epidemiology, and I am having a blast with this research project.

I think what I have learned is that the most important part of finding good mentors isn’t necessarily that your mentor be exactly who you want to become, or do exactly what you want to do. I think it is more important that you find someone who you get along with, who you can learn from, take advice from, take constructive criticism from, and someone you can work with. I think it is important to find someone who is excited about your future. Those are the individuals, regardless of what part of vet med they are in, that will be able to support and guide you. Be open to looking for mentors in unexpected places, and if you find a professor or clinician you get along with but they are involved in a different area of vet med than you are wanting to go, don’t be afraid to reach out, make a connection, work on a project, ask questions, and seek advice from those individuals.

The opportunities and experiences I have had with my mentors have been exceptional and has built diversity into my resume. Not to mention the enjoyment I’ve had in the research and time spent with these exceptional professionals.

When you go looking for a mentor, try not to get stuck in your pre-conceived notions of what that mentor looks like. Maybe you won’t click with the clinician you thought would be perfect for you. Maybe you are undecided about the path in vet med you want to take and want to cast a wider net to gain some other perspectives. Maybe you connect with a professor that you find to be a generally super awesome person, or with a fascinating project that really grabs your attention. Don’t be afraid to step outside the box; like me, you might be really glad you decided to expand your boundaries in the search for a mentor.



Third-Year at Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine

Danielle is a third-year at Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine, originally from Northeast Ohio. Her passion in the veterinary field lies in equine medicine; she completed my undergraduate degree at Otterbein University in Equine Pre-Veterinary Sciences along with Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and plans to continue the Equine Track while at Purdue. Danielle has a soft spot for research and is pursuing more equine research opportunities while at Purdue.


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