Kira has always loved animals having grown up with cats and dogs, but it wasn’t until her junior year in high school that she decided to pursue a career working with animals. At first, she contemplated being a zookeeper but then decided a career in veterinary medicine would be the best fit for her.
Drew University’s softball coach recruited Kira after she saw her play and reviewed her academic record. Then, when she attended a prospective student event, Kira became sold on so much more than softball. Drew felt like a home away from home to her because everyone made her feel so welcome. She was also very excited about working in the community as a Drew Civic Scholar and conducting summer research with Drew biology faculty.
Kira, tell us about pursuing a Doctorate in Veterinary medicine.
It has been one of the best and hardest things I have ever done in my life!
There are only 30 colleges of Veterinary medicine in the U.S. These colleges accept between 100-170 students per year and reserve half of these seats for students from within their state. Since NJ does not have one of these colleges, I was forced to apply to schools out of state with a higher tuition rate. You apply through the VMCAS and the applications must be completed by September 15th your senior year of college. Most of the applications require additional supplemental materials/essays.
I applied to 8 schools, had 4 interviews and was accepted to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
What excites you about this field?
Being able to interact with the clients and their animals is my favorite part! I had a client who came into my surgical rotation a few weeks ago with a dog with a congenital abnormality of the blood vessels. It was great to be there for my clients before, during, and after the surgery. I love those interpersonal relationships, and the opportunity to make a difference in their lives, helping to set their minds at ease. Being able to help animals and their owners is what excites me the most.
Did you have an opportunity to work with animals at Drew?
I was Dr. Tammy Windfelder’s Research Assistant between the summer of my first and sophomore year. It was a 6 to 8-week program where we trapped and tagged animals to do a census population of how many animals were on campus. We would also do a deer census to collect data. We were also trying to determine how many deer were diseased. We had raccoons, squirrels, chipmunks, deer, groundhogs and even a flying squirrel on campus. This research required long hours. We would get up at 5:30 a.m. and 6 times a day we would set food traps. Once the animals were trapped, we would mark them by dying their fur or putting ear tags on them. We did it in 3 different locations at Drew and one location off campus.
Can you talk a little bit about your veterinary medicine program?
The program is 4 years, with the first 3 years consisting of classroom learning at my college. All programs are different. The first three years it’s general knowledge. We do dissections on a dog, a cat, and a cow. In your fourth year you pick and choose some of your clinical rotations. 14 blocks are mandatory but the other blocks you get to choose. For example, I chose to take the shelter medicine and cardiology rotation as a directed elective. I want to do small animal general practice and pick up a couple of shifts overnight on Emergency Medicine. I love doing clinics in my fourth year because it’s more practical, hands on and fun. During the first three years, my school dedicates 8 weeks out of the curriculum for clinics. This is where we can learn from real cases and shadow fourth year students. In your fourth year you are the lead person on the cases which means you are responsible for the paperwork, running diagnostic tests, interacting with the clients, performing physical exams and treatments.
The second year is all about diseases. You study general pathology because that’s how you diagnose most things. You have to know what cell you’re looking at. We do all the “ologies.”
The third year you put it all together and you come up with diagnosis, clinical finds, history and how to treat. I really enjoyed my third year.
We are tested every 4 weeks during our didactic portion of the curriculum. Every year we take a total of 6 cumulative exams. Second and third year you take practical exams which include 12 stations on how to scrub in, run specific diagnostic tests, place a catheter, etc.
What advice would you give students who are interested in pursuing a Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine?
Make sure you really want to do this because it’s one of the most difficult academic programs you can choose. It has changed me as a person in many different ways. It has challenged me mentally and emotionally. The work involved in becoming a veterinarian requires the absorption and synthesis of a lot of information very quickly. I also recommend that you get as much diverse experience as you can because that will help to make you a more competitive candidate. I did research, worked as a zookeeper, volunteered at a shelter, and also worked at 3 different private practices. It was a lot of work but very rewarding when I received that acceptance letter. I also tried to save as much money as I could because, as an out of state student, I had to take out a lot of student loans.
Where do you hope to work when you graduate in the spring of 2022?
I hope to work with small animals in both a general practice and Emergency Medicine setting back home in NJ.