Programs expanding exposure to veterinary profession to underserved students off to a great start

Vet Start students and DVM mentors

Vet Start students are pictured with their D.V.M. mentors.

Two separate programs aimed at expanding exposure to the veterinary medical profession to elementary school students and high schoolers from underserved communities are successfully underway at the UF College of Veterinary Medicine, with faculty, staff and D.V.M. students actively involved.

The Vet Start Mentorship Program, funded through a U.S.D.A. grant, provides students from rural communities with the opportunity to receive specific mentorship and experiential learning at the college.

Students Pipetting

Two Vet Start mentees are shown practicing their micropipetting skills.

On Jan. 13, a group of local rural high school students, D.V.M. students and college faculty members walked across the college campus as the students engaged in a variety of learning activities. The students started their day strong with breakfast, a morning briefing and their personal Rocketbook notebooks situated in their scrub pockets, ready to learn.

In collaboration with first-year veterinary student Melissa Pisarolgo de Carvalho, who also is a PCWI/ICU/ER veterinary technician, a group of D.V.M. students helped to teach the high-schoolers animal CPR techniques, endotracheal intubation and how to do IV catheter placements. Once the students were confident in their basic life-support skills, they divided up and began shadowing their D.V.M. faculty mentor.

With the goal of highlighting the various specialties offered at the college, students toured and shadowed at the Alachua County Animal Resources and Care shelter and the Veterinary Emergency Treatment Service to learn more about shelter medicine and disaster response. They also visited UF’s Large Animal Hospital to learn about equine medicine, and the integrative medicine service to learn about sports medicine and rehabilitation.

Student Mark Rivas leads CPR in front of the Vet Start students.

Student Marc Rivas leads CPR in front of the Vet Start Students.

The high schoolers also received a crash course in micropipetting, antimicrobial resistance, bacterial DNA extraction and gel electrophoresis to enhance their understanding food animal medicine.

As the program runs through April, the students who are part of the 2022-2023 cohort will receive an additional shadow day, and a “micro vet school” opportunity as they continue to learn about the veterinary profession. Applications for the next cohort began in February as the program coordinator and a team of D.V.M. students visit local rural high schools throughout the spring of 2023.

The second program off to a good start this year is “This is How We Role,” or TIHWR, a program for kids in grades K-4 who are educationally disadvantaged due to socioeconomic status, race or ethnicity, with the long-term goal of diversifying the veterinarian-scientist workforce. Veterinarians, veterinary technicians and veterinary students educate the youngsters about the breadth of careers in the veterinary profession, including how those working in the profession can prevent and treat health conditions that impact people as well as their animals.

Developed and funded by Purdue University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, TIHWR is supported by the Science Education Partnership Award program of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health, or NIH. Currently the program is offered at the Caring and Sharing Learning School in Gainesville with the goal of expanding to other local schools in the local area.

The program is offered for eight weeks in the fall and eight weeks in the spring. During the fall of 2022 college faculty joined other UF faculty, D.V.M. students, veterinary assistants and technicians to educate third graders at the Caring and Sharing Learning School on animal anatomy and physiology, ranging in topics from internal organs, bones, the cardiovascular system, ophthalmology and parasitology — which was every third grader’s favorite topic!

To apply all these concepts, the young students had their final fall session in the college’s clinical skills laboratory, where they practiced CPR techniques to the children’s song, “Baby Shark”, implemented non-digital game-based learning using both human and animal skeletons, and practiced their math skills by locating a heart and calculating the number of beats per minute.

Spring 2023 sessions are in full swing, and veterinary students, faculty and staff are eager to share their knowledge with the elementary students as they delve into the different animal specialties, from small animal medicine and surgery to wildlife and zoological medicine.

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