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MSU vet camp offers hands-on learning
By Karen Templeton
MSU Ag Communications
MISSISSIPPI STATE – After a unique summer camp experience at age 13, Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine student Tori Hall knew she wanted to become a veterinarian.
“I went to a veterinary school camp at the University of Prince Edward Island in Canada, where campers were given a great deal of experience in veterinary medicine,” Hall, a second-year CVM student from Cincinnati said. “My biggest apprehension about becoming a veterinarian was the prospect of doing surgeries. At the camp, we dissected a rat and were able to observe both large and small animal surgeries. After experiencing these labs successfully without fear, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in veterinary medicine.”
When she was a first-year CVM student, Hall decided she wanted to give other young people the same type of experience she had at vet camp. She collaborated with four other first- year students, met with faculty advisors and successfully planned CVM’s first vet camp.
Hall and her classmates carefully planned the camp while juggling classes, labs and studying. Her goal was to develop a program that would give participants a crash course in the first two years of veterinary school.
“We wanted participants to really get a feel for what vet school is all about,” Hall said. “We knew kids would leave the camp with either a deeper interest in veterinary medicine or the realization that perhaps vet school isn’t for them. Either way, kids attending the camp got hands-on experiences led by actual veterinary school professors. We think everyone had fun.”
The camp was held at CVM with two three-day sessions in June for 13-to-15 year olds.
“We had more applicants than we could accommodate this year,” Hall said. “We have been thrilled with the interest and want to expand it next year so that we can include more kids.”
Campers were engaged in activities from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. each day of the camp. They spent time in anatomy, critical care and microbiology laboratories. Campers had the opportunity to learn the two most common sutures used in veterinary surgeries and then practice those stitches on plush toys. Other sessions introduced the teens to equine and bovine health, basic canine exams, veterinary dentistry and caring for shelter animals.
“Campers received instruction from one of the few board-certified veterinary dentists in the country and made dental molds they could take home,” Hall said. “They also got to practice exams on dogs – checking their heart rate, temperature and vision. Some of the kids even got to do a neurological exam. A really unique experience was getting to bandage horses’ legs and perform an equine dental exam.”
Susan Rodgers, a second-year CVM student from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., helped Hall with the camp and served as a counselor during the two sessions. She said the camp was all about focusing on the details and giving kids a realistic experience.
“Before suturing instruction, campers learned how to suit up for surgery properly,” Rodgers said. “They wore latex gloves and face masks while learning a new skill. It was important to keep their experiences as realistic as possible.”
Youth from as far away as Florida, Louisiana and South Carolina attended the camp. Many out-of-town campers stayed with family or friends, but some stayed with their parents in hotels. K.J. McIver from Gainesville, Fla. learned about vet camp from a current CVM student.
“I’ve been back and forth between wanting to become a veterinarian or a biotechnologist,” McIver said. “Working with real animals was my favorite part of camp. I think I’m definitely leaning more toward going to vet school now.”
Hall and Rodgers both said the camp will continue to expand to include more youth and diverse experiences.
“It’d be great to try for an overnight camp, so the kids can get even more experiences like working outside with animals in the early evening when it isn’t as hot,” Rodgers said. “This was a successful test run, and we look forward to seeing where it goes next year.”
Hall is going back to the University of Prince Edward Island’s vet camp, now in its 10th year, to get more ideas for CVM’s camp. What will always remain a part of CVM’s program is exploration and hands-on experience.
“Watching the kids try new things and learn has been a lot of fun for us,” Hall said. “The campers remind a lot of us of ourselves 10 years ago. I’m glad to be a part of it all.”