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To Be a Veterinarian

Written by Jeffrey M. Schmidt, September 1, 1990
(Narrative essay for his Veterinary School application)

Gobi, our burly, six year old Samoyed stood over me growling and barking furiously. His ordinarily serene countenance had transformed into a snarling visage of menace. I had never seen him this enraged, and I was frightened, despite the fact that I was not the object of his anger.

“Gobi! Gobi! It’s okay. It’s all right.” He turned, looked at me, wagged his tail and resumed his defensive stance while snarling at my next-door neighbor.

I was eight years old and had been out for a ride on my horse, September. The horse became startled and bolted, throwing me to the ground. My neighbor rushed out of his house to help me, but Gobi would not let him approach me. My neighbor meant me no harm but Gobi did not know this, he just knew that I was hurt and he was not going to let anyone get near ’his kid’. It was only when my father arrived that he calmed down and returned to his natural, dopey self. Despite my discomfort I felt a sure of pride and love for that dog. He was looking out for me. His fear and anger may have been misplaced, but that did not change the fact that he was willing to protect me with all he had when I needed it. He embodied a sense of loyalty and nobility that made him much more than just a furry sidekick, he was a being in his own right, worthy of love and respect.

This is but one of the experiences I’ve had while growing up that shaped my feelings towards animals. I see animals as creatures that have capacities for loyalty, strength, pride, and personality from which some people could learn. During my childhood my family had dogs, cats, and even a horse. I received so much satisfaction from these animals that I want the opportunity to give something of myself in return.

One of the most helpless feelings I have experienced is having a pet that is sick and not knowing what is wrong with them or what I can do to help. Too often, while growing up, and later working in a veterinary clinic, have I seen dogs with advanced ear infections, horses confined in tiny stalls, and parasite ridden cats that have litters of kittens only have them die in the first few weeks of their young lives. Animals deserve better lives than this and as a veterinarian I can work towards this goal. I realize that a veterinarian can neither save every animal nor stop every abuse, but he can make a difference and that is important to me.

I consider myself lucky in that my first opportunity to work with a veterinarian was with Dr. Weaver at Point Loma Veterinary Clinic. Through him I gained insight to what it means to pursue veterinary medicine as a career. Dr. Weaver is an optimistic and enthusiastic man, but he is also practical and from him I have learned the nuts and bolts of what it takes to manage a successful veterinary practice. I’ve observed that successful communication with people on an individual basis is an important part of veterinary medicine. He taught me to be professional, yet understanding of client needs and most important, not to be afraid to say, “I don’t know,” when faced with unfamiliar questions and circumstances. He stressed that it is always better to swallow your pride and ask a question rather than taking the chance of dispensing false information. Dr. Weaver was forgiving of mistakes, but he made it clear that everyone in this practice should be as careful and as informed as possible to achieve the best care for our patients.

When Dr. Weaver retired I remained at the clinic working for Dr. Valerie Cardeiro. During this transitional period I was able to learn what it takes to upgrade a practice with the latest equipment and management techniques. She replaced much of the old equipment and modernized our pharmaceutical, medical records, and billing systems. She shared the financial aspects of the practice and I learned a great deal about the responsibilities a veterinarian/business owner has to the staff, clients, and patients in a modern veterinary facility. Opening a veterinary practice is a challenging and precarious venture, but I feel I am more prepared for it thanks to the help and patience of Dr. Cardeiro.

As a student volunteer and later as an American Heart Association student researcher I had the unique opportunity to work for doctors Dan McKirnan and Frank White of the U.C.S.D. School of Medicine. Although I worked in various capacities on several research projects the one in which I was most involved was Exercise Effect on Collateral Development and Sudden Death. This study involved inducing cardiac ischemia in pigs by placing an ameroid constrictor on the left circumflex artery. My involvement in this project encompassed almost all aspects of the study, from animal care and aseptic surgery to data reduction and analysis. Working with these men has amplified my appreciation of the importance of animal research for the advancement of medicine, and I now consider research as a possible career option.

In San Diego there is a growing trend towards mobile veterinary services. There is a great demand for the type of service especially for older clients who have problems transporting their pets. A mobile service would be especially valuable in euthanasia cases. Rather than have an animal spend its last moments in fear and panic it could be quietly put to sleep in the comfortable and familiar surroundings of its own home.

Combining the structured atmosphere of a small animal hospital with a house-call service would not only make for a successful business but also an enjoyable one with plenty of variety. I hope that this type of practice might enable me to reach animals that might not otherwise have received treatment. My goal is to supply the best treatment to as many animals as possible. I want the opportunity to make the lot of animals a better one.

“I realize that a veterinarian can neither save every animal nor stop every abuse, but he can make a difference and that is important to me.”

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