I remember it like it was yesterday. Just the thought of it brings back shear moments of terror and a sinking feeling in my gut. It was my first day at Western Kentucky University and it was testing day. All of the pre- veterinary students had arrived on campus early to take their placement exams in chemistry and mathematics. I didn't know much about veterinary medicine but I did know that the whole state of Kentucky sent thirty four veterinary students a year to Auburn. The whole state only sent thirty four! The room I was sitting in easily had eighty people in it and, believe me, everyone of them looked a lot more intelligent. This fact was quickly driven home when horror turned to panic on both the chemistry and math placement exams. That was one of about three times in my life that "cold sweat" became a very real experience. I literally failed both exams. I guess four years of parties, football, and socializing were really paying off that day.
After the exam, we were given raw scores and a scheduling sheet to use for planning our curriculum. I sat at the end of a very long and sobering line of kids excitedly waiting to meet our advisor, the venerable Dr. Jones. Dr. Jones was a legend at WKU and I had wanted to meet him for a long time, but today I was horrified to produce my meager scores in front of such an important man. Thoughts of panic, " have you considered other options son?", and " you need to go back to the trailer park" all raced through my mind. What would he say? What would I do? Minutes turned to hours; hours turned to days, each second felt like an eternity (about five minutes passed). Finally, I met Dr. Jones.
He brought in two students at a time, and I was paired with arguably the most intelligent and prepared pre- veterinary student I had ever met. He quickly reviewed our scores and applauded my new friend as having some of the highest scores he had seen. He told her that she was prepared for the rigorous course load that he assigned first semester students, and she should have no trouble handling it.
The invisible cloak of darkness hung in the air and the humidity reached 100 percent on my radar as my time approached. He looked and my scores and silently shook his head. The suspense was thick as the moment of truth came. "John, you need a lot of work if you are serious about becoming a veterinarian; these scores are unacceptable and have already put you behind your fellow students.",he continued, "I am assigning you 18 hours of course work this semester, and you will be placed in remedial chemistry and mathematics. These classes are tough and meet five days per week at 8 in the morning. If you excel in these, we will put you on track to the high level chemistries next semester."
What a sobering moment. Reality had set in. The days passed and the classes were each challenging, but at the end of that first semester, I had survived. Only twenty people of the eighty were still present in that hallway for round two of class enlistment, and that number would dwindle to less than ten by the time organic chemistry and physics claimed their mass casualties.
Just making it through the pre- vet curriculum is an accomplishment, but if you are blessed enough to make vet school, your party has just warmed up. Vet school is the proving ground. Its the crucible that all of us must go through to reach our goal. It is the measuring stick for your internal commitment and drive to follow through. In veterinary school, you will be pushed to your physical, emotional, and intelligible limits, and when you stand together with your friends and break those limits, you meet yourself for the first time. You are able to transcend the limits you previously placed on yourself and you answer the calling that led you down this path in the first place.
You don't become a veterinarian for the money, because it doesn't pay that great. You don't become veterinarian for the animals alone, because we spend twenty percent of our time with animals and eighty percent with owners, clients, and a telephone. You become of a veterinarian because you can't see yourself doing anything else. Your passion for people and animals is your calling and it is unshakeable at its core. No matter the circumstances, no matter the personal cost, you will do your best to aid someone by caring for their animal.You become a veterinarian because you love helping people through their animals. Veterinarians understand the human- animal bond better than any other group in the world, and we make great sacrifices to insure that bond stays strong.
This isn't a career; it's a calling. All of the veterinarians in the United States could fit inside Jordan-Hare stadium in Auburn. It's a blessing to able to come home and return the knowledge we have learned at school to our communities.
In closing, thank you for giving me the opportunity to live my dream. Each client is special and each patient is important, because each of you have blessed us with your trust. Trust is the hardest thing to earn and the easiest thing to lose in life, and we hope you continue to bless us with your friendship and trust in the coming years. Thanks for reading and we hope to see you soon.