Alexandria Laker // Texas Tech University School of Veterinary Medicine
Ally is a rising 2nd year veterinary student at Texas Tech University School of Veterinary Medicine.
I can't thank Ally enough for her time, friendship, and vulnerability to share her thoughts with TTV. Ally's answers regarding her experience in veterinary school, mental health challenges, and more are available below below. If you have additional questions or concerns, please contact TheTurquoiseVet@gamil.com.
- Why did you initially want to be a part of veterinary medicine? *
- Growing up with a love for animals and having the opportunity to participate in 4-H & FFA, I increasingly grew interested in the profession. After multiple internships and learning opportunities, I realized I wanted to be part of Veterinary Medicine because I wanted to help people as well.
- What are your goals post graduation as a new graduate? (i.e. SA GP, LA GP, SA ER, Therio, etc.) *
- I have become increasingly more attracted to food animal medicine and the subsequent impact on public health and these interests combined point to practicing mixed animal medicine in a rural area.
- Why is mental health important to you? *
- Mental health is important to me because it dictates our overall wellbeing. Whenever we are not mentally healthy, it also affects our social, physical and emotional health too. I never realized the importance of mental health awareness until my freshman year of undergrad. I loss my dad to cancer my first semester of undergrad the week before finals. I felt lost most of the time and didn’t really know how to cope. It wasn’t until I talked to a psychologist on campus when I realized how much this can affect a person. Now that I am finishing out my first year of vet school, I realize how much stress and pressure a professional program can put on a person and why mental health is so important. This feeling of stress from Vet School to the profession is also a mental health concern. Knowing that Veterinarians are 2 to 3 times more likely to die by suicide than the general U.S population is a huge red flag we need to be aware of before coming into the profession, (JAVMA, 2020).
- What skills have you implemented into your daily routine to mitigate stress, anxiety, depression, etc.*
- In order to feel less stressed, I have been able to figure out what works best for me. This might not work best for everyone, but I have been able to grow as a student by making lists. I have a list of assignments I need to do, skills I need to practice and even a list of random thoughts that will benefit me in the future. I also prioritize “me time” and give myself an hour to eat dinner, take a shower and just relax every night. I also think surrounding yourself with people who make you happy is a huge plus!
- How does the administration at your school approach mental health? Is it a priority? Do they offer resources? *
- Our administration at TTU SVM prioritizes mental health for students, faculty and staff. At school, we have an on campus psychologist that is free of charge to everyone. We are able to go to her with just about anything! She not only is available for appointments, but she lectures on campus about psychological health, how to manage stressors, anxiety and difficult situations. She is also in charge of our wellness room. Inside the wellness room we have this amazing massage chair, as well as games, fidgets, and books about wellbeing. Students are able to block off time to use the wellness room uninterrupted. There is also a wellness committee that puts on events every month that is open to everyone. These events include trivial night, karaoke, and even a ping-pong tournament. Overall, professors know when we are having a rough time and they respond in such a warm and welcoming way. I am blessed to go to a vet school that make mental health a top priority of everyone.
- Did you feel prepared as a pre-veterinary student going to veterinary school? If you could go back, what would you change about your preparation? *
- Going into Vet School I thought I was pretty prepared because my Undergrad experience was amazing and I had a lot of hands on experience prior. If I could go back, I would have taken undergrad more seriously and actually learned how to study. To be honest, I really didn’t have to try hard to pull off a good grade in undergrad. My first few exam in Vet School proved to me that my study habits needed to change and I had to find a new way to learn.
- What advice do you have for someone interested in diving in deep into this industry? *
- This industry is very rewarding and there are so many connections to make. We are a small community, but we are mighty! Go out and find opportunities to growth within the profession and be very selective who you choose on your support team. Find a mentor that you are able to ask questions to and feel free of judgement. Burnout is a real thing and don’t forget to take care of yourself in the process.
- What advice do you have for someone struggling with mental health? *
- My advice would be to seek help. Coming from experience, I kept putting it off and making excuses for myself. I even chickened out a few times on my appointments at the beginning. I think there is a stigma surrounding the idea of getting help. Originally, I thought I would appear as weak to everyone, but at the end of the day everyone just wants the best for you. I have been working with our campus psychologist to create a support group for anyone who has lost a loved one and wants a community to confide in.
- How has your vet school experience helped make you prioritize your needs and wants as a future veterinarian? (i.e., practice environment, sign-on bonus, prioritizing work-life balance, etc.)*
- Being a member of the Veterinary Business Management Association (VBMA) chapter at school, I have increased my business knowledge and have been able to network with other professionals within the industry to determine what my personal values are. Everyone has different needs and wants, so it is important to determine what you personally want. For me, I really value family time and want to have a work-life balance