Maddie Zutz // University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine
Maddie is a current 4th year veterinary student at University of Wisconsin - Madison School of Veterinary Medicine.
I can't thank Maddie enough for her time, friendship, and vulnerability to share her thoughts with TTV. Maddie's answers regarding her experience in veterinary school, mental health challenges, and more are available below.
- Why did you initially want to be a part of veterinary medicine? *
- Before vet school I was a member of the FFA, 4-H, working on my family's crop farm, and venturing into the dairy industry through employment, Junior Holstein Association, and most importantly mentors I met along the way. I knew I wanted to stay involved in agriculture and thus my love for animals, interest in academically challenging careers, and passion to serve my community lead me to this field.
- What are your goals post graduation as a new graduate? (i.e. SA GP, LA GP, SA ER, Therio, etc.) *
- I plan to serve my future community as a primarily food animal veterinarian and continue to practice some small animal medicine if the opportunity arises
- Why is mental health important to you? *
- Our mental health is a large part of how we experience the world around us. I have found myself to be at some of the lowest points of my life during my veterinary education and had to learn the hard way that I must take care of myself so that I can eventually care for my patients and serve my community. By taking charge of my health, I am able to be a better friend, daughter, sister, and eventually veterinarian.
- What skills have you implemented into your daily routine to mitigate stress, anxiety, depression, etc.*
- Cuddle my cat (does that count?) but seriously, having a pet has brought me so much joy! Further I have found removing any social media that is not positively adding to my life is a large relief (e.g. only following accounts that are educational or purposely positive). While not perfect, I try to stay off my phone at the end of the day and read before I head to bed (screens take over our lives and I believe in the power of books!). Finally I find my relationship with God is crucial to conquering the trials I face. I have found that praying out loud, may it be in my car or before I go to bed, helps me lift my burdens to God and stay focused in my prayer. Oh... and get sleep! Sleep determines how the rest of your day will go!
- How does the administration at your school approach mental health? Is it a priority? Do they offer resources? *
- We have an amazing program called PAWS that allows for free therapy sessions with a therapist who understands the veterinary profession. This has been the best resource for myself personally and I would encourage any vet student to try therapy sessions. Our SAVMA Chapter also initiates Wellness Days and group events that help students experience the comradery we have in veterinary medicine in fun and interactive ways.
- 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? *
- I don't know if an undergraduate education can ever fully prepare you for the experience of veterinary school. However if I could change some of my preparation, I would have focused more on understanding the material over straight memorization, taken time to shadow more veterinary clinics, and worked on a routine that allowed me to prioritize my mental, physical, social, and spiritual needs.
- What advice do you have for someone interested in diving in deep into this industry? *
- Get yourself introduced to multiple clinics (key word multiple) and find a veterinarian who is willing be mentor you. Choose a veterinarian you look up to and would like to be like some day! I believe veterinary experiences are one of the best ways to understand the industry and also prepare you for veterinary school (you learn so much by working in a clinic and often what you learn in clinics 'clicks' when you are in vet school).
- What advice do you have for someone struggling with mental health? *
- Find people who will support you. This may mean you leave the 'friend group' you initially were with (please know you can still be friends, but your mental wellbeing is priority and that may require space and time away). I firmly believe you become the people you spend your time with and I have sought out people who are kind, have a positive outlook on life, and are wanting to build up other people. If you are struggling to find this support system, know that therapy can help you navigate these struggles. Always remember, if you are struggling with your mental health it DOES NOT mean you are less than others/weak/or any other negative connotation you may have with mental health. Honestly, being able to express your struggles is one of the strongest things you can do.
- 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.)*
- As I enter my 4th year and plan externships one of my biggest priorities is practice culture. I can practice vet med anywhere I want and do all sorts of amazing things with my degree, but I must have a positive work environment to make the most out of my career. The rest will come... salary, vacation time, bonuses, etc; but a veterinary family is invaluable.
- University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine: https://www.vetmed.wisc.edu/education/
- PAWS Therapy Dogs: https://pawstherapydogs.com/