AAEP Commission on Veterinary Sustainability: Supporting Equine Veterinary Students 
The AAEP Commission for Equine Veterinary Sustainability's Student Subcommittee made great progress in 2023, and it has actionable goals for 2024.
Two equine veterinary students, whom the Student Subcommittee has been working on attracting to equine practice.
The Student Subcommittee has been working on improving student perceptions of equine practice. | Getty Images

In 2022, AAEP officers appointed leaders to the Commission for Equine Veterinary Sustainability’s Student Subcommittee. Rhonda Rathgeber, DVM, PhD, CVA, and Scott Toppin, DVM, DABVP, were appointed as co-chairs, and Tracy Turner, DVM, MS, DACVS, DACVSMR, as officer liaison. Members serving include Drs. Liz Arbittier, Annie Chavent, Callie Fogle, Alan Goldhahn, Eleanor Green, Crystal Lee, Paul Schiltz, Greg Schmid, Holly Stewart, Maureen Sutter, Sara Tufts, Zoe Williams, and Ingrid Wolff.  

Student Subcommittee Tasks

The subcommittee was charged with: 

  • Reviewing all the AAEP’s current student activities, both educational as well as chapter assistance programs. 
  • Recommending ways to improve student perceptions of equine practice and aid students in evaluating externships and internships.  
  • Determining the type of support the AAEP needs to provide the chapters and ensuring the AAEP is meeting student member current needs. 

Initially, the Student Subcommittee focused on connecting private practitioners with current students to share their positive experiences in equine practice. In addition, the group worked on increasing the clinical skills training offered at each student chapter. The subcommittee helped establish the AAEP Student Speaker’s Bureau to provide an opportunity for equine doctors in private practice to share their firsthand perspective about equine practice within veterinary schools. At the end of 2023, more than 250 practitioners had signed up as volunteers, and practitioners had visited more than 18 veterinary schools, with 14 additional meetings on the calendar. The subcommittee and AAEP staff members also developed a PowerPoint for practitioners to use when visiting with students.

Plans for 2024

In 2024, the subcommittee plans to develop a communication strategy that emphasizes sharing the positive changes occurring in the profession with SCAAEP chapter advisors and other faculty. This will ensure all veterinary school mentors who interact with students are aware of positive developments such as increased salaries, four-day work weeks, flexible schedules, and inclusive cultures. In addition, the Student Subcommittee is partnering with the Internship Subcommittee to provide guidance for students seeking externships and internships. 

Another project the subcommittee will tackle in the upcoming year is reviewing the AAEP Core Competencies guidelines to confirm they reflect current patient care needs and ensure the work includes both soft skills and technical competency. The subcommittee has discussed establishing regional programs to teach essential skills for veterinary students and interns, as many veterinary schools struggle to offer these programs due to various constraints. The popular AAEP Foundational Skills in Equine Practice program for graduate veterinarians might serve as a model for how to structure these workshops. 

The Student Subcommittee is also developing plans to recruit more undergraduate and high school students to equine practice. This should increase the diversity of the profession and ensure a steady stream of equine doctors in the pipeline. By increasing awareness of the profession and the benefits of a life spent working with horses at an earlier age, the subcommittee hopes to strengthen equine practice for the future.  

Opportunities to Get Involved

The Student Subcommittee has had a strong start in its efforts to reach and teach equine-oriented veterinary students and improve the AAEP’s connection with them. Watch for opportunities for each of you as individuals to help, whether through mentoring a single student or opening your practice to externs year-round. We can all make a difference! 

You can learn more and sign up for the Speaker’s Bureau at https://aaep.org/aaep-equine-veterinary-sustainability-initiative/students. 

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