While thinking about which direction to go for this new column, I had a chance to think back over the last three years of my veterinary school career and which piece of information has had the biggest influence on me.
“Don’t let studying get in the way of your learning.” This statement made by an upperclassman during my freshman orientation is perhaps the single most influential piece of advice I have received dsuring my veterinary school career thus far. In other words, don’t let your focus on school keep you from missing real opportunities for learning. While I didn’t realize it at the time, this one statement would impact my entire veterinary school career.
I had not been very involved in organized activities during my undergraduate education. My plan for vet school was to try and change this by becoming involved as much as I could. I made a resolution after hearing that advice from the upperclassman to always say “yes” to an opportunity, if it was at all possible. Now, sitting here today and looking back, I realize how much I gained from simply realizing the importance of saying “yes.”
By saying “yes” to opportunities that were presented to me, I became the national vice president of the Veterinary Business Management Association (VBMA); served as president of Minnesota’s VBMA Chapter; and served on the Student Council, the Student Ambassadors and the Student Chapter of the AAEP (SCAAEP). These were more than just lines on a résumé; what I really gained was the chance to meet incredible people in this profession and to learn life skills that can’t be found in the classroom. As I stand on the cusp of starting my veterinary career, these experiences have combined to create even greater opportunities to elicit real change in this amazing profession.
One of those opportunities is this column, and with it I want to pass the same advice on to other students and young veterinarians. While knowing your limits and being aware of what you can physically handle is critical to your health and mental well-being, don’t be afraid to say “yes” to things that might seem intimidating. Some of our greatest chances at success come from opportunities that seem to be just outside of our reach, or just a little too much of a challenge. When those challenges come, don’t shy away. Believe in yourself and what you can achieve. Let the challenge push you and grow you. You will find that what you gain will make you into an even greater veterinarian. No matter what the opportunity, big or small, look critically at what effect it could have on your career, the careers of those around you and the effect on our profession as a whole.
As students and new graduates, we don’t have to wait until we are 10 or 20 years into our careers. We can affect real change right now. In our class, in our practice, in our profession, we are just one opportunity away from leaving our mark. All it takes is understanding the importance of “yes.”
Zach Loppnow is a fourth-year veterinary student at the University of Minnesota. He is pursuing a career in equine ambulatory medicine with a focus on lameness and reproduction. He also serves as the vice president of the National VBMA and is a graduate of the Equine Business Management Strategies Seminar.