Students explore veterinary careers
BY AMELIA HARPER
Thursday, June 13, 2019
Two dozen middle school students are attending the NCSU-CVM Summer Veterinary Camp this week at the Gateway Technology Center at N.C. Wesleyan College, exploring different aspects of what it means to be a veterinarian.
Emery Polk, 10, wants to pursue a veterinary career working with large animals like cows and lambs. She said she has enjoyed the camp experience so far.
“It’s wonderful. I really like all the hands-on activities. Like yesterday, we dissected a heart,” Polk said.
Sara Hughes, senior programming director for the ECU/NC State Collaborative at the Gateway Technology Center, said this is the 11th year the Collaborative has offered the veterinary camp.
Each year, the camp has been taught by Dr. Allen Cannedy and a team of veterinary students from N.C. State University who serve as camp counselors. Cannedy is on the faculty at N.C. State University. He also is licensed to work in North Carolina and Virginia and primarily treats llamas, alpacas and goats via his mobile veterinary truck, which he showed to the students on Wednesday.
“On Tuesdays, the campers go to N.C. State and get a behind-the-scenes tour of the College of Veterinary Medicine at N.C. State University so they actually see the animals being treated over there. On Thursdays, they go to the Museum of Life Science and get a behind-the-scenes tour of that facility and the Butterfly Garden,” Hughes said. “They also participate in different lectures and lab opportunities during the week.”
Ashlin Hills, 13, said she also is interested in becoming a vet but is drawn more to working with marine animals such as dolphins and sea otters.
“I really liked the visit to N.C. State yesterday and learning about how to identify heart disease in animals,” she said.
Terry Stauffer, who grew up in Roanoke Rapids, is one of the Collaborative’s success stories, Hughes said. A few years ago, Stauffer attended one of the summer veterinary camps while he was in middle school. This year, he is a second-year student in the College of Veterinary Medicine and has returned to Rocky Mount to serve as a counselor at the camp.
“Going to this camp helped assure me that this was what I wanted to do,” Stauffer said. “I had been saying for years that I wanted to be a veterinarian and everybody told me it was going to be hard, but this camp helped me feel that I could do this and nothing since has changed my mind. So I went to N.C. State and studied animal science for my undergraduate degree and now I am in veterinary school.”
Stauffer said the hands-on experiences made the difference.
“It is one thing to say, ‘Being a veterinarian would be cool!’ and another thing to see what veterinarians actually do,” he said. “It helps you determine early on that it is something you would be interested in.”
For some students, however, the camp has the opposite effect, Cannedy said.
“I had one camper a few years ago that helped dissect a pig’s heart as part of camp. We have the students do this the same way we do with the students at the school. We don’t dumb it down or anything. During the dissection, this little guy came up to me, tugged on my coat and said, ‘Dr. Cannedy, I don’t want to be a veterinarian anymore,’” Cannedy said with a chuckle.
Hughes said the camps held with the support of the Collaborative each summer help many students determine career pathways.
“That’s why we do this — to plant that seed early — and to help students decide whether they really want to pursue that career or not,” Hughes said.
The Collaborative at the Gateway Center primarily serves Nash, Edgecombe, Halifax, Northhampton and Wilson counties. This year, the camp is either organizing or providing funding or other support for 10 camps, including one camp held at Nash Community College and one camp held at Edgecombe Community College.