Veterinary student Kyndall Zieglowsky teaches high school students during a clinical skills lab.

Fourth-year vet student Kyndall Zieglowsky teaches high school students during the clinical skills lab as part of the Summer Veterinary Experience.

August 15, 2022
By Jens Odegaard 

“It was mushier than I thought,” Ja'vaughn White said.

 What was mushier?

A sheep’s brain. 

“It was fun dissecting. That was my first dissection, and it was just a lot to take in," Demetrius Payton Rivas adds. "It had that cover on it, and then we had to cut that off, and then we opened the inside, and then we cut it in half. And I saw all the different types of stuff inside.” 

White and Payton Rivas are both incoming seniors in high school and are two of 28 high schoolers participating in this year’s Summer Veterinary Experience at the Oregon State University Carlson College of Veterinary Medicine.

White applied for the program because of his "natural attraction for animals," he said. "I have animals at the house that I work well with. They do things around the house for me that they won't do for some of my other family members." Payton Rivas applied because his long-term goal is to become a veterinarian and work with red pandas and other exotic animals.

Now in its eleventh year, “the goal of SVE is to provide an opportunity for high school students to learn more about the field of veterinary medicine,” said Tess Collins, director of admissions for the college and SVE coordinator along with Sara Smith, CCVM events and alumni relations coordinator. “We prioritize offering the experience to students who might not get this type of exposure otherwise. Students will learn about college life, how to apply for college, financial aid and the many careers available in veterinary medicine.”

Though any high school student can apply, many of the attendees come from ethnic or racial backgrounds that are underrepresented in the veterinary field, are first-generation college applicants or are from families with low socioeconomic status. Applications for the program open each year in March.   

To provide funding and 12 scholarships for the program, the college partners with Banfield Pet Hospital, and “this year was the first year that we partnered with the Oregon State University Dr. Lawrence Griggs Office of Black and Indigenous Student Success to continue the mission of reaching the Black and Indigenous communities who are severely underrepresented in the veterinary field,” Smith said. 

During the one-week experience, students participate in a wide variety of hands-on experiences including anatomy instruction, a suturing activity, a radiology session, gross pathology rounds, a parasitology lab, a horse lameness detection demonstration, a large animal physical demonstration, a bandaging activity, a microanatomy and microscopes crash course, an infectious disease activity and the aforementioned brain dissection. 

In addition to these experiences, students also learn how to apply for college, participate in a mentor Q&A with veterinary students and clinicians and attend a veterinary medicine career panel. “We try to provide an experience that will be helpful for the participants whether they decide to pursue veterinary medicine as a career or not. We hope to get the students excited about going to college, particularly in the STEM fields,” Collins said.  

Alex Withycombe, an incoming high school junior, feels like the experience has helped clarify a future career path. “I didn't realize the difference betwen a vet tech and a veterinarian, and the different types and what you can go into. There's a lot more options than I thought,” Withycombe said. “I want to be a vet tech. I want to be able to do the smaller things: making sure all the animals are OK, checking in on them and that kind of stuff.”

Throughout the week, the high schoolers are mentored and taught by several CCVM veterinary students in addition to college veterinary faculty and staff. 

Kyndall Zieglowsky, a fourth-year veterinary student, took one of only two weeks of her free time in her clinical year to participate as mentor. She grew up nannying, and throughout her college career has looked for every opportunity to work with students. “I find it extremely important now being older to ensure that – I think the biggest part would be diversity,” Zieglowsky said. “I want to show that you can look like whatever you look like, be whoever you want to be, and you can be a veterinarian and nothing's going to stop you.”

After participating in the Summer Veterinary Experience, Payton Rivas (left) is even more sure that he wants to become a veterinarian, mushy sheep brains or not. “I've always just liked animals. I'm better working with animals than people. So I'm like, why not just be a vet?” he said. “And I just like being around that type of community too. Like here, everyone's nice to each other and everyone helps you learn, and you don't feel really left out in anything … I'm really grateful for that.”