August 25, 2023
Story by Jens Odegaard
Photos by SVE Mentors

For a dozen years running, high school juniors and seniors from across the state (and a few from beyond) have spent a week immersed in the day-to-day at the Carlson College of Veterinary Medicine during the Summer Veterinary Experience. This July 31 through August 4, 27 students from Oregon and one each from Washington and California attended. 

The SVE is open to all students but has a particular aim at reaching “students from low-income backgrounds, underrepresented identities in the veterinary field, and first-generation college students,” said Tess Collins, assistant dean for admissions and first-year experience and SVE director. This year, 10 full scholarships were provided to students from these backgrounds, and “we would love to offer more in future years with additional program sponsorship!” Collins said. 

Through the SVE, high schoolers gain an inside perspective on the veterinary field as a whole and the different roles and opportunities within the career path. “The goal of the program is to provide an opportunity for high school students to learn more about veterinary medicine in a hands-on manner and to show them that going to college is an achievable goal. We try to provide a variety of perspectives from current vet students, staff and faculty members, and other folks who work in veterinary medicine outside of our college,” Collins said. “While we hope that the participants will pursue veterinary medicine in some capacity, we want them to make an educated decision and this is a great first step in learning more about the field.” Program sponsors and partners include Banfield Pet Hospital, Zoetis, Wilvet and Dechra.   

The week opened with a welcome dinner on Sunday with families and a tour of Magruder Hall, which houses the college and its teaching hospital, followed by team building activities. Monday through Thursday the cohort participated in labs and presentations on anatomy, bandaging, clinical pathology, parasitology, clinical skills, physical exam and orthopedics, radiology, necropsy, lameness, surgical skills, suturing skills, career panel, mentor panel, college admissions and small animal rehabilitation. On Friday, they shared what they learned with family and friends at a wrap-up lunch. 

Near the end of the week, SVE attendee Isabella Juarez from Adrienne C. Nelson High School in Happy Valley, Oregon shared what stood out to her: “I think seeing the full scope of everything. We’re almost done, but there's still so much more to the veterinary field that I didn't even know about.”  

As part of the SVE, Juarez and her fellow attendees took part in a small animal rehabilitation demonstration led by Sara Short, certified veterinary technician and certified canine rehabilitation practitioner. “The [tech] doing the rehab with the water stuff started going more in depth about the difference between a vet tech and a veterinarian,” Juarez said. “I just thought that was really interesting because I've tried to figure out the difference and that really helped clarify.”   

Veterinary student mentors from the college help plan the SVE and work side by side with the high school students throughout the week to help guide and offer practical advice. 

“I really enjoy watching the students experience all of the activities the mentors planned before camp. They are always so excited to learn new things and are willing to try everything,” said Heather Ordonez, SVE mentor and third-year veterinary student. “I have been a camp counselor all throughout my undergrad years and when I heard about SVE last summer I was excited to combine my vet knowledge with my love for summer camp. I had so much fun with the students and mentors last year that it was no question as to whether I would do it again this year.”

“I wanted to be a mentor for SVE because I participated in SVE when I was a junior in high school,” said Anna McAllister, SVE mentor who just wrapped up her first year of veterinary school. “Spending the week with vet students and veterinarians who were so passionate about vet med largely impacted my desire to go to vet school. SVE also widens the horizons of possibility in veterinary medicine. I got exposure to specialties like cardiology and pathology that I hadn’t the slightest idea what they were before SVE. I have a fond memory of using an ultrasound probe to look at a dog’s heart during my time at SVE. I was amazed by the rhythm of the valves in the heart as they opened and closed, and it sparked an interest in cardiology for me. Being a mentor for SVE was a full-circle moment and I enjoyed being a part of encouraging a potential future class of veterinarians.”

“Enrichment programs like the SVE are really important in allowing students to gain insight into the different facets of veterinary medicine. This program allowed the students to make new friends, develop new critical thinking skills and gain perspective on college life at Oregon State. Participating in the wet and dry labs was an opportunity to gain hands-on experience, and attending the mentor panel allowed for both career exploration and personal growth,” said JJ Bilal, SVE mentor and third-year veterinary student. “My favorite part of mentoring is getting excited with the high school kids about veterinary medicine and enjoying the labs together. The enthusiasm and joyfulness from the students was contagious and really created an experience in which we could all learn and share from one another.” 

“I think it's extremely important to get your ‘feet wet’ early on, in whatever career field. The SVE program is a wonderful opportunity for just that, introducing high schoolers to all the potential options that vet med can provide them for their future,” said Carol Spencer, SVE mentor and third-year veterinary student. “In addition, veterinary medicine as a field always needs more people so even sparking the interest of someone that may not have known much about vet med before, is a great way to open the door for them.”

Savitri Legari from Illinois Valley High School in Cave Junction, Oregon came to SVE because “I’m interested in working with animals, but I’m not quite exactly what I want to do yet.” The animal rehab demonstration piqued her interest. “It’s almost like physical therapy but for dogs” she said. Legari was also intrigued by the necropsy (animal autopsy) demonstration: “It was really trippy and cool.” 

For now, she plans on pursuing animal behavior in some capacity after high school. “I have two pit bulls and a chihuahua and the two pit bulls is what really makes me want to do the animal behavior. Lulu is a girl, and she is going to be five in September, and Moose just turned two in July,” Legari said. “I'm glad that I was able to come here. I was nervous that I wouldn't get accepted for this, but I'm very happy I did.” 


This year’s cohort hailed from:

  • Portland Metro Area: Adrienne C. Nelson High School in Happy Valley, Century High School in Hillsboro, David Douglas High School in Portland, De La Salle North Catholic High School in Portland, Grant High School in Portland, Lakeridge High School in Lake Oswego, Leodis V. McDaniel High School in Portland, Riverdale High School in Portland, Sherwood High School in Sherwood, Southridge High School in Beaverton. 
  • Willamette Valley: Churchill High School in Eugene, Cottage Grove High School in Cottage Grove, Junction City High School in Junction City, Jefferson High School in Jefferson, South Albany High School in Albany, South Eugene High School in Eugene, Western Christian School in Salem.
  • Southern Oregon: Hidden Valley High School in Grants Pass, Illinois Valley High School in Cave Junction, Klamath Union High School in Klamath Falls, North Medford High School in Medford, North Valley High School in Grants Pass, Rogue River Junior/Senior High School in Rogue River, Roseburg High School in Roseburg.
  • Central Oregon: Summit High School in Bend.
  • California: Midland School in Los Olivos, California
  • Washington: International School in Bellevue, Washington