UofA's First Class of Veterinarians

Students Become Pros With Hands-On Help Around Tucson

As the inaugural class of the University of Arizona College of Veterinary Medicine approaches graduation, its students are eager to begin providing care to our furry friends.

Under the direction of Dean Julie Funk, the continuous structure of the three-year program keeps the students’ skills sharp while also offering an accelerated path to a professional veterinary career. Whereas other veterinary programs have a teaching hospital for their students to learn in a more controlled environment, the University of Arizona uses a distributive model, outsourcing their students to local veterinary clinics for real-world situations, not just scenarios.

For many students, Dean Funk says that she knows working as a veterinarian has been their dream from a young age.

“I'm always really emotional thinking about the day we celebrate the class of graduating students,” Dean Funk said. "Many of them have been dreaming of being a veterinarian since they were young children.”

One such student is Melinda Pazel. She knew that she wanted to be a veterinarian from the time she was a toddler, telling everyone she would be an “animal doctor” when she grew up.

After attending her interview with the newly-opened College of Veterinary Medicine, the East Coast native was ready to join the Wildcat family, drawn by the passion of faculty, staff, and other students.

“Considering it was brand new, it was run very well and everyone was personable and genuinely pleasant to interact with. Underneath that though, you could tell how excited they were that we were there; the environment was infectious,” Pazel said.

According to her, the program met her needs not just educationally, but financially and mentally as well. The third-year student has entered her clinical rotations, taking her learning from the classroom to local veterinary practices. Pazel says that she’s been able to get a taste of how being a veterinarian really is while still having a safety net provided by established professionals.

“My rotations have allowed me to do research, communicate and educate clients, work with specialists one-on-one, and perform procedures many veterinarians don't get to do until years after graduation,” Pazel said. “There is nothing that can truly prepare someone to become a veterinarian, but U of A works to make us as prepared as possible.”

Pazel certainly isn’t the only student feeling the positive impact of the program’s early success.

Ari Adams pursued a pre-vet degree during her undergraduate years at the University of Arizona. By the time she was ready to graduate, the College of Veterinary Medicine was up and running. For her, continuing her education at the University of Arizona was a no-brainer.

“I was really intrigued by the hands-on and visual learning aspects of the program. I felt that it really catered to my way of learning and it fostered a sense of collaboration, which is very important in the veterinary field,” Adams, another third-year student in the program, said.

Adams was able to experience true collaboration during her clinical rotations by assisting understaffed veterinary clinics, offering much-needed support while still gaining invaluable learning experience.

One of her focuses, she says, is helping low-income clients access the care their pets need. According to her, the real-world learning experience that the University of Arizona provides its veterinary students has shown her how to provide care regardless of income.

“We are taught the gold standard of medicine, but we also need to learn how to help people,” Adams said.

Students participate in a mobile vet clinic during their senior year, assisting the local Humane Society with spaying and neutering animals, according to Adams.

Both Pazel and Adams said that their time in the College of Veterinary Medicine helped to show them the “why” of their own veterinary practices, igniting in both of them a sense of purpose and a drive to learn.

“I have found out more about myself since I started at the UofA; I learned how I study best, what I want out of myself as a clinician, and what values are most important to me. Becoming a doctor – especially for someone who has repeatedly said ‘I want to be a vet when I grow up' – is the final hurdle; in that, you often find out who you are as a human being,” Pazel remarked.

Pazel and Adams left behind a piece of advice for students who are interested in applying for the program – you get out what you put into it. As the two approach their next step in their veterinary careers, they both believe that the College of Veterinary Medicine has done more than enough to set them up for success.

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