Brooke Fourthman spent four straight summers volunteering at Leo’s Pet Care on her journey to becoming a veterinary surgeon: in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016.
Brooke writes about her first summer with Leo’s when she was only 19 years old, Summer 2013
I started this summer with an only slightly better than basic knowledge of veterinary medicine, a general plan for my career path, and some ideas for what I wanted to accomplish over the break. But during my time at Leo’s Pet Care I have learned a great deal more than I expected, not just traditional techniques and knowledge, but little tricks Dr. Magnusson has had great success with as well. After having different experiences in other clinics, I can say that the staff at Leo’s Pet Care knows what it feels like to be an extern who has limited knowledge and experience. They took the time to show me how to draw blood, set a catheter, develop X-rays, and so many more tasks I could fill this page with. Jen, Stephanie, Anni, and Dr. Magnusson have also embraced some of my other qualities such as my unfailing clumsiness and my ability to break half of the items I touch, joking about it often.
It wasn’t enough that Dr. Magnusson opened up his clinic to me for the summer. He also assisted me in contacting Circle City Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Hospital to shadow the veterinary surgeon there, knowing I wanted to specialize in this area. There I was able to observe a femur fracture repair in addition to the dozens of surgeries I’ve had the pleasure of observing at Leo’s. Dr. Magnusson continued to ask me about my plans following this summer and my graduation from Purdue University. Plans that as any college student knows can change at any moment.
Though Leo’s Pet Care is a smaller clinic their size certainly doesn’t reflect the big hearts of all the staff there. Whether you’re looking to dip your feet in or jump into veterinary medicine, I definitely recommend Dr. Magnusson and his staff to interested shadows, externs, and clients. I can’t thank them enough for the experiences I have gained over this summer.”
Brooke’s Personal Statement, submitted to Purdue University upon her application to veterinary school in 2014
The lingering smell of formaldehyde wafted through the entire science hallway. On every table lay a preserved cat, where each student was trying to understand its anatomy. My partner and I were the first group to look at the nervous system. I was given the cat’s skull to cut open, while my partner worked on exposing the spinal column. Before starting, I thought I would be using a small saw to delicately work on the small cat skull. To my surprise, I was given a regular hand saw instead. While the rest of the class watched, I tried to cut a tiny diamond into the skull. I particularly enjoyed the hand-on nature of dissection, and the ability to make mistakes as I learned. As I look back on it now, I think this was the moment that I knew I would want do something like this for the rest of my life.
Once I looked into veterinary medicine, the decision to pursue this career was one I made with complete certainty. From the beginning, I thought that a veterinarian’s career of helping and being around animals radiated with challenges and opportunities. Investing several years of education in this career is something I am thrilled about especially being able to delve deeper into pharmacology and pathology, fields to which I’ve previously had limited exposure. I also look forward to the following years of continuous learning and personal adaptation as the field evolves. The new Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act is a great improvement, but I am more interested in the medical developments such as Brainsight technology and new surgical techniques. At Circle City Specialty Hospital, I shadowed a veterinarian specializing in surgery, and found that I was constantly craning my neck so I could view every nuance of her procedures. During my next visit to the hospital, I explored specializing in Emergency and Critical Care, by shadowing a veterinarian in a local specialty clinic. The chemotherapy treatments and ultrasounds particularly intrigued me, but I also loved the wide range of knowledge required for this specialization. After examining both of these specializations, I have found they both pique my interest. I look forward to investigating these areas further during my classes, eventually choosing one to pursue.
While attending Purdue University, I participated in the annual Springfest event. At this event I often sold concessions to help raise funds for the Biology Club, but my favorite moments every year were teaching children and adults about sea urchins and decorator crabs. It was a rewarding experience educating anyone who approached me about the nature of each of these animals. I cannot describe the joy of watching their faces light up as they held a sea urchin or crab for the first time. Some would ask specific questions about eating or motility habits, which often led to more in-depth questions. By educating them, I found that I was asking the professors new questions, including how the demonstration could be done more ethically so sea urchins didn’t die. I was increasingly interested in learning more about the crabs and sea urchins much like the children I was teaching.
During my academic and veterinary pursuits, I have continuously been building my repertoire of knowledge on the veterinary profession. I have spent several months in Leo’s Pet Care and the Indianapolis Humane Society, trying to absorb all the information I could, from basic techniques to more complex surgeries. I relish the times when we are able to better the welfare of an animal. Unfortunately, it does not always work out as we hoped. These instances of powerlessness keep me motivated to do my best for every other animal I can help. If I can do anything to prevent those same problems from happening to another patient, then I feel that I have an obligation and responsibility to do so.
At Pet Pals Veterinary Hospital, I experienced one of these situations. It seemed like a relatively routine dental cleaning on an older dog, but afterwards we looked over to see him fall lifelessly to his side. After I helped take him from the run, I watched, powerless as the veterinarians and technicians tried to revive him. Doing my best to remain as calm as possible, I offered to help with CPR, oxygen, and anything else they needed. Regrettably, we were not able to revive him, and I had my first taste of how difficult the veterinary profession could be.
I could not truly cherish those moments of success and accomplishment without the patients that weigh on my heart. With this in mind, I am thrilled to start the process of becoming a small animal veterinarian. I am excited to have the opportunity to apply to Purdue University early since they provide specific tracks for my interest in small animals and keep class sizes small. I am particularly interested in their research on the Human-Animal Bond with Dr. Beck, Dr. Croney, and Dr. Ogata. As a student who strives for excellence, I know I would make a great addition to Purdue University’s DVM Class of 2019.
Brooke writes about her third summer at Leo’s, July 2015
My first summer at Leo’s I think I was the only volunteer there that summer, but that definitely is not the case these days. Pretty much anytime you walk in now during the summer there’s two volunteers, if not three or more. This wealth and variety of volunteers creates a unique learning environment that I really enjoy. As a student who is only able to really work on my veterinary skills during the summer, I am constantly learning and re-learning information, skills, and techniques. But I’m not just learning from Dr. Magnusson and the staff at Leo’s. I’m also learning from other volunteers, and it doesn’t matter whether they’re younger and newer to the field than me or older and more experienced.
Dr. Magnusson recently sent us all an article describing the high number of suicides in the veterinary medicine industry and the stress of the job that causes these unfortunate events. The people who choose this field, whether they are veterinarians or technicians, have to have some kind of preparation for this stress, and I think the best kind of preparation is experience.
The support system at Leo’s Pet Care makes the plunge into the veterinary field a little less stressful. During summers as you struggle to learn a new skill or get better at an old one there is always someone next to you who has either experienced this frustration or is struggling right alongside you.
I am forever grateful to all of the staff and volunteers that have helped me while I’ve been at Leo’s. With their help and my continued focus and perseverance, I have been accepted early into Purdue’s next DVM class. To all pre-veterinary students, Leo’s Pet Care is a great place to gain experience, but be prepared to work hard, do the dirty jobs, and learn all you can.”
-Brooke Fourthman, Purdue University DVM Class of 2019
Brooke writes about her fourth summer at Leo’s, July 2016
All The Things I Wish I Would’ve Known or Want to Pass On (as of July 2016)
This summer my focus has been a little bit different than past summers. Before now every summer was about getting more, new, and different experiences that would better my vet school application. Now that I’m in vet school this has changed quite a bit. I’ve changed directions to channel my interest more towards what will happen after I finish school. So here are some things I’ve learned or wish I would’ve known when I started.
This is going to sound simple and like common knowledge, but people often forget just how important it is. Get as much experience as you can before applying to veterinary school, but also get a variety of experience. I know you just want to do small animals (cats and dogs) but you have to show that you’ve at least checked out other areas. So get some large animal experience whether that be horse, cow, pig, etc. Get some exotic experiences too. DO NOT LIMIT your experiences to one area, you will be able to do that after you get into veterinary school. But also don’t think that all of your experiences have to be of a veterinary nature. If there is a non-veterinary experience that’s going to show that you have communication skills, that you’re resilient, and that you have the perseverance necessary to make your way through the grueling process of veterinary school, do it! These are exactly the kinds of things that admissions committees want to see.
Going along with getting experiences, whether you’re thinking about specializing after veterinary school or not you should start shadowing early. Again, you can display that you’ve looked into numerous careers that can be pursued with a doctorate in veterinary medicine. If you already have an inclination towards one specialty definitely shadow a few professionals in that field. DO NOT however only shadow people in that field. The last thing anyone wants is to pursue one specialty, be it surgery, cardiology, neurology, or something else, go through the motions, attending school, pursuing an internship or residency in that field, and THEN discovering that you don’t like that career or field. So DON’T get tunnel vision. Shadow great professionals in all fields, even the ones you don’t think you could ever see yourself in. Since you want to shadow as much as you can, you also have to START EARLY. DO NOT WAIT until the last minute and guess on which ones you might want to do. People who do this will probably regret it later, and with all the time, money, and effort we spend to reach that point you don’t want that person to be you.
One of the most important pieces of wisdom I feel that I can pass on is finding a veterinarian that will help and guide you. This is so important for so many reasons. Of course there are the ones everyone knows and thinks about: getting experience, letters of recommendation, etc. But there are a thousand and one more reasons that no one even considers when they’re shadowing and externing with veterinarians. He/she can help introduce you to specialists whose doors might otherwise be closed to you for shadowing. As they get to know you better they can help you navigate the waters of deciding if general practice is right for you or is there another path that would provide a better fit. They can help you master techniques and learn new skills before you would in school. For these reasons and so many more make sure you find a veterinarian that can act as a good mentor, someone who is to answer all your questions and alleviate your fears about the crazy path to becoming a veterinarian. I have been lucky enough to find that here with Dr. Magnusson at Leo’s Pet Care, and it has made a world of difference as I pursue my D.V.M. and whatever lies beyond that.
One thing I told one of the volunteers who is applying this year is that it’s a good idea to have an extra evaluator on your application. You are required to have 3 (some schools have requirements within those 3), but you can add a couple more. And the only reason not to request a 4th or 5th evaluator is if you don’t have someone that’s going to give you a good evaluation. If you do have someone who will evaluate you well, ask them! The last thing you want to happen is you only ask 3 because that’s all you need, and one of them misses the deadline by a day. So all your hard work goes down the drain because you didn’t think to ask one more person, just in case something happened.
I’ve shadowed several specialists this summer, getting a feel for what their lifestyles are like with their career, what kind of medical procedures they perform, and asking as many questions as I possibly can. One of those people was Dr. Lemmons, the oral surgeon and medical director of MedVet. He mentioned a few things that I could (and should!) be doing to make myself a more competitive candidate for internships and residencies. One of those things was starting to compile a C.V.(Curriculum Vitae) now. “Wait….what’s a curriculum vitae? I thought I needed a resume.” is what you’re probably thinking. Well surprise!! One of the documents you may need to apply to internships, residencies, and future jobs is a called a Curriculum Vitae. This document can be significantly longer than your resume, becoming 3 or more pages. That being said you still want to convey the most relevant information in the most concise way possible. No one is going to care that your C.V. is 10 pages long if it’s filled with irrelevant garbage. Purdue has a really good writing website (https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/641/1/) that kind of describes what a Curriculum Vitae entails. Regardless, it is going to be a lot easier for you if you start compiling your C.V. now rather than waiting until you’re applying to internships or jobs.
Another little tidbit of information Dr. Lemmons told me was to start logging all of the non-required lectures I attended. In veterinary school, people are often having lunch-n-learns or guest speakers that come to talk on different topics. If you keep a log of these talks you’ve attended when you apply to an internship or such you can include all of the relevant talks on your C.V. This is just one more way to show that you’ve thoroughly investigated the path you’re pursuing, and have concluded it is right for you.
Dr. Lucroy, the oncologist at MedVet, gave me some advice on how I might want to choose which internship and residency to pursue if I end up heading down that path. He suggested that you should do an internship and residency at different locations. The idea being that you will learn more from different doctors in different settings. You can learn more practice styles and different ways of doing procedures by being an intern and/or resident at different locations. He also suggested that one should be fast-paced so you see as much as possible, and the other slower so there is more time to reap as much information from each case as possible. Dr. Lucroy mentioned that the residency would be better if done at a university, which are often better equipped to assist you with the research project. Universities often have a much slower case-load, so this leaves the internship to cover the fast-paced part. When evaluating whether or not an internship is going to be like this pay attention to the number of cases seen per year. Is that number higher or lower when compared to other internships you’re interested in? When going through this process ask yourself why are you doing it. Are you doing it because you want pursue a residency afterwards or are you doing it simply because you don’t feel prepared to practice on your own yet? If it’s the latter you might want to consider finding a practice with a doctor or two who is willing mentor you. This way you still have guidance with a better paycheck that is more equipped for dealing with the huge amount of debt you’ve recently accrued. If you’re hoping to pursue a residency after your internship pay attention to a few numbers when looking at an internship. Firstly, look at the number of people who started that internship and the number of people who completed it. Make sure that these numbers are the same! If they aren’t ask them why if you interview with them. Secondly, look at the number of students in the internship who applied for residencies and the number of students who were accepted. Are they close? Even better, the same? Is this an internship that is going to prepare you for a residency or are you just cheap labor? There are also a number of things you can evaluate besides these numbers. Like are you the primary veterinarian on cases? How often are you directly supervised? You want to make sure that this program is going to do a great job of setting you up for the next step in your career path.
Four years at Leo’s Pet Care has taught me a lot and continues to do so. I’ve learned how to deal with difficult clients, how to best communicate so that the client understands, and how to evaluate whether a path may be worth pursuing or not. These pointers I’ve learned and want to pass on are things that can be told pretty easily. However, there is so much more that veterinary hopefuls have to learn through experience alone, and Dr. Magnusson has been remarkable at helping me learn and experience those things.
Dr. Magnusson’s Letter of Recommendation for Brooke Fourthman, August 2013
Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine
Re: Brooke Fourthman
I’m writing this letter in support of Brooke Fourthman entering the School of Veterinary Medicine as soon as possible.
As you no doubt have learned, Brooke is a stand-out among your veterinary applicants. Put aside her obvious academic record and list of extracurricular accomplishments for a moment. Let’s look at the summer of 2013 as an example of the kind of work you can expect from Brooke.
For nearly 40 hours of every week, from the week she completed her second year of Biology until the start of her third year, Brooke volunteered her time at Leo’s Pet Care in exchange for whatever experience we might offer her. By the time I write this letter at the end of July, Brooke is capable of answering our phones, operating our computers, restraining patients, obtaining samples, placing catheters, presenting estimates, describing medical procedures and recovery operations, and checking out clients.
With supervision of course, Brooke could complete basically any task in this practice as my assistant if she were asked, and she would gladly volunteer to do so.
Every day she was here, I was proud to have Brooke representing my practice to our clients. She never failed to pick up a mop, lift a bag of food, or walk a client to their car when her help was needed. Brooke spoke clearly and confidently, presented herself well to clients, and showed respect for her peers and superiors. More importantly to me, Brooke asked intelligent questions about our practice. How we performed, why and how we did what we did, in-depth discussions about dog and cat medicine and surgery that demonstrated advanced maturity.
And then at the end of each work day here, did Brooke go home and kick up her feet? No, she went to Steak ‘n Shake and worked evenings to save up for veterinary school tuition. Solid dedication, great work ethic.
I was no slouch before veterinary school, but this young student puts my summer history to shame.
Brooke was a very willing student, and we’re sad to see her go. I’m looking forward to hopefully reviewing her resume again on graduation from veterinary school.
My only hope, dear colleagues, is that you accept Brooke to the veterinary school before she decides to put her considerable talents to use in another field.
If you’d like to discuss this letter of recommendation for Brooke in further detail, you can contact me at the clinic any time, and I will gladly sing her praises.
Yours very sincerely,
Greg Magnusson, DVM
Leo’s Pet Care