Straight talk

Advice from the field

Graduation is near! Swine veterinarians, recent graduates, and not-so-recent graduates offer advice for veterinary students and new graduates. Read what they have to say!

From Amy Carroll Woods

"I advise all veterinary students to gain as much experience as possible in the swine industry, as well as with swine veterinarians, before they graduate. They will see different types of production and practice before deciding where and how they want to fit into the industry. Many techniques and skills gained on those types of externships can later be used to serve clients in their practices. Of course, practical knowledge of the industry, as well as veterinary medicine, is essential for success in this profession. But equally important are communication and interpersonal skills. You really have to know how to interact with different types of clients and be able to sell your ideas to them."

From Gregg BeVier

"Ask yourself the question, 'What would you attempt to do if you knew you would not fail?' Finding your purpose in life and acting on it is key to this process. The veterinary education opens many doors and opportunities, but often these are not acted on because of a 'practice paradigm.' I believe that if you think big and act on your dreams, you will have a successful professional career and an enjoyable personal life."

From Karen Lehe

"Don't be afraid to say 'I don't know, but I'll find out.' Producers will respect your honesty, and you will gain their trust over time by digging in and finding out the answer to their question, even when you don't know it off the top of your head. You can't hide the fact that you are a new graduate, so don't try too hard to prove how much you know. It takes time to earn a client's trust and respect.

If I were hiring a new graduate, I would place a high value on good listening skills. We always emphasize good communication skills, and then tend to forget that at least half of good communication is proactive listening."

From Roy Schultz

"Even though you have gone through extensive training, you must continue to learn, learn, learn. Learn how to learn, and have a commitment to lifelong learning. Learn from your mistakes, but don't dwell on them. Learn to be a good communicator, both oral and written - take a Dale Carnegie or similar course. Dr Lonnie King said in 2005, 'Veterinary medicine is not a career or a job, it is a commitment of heart.'

In my Founder's Message at the 2006 AASV meeting, I told the audience, 'Veterinary medicine and life are like a game of baseball. You must play the game with passion. You must play the game with heart. And, you must play the game you love. To this end, it will bring you a productive and gratifying life.'"

From Robyn Fleck

"Explore our profession and find work that you truly enjoy. There's more job variety than you realize. Interpersonal skills such as communication, customer service, and working with different personality types are critical for our service-based economy."

From Larry Firkins

"The ability to effectively communicate with clients, staff, and fellow veterinarians, as well as the ability to critically think through situations, are a couple of the key skills a new graduate needs to possess. Spend time closely observing how experienced veterinarians communicate and apply their knowledge to working through the challenges they face on a daily basis."

From Jason Kelly

"Attend the AASV annual meeting and network with veterinarians from across the country. Veterinarians in our profession are very good about reaching out to help students learn about the pork industry and swine medicine."

-- Tracy Ann Raef