VetPAC is the go-to guide for pre-veterinary students

Dr. Shweta Trivedi, VetPAC director (right), speaks with James Tyndall, a CALS senior in animal science. Tyndall recently was elected 2010-11 national president of the American Pre-Veterinary Medical Association.

The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ strong pre-veterinary program just got stronger — with the launch of VetPAC, the Veterinary Professions Advising Center.

First there was HealthPAC, the Health Professions Advising Center, created in 2006 in the College to provide services to help students become candidates for health professional schools and careers. Now CALS is also the home of VetPAC, a place for pre-veterinary students to receive centralized advising on the veterinary profession and the DVM application process. VetPAC was officially launched May 5 during a reception at N.C. State University’s Riddick Hall, site of the center.

“Our pre-vet students are in a variety of majors like animal science, biology, zoology, poultry science, microbiology and biochemistry. This center will serve as a major resource for assisting in their planning of a future veterinary career,” said Dr. Shweta Trivedi, teaching assistant professor in the CALS Department of Animal Science and the director of VetPAC. “I am also working on the Web site simultaneously, so that students can register and start building their portfolios toward the vet school application.”

Trivedi is herself a veterinarian who received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in veterinary science in India and her Ph.D. in immunology at N.C. State’s College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM). She teaches anatomy and physiology animal science courses, as well as coordinating VetPAC.

Dr. Todd See, head of the Animal Science Department, welcomed faculty, students and guests to the reception. Also offering remarks were Dr. Johnny Wynne, CALS dean; Dr. Ken Esbenshade, CALS associate dean and director of Academic Programs; and Trivedi.

“This is a very exciting time,” said Trivedi, as she acknowledged her N.C. State colleagues who supported her efforts in creating the new center over the past year. “I’ve enjoyed starting new programs with VetPAC and working with talented and dedicated students and faculty.”

Trivedi indicated that the young center is already quite successful, noting that this year there are 20 CALS students heading to the CVM and eight more going to other vet schools across the country. Furthermore, in what Trivedi described as a “huge leap for our program,” James Tyndall, a CALS senior in animal science, was elected president for 2010-11 of the American Pre-Veterinary Medical Association at the APVMA Symposia this past March. It was the first year of N.C. State students’ attendance at the event, Trivdei said, with travel-funding assistance from Merial animal health company and Hills Pet Nutrition.

See said that “probably 500 of our undergraduate students have [vet school] as their intent,” and Wynne congratulated See and the Department of Animal Science “for the leadership role you’ve played in this center modeled after HealthPAC.”

“It’s all about students’ success and keeping them engaged and focused on graduation and graduate schools,” said Esbenshade, who recalled how the efforts in setting up HealthPAC led to VetPAC.

“We realized if we could emulate what we had in the human health area, it would be great for the students of animal health. We then started looking at what we could do to create the same thing in the animal health-related area,” he said. “I can see only great things going into the future.”

The center in 341 Riddick includes an open space that functions as a library/workstation area. There students have access to four computers – two PCs and two MACs – and reference-library shelves full of current veterinary, animal-health and related professional publications, such as JAVMA, the N.C Biotechnology Directory, Veterinary Practice News, Exotic DVM: A Practical Resource for Clinicians and CVM: the Magazine of the College of Veterinary Medicine at N.C. State University. Also available are various guides for preparation for taking the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) and other information for prospective graduate students.

The center is also the place for undergraduates to learn about the new VetPAC Interns program for sophomores, juniors and seniors. In this unique leadership program students can earn up to two credit hours of on-campus learning experience under the direct mentorship of Trivedi. The interns have the opportunity to participate in the fall N.C. Veterinary Conference, the annual APVMA symposia trip, the HistoPath Conference at the N.C. State CVM, spend-a-day sessions with the three different CVM faculty members and a once-a-semester paid lunch with DVM students at the CVM. They also are eligible for letters of recommendation for internships from Dr. Trivedi.

The VetPAC seminar series is another valuable resource for students, offering presentations such as the “Summers of Discovery” Research Internship Program at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, RTP; the Vetward Bound Program at Michigan State University; the Bald Head Island Conservancy Sea Turtle Internship Program; Introduction to the DVM program at Ross University, West Indies; Opportunities at Novartis Animal Health; and International Perspective on Veterinary Medicine — as well as “How to crack the GRE: Kaplan Test Preparation,” “Inspired Essay Writing: How to Fashion a Winning Vet School Personal Statement” and “Incredible Interview Techniques: How to Shine in Your Vet School Interview.”

VetPAC has also partnered with the Wake County Animal Center in a joint certification program in the care of shelter animals. The purpose of the program is to provide undergraduate students interested in a career in veterinary medicine the opportunity to experience all aspects of care of shelter animals. The program aims to give students a better understanding of shelter veterinary medicine.

Specifically, participants gain valuable experience in animal husbandry and animal behavior and in assisting veterinary staff and health-care technicians. Upon completion of the program, students receive a certificate from VetPAC.

VetPAC also works closely with CALS’ Food Animal Scholars Program, started in 1992 to encourage students to consider careers in food animal medicine.

In essence, VetPAC is there to guide students to the courses, activities and opportunities that can help build the kind of background experience necessary to get into veterinary school. There are 28 veterinary colleges in the U.S. and roughly more than 6,100 students applying to them each year. Of that number about 700 apply to N.C. State’s CVM, where there are 80 slots available – 62 for in-state students, 18 for non-residents.

With VetPAC, N.C. State’s pre-veterinary students are up to the challenge of that competition.

– Terri Leith

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