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Cassidy Eckstein

Bio/Chem Freshman, Valparaiso University

Cassidy Eckstein is a future veterinarian who currently studies both Biology and Chemistry at Valparaiso University, while also on the university soccer team.

Like many of our student trainees, Cassidy came to us with no veterinary clinic experience, on referral from one of our previous students,Maddie Bryan

Cassidy got the unique benefit of learning under not just me and Angel, Jade and Brit, but also Abby Hart who is a second year veterinary student, Hope Christy who is a college senior recently accepted into veterinary school, and Eshan Selvan who has been training with us on and off for over seven years.

On her first day volunteering with us in December 2020, this is what she wrote: “I’ve wanted to be a veterinarian since I was a little girl but I don’t have any experience, so I’m super grateful to get to learn from Dr. Magnusson and his team. I’m positive this will be a great learning environment for me to see if being a Veterinarian is what I really want to pursue.”

Only two short months later, after her freshman winter break, this is Cassidy’s first Leo’s Pet Care update:

After being able to volunteer at Leo’s for the past two months alongside Dr. M and his team, I was able to learn way more than I would’ve thought I could in years. I not only learned fundamental things like types of vaccines, drugs, and anatomy of animals, but I also learned a lot about what being a Veterinarian truly means. It validated my decision to want to go to graduate school for Veterinary studies. Yes, I learned the technical skills of how to hold a syringe, hold animals, and use the computer system, but it’s the emotional and mental skills that seem much more impactful to me. Dr. M taught me the mental toughness of being a leader and suggesting hard decisions for what was best for the animal and not just the human. Jade taught me how to handle emotions and not get upset when things went in a different, unexpected direction or to not be too obsessed with the adorable little puppies that came in.

I threw myself into this opportunity without any experience or any knowledge on the subject but looking at it now I am so happy I did. I had to learn on my feet and retain a lot of information within a short period of time. Working under pressure was the best opportunity for me to understand how a real clinic operated. By running curbside because of COVID-19 I was able to see the behind the scenes of a clinic and I’m excited for the future to potentially work with clients in person. Dr. M did a great job of including me in conversations with clients and letting me learn the social aspect of the job. It is very important to have social skills as a Veterinarian in order to communicate efficiently and effectively with your team and clients.

The tight knit team at Leo’s made learning comfortable and easy to fit into. I was especially a fan of working alongside other vet students as we were all learning together and able to teach each other things. By watching Abby, I was able to see how Vet School compared to actually working in a clinic and by listening to Hope I was able to see how managing a collegiate sport and studying pre-vet could be accomplished. Jade’s work ethic of juggling school and a job motivated me to work harder and be efficient with my time. These three ladies along with Angel, Brit, and Dr. M have been great role models for me these past two months and I can imagine they will continue to be for the future.

Dr. Magnusson responds:

One thing I’ve learned about our pre-veterinary students in the many years we’ve been training students, is that if they have been part of a committed athletic endeavor, that often translates well to the training we have to offer. Whether it was high level climbing, track, or swimming, all of our student athletes have turned out to be excellent veterinary candidates. Cassidy Eckstein is no exception, and when I heard she was on the Valparaiso University soccer team, that clued me in to several things I could expect.

First, that Cassidy would be coachable. It’s nearly impossible to go through years of coaching in any college level team and not be excellent at translating instruction into action. College athletes in particular are not just coachable as in “so you don’t screw up”, coachable as in “so we can get you to the highest possible levels of human achievement”.

Second, that she would be committed. College level athletics is no joke. With practices and continued training at inconvenient times even during school breaks, a college athlete is well prepared for the rigorous commitment in time and energy of veterinary school.

Third, that she would be resilient, and used to discomfort. I believe the physical and emotional bumps and bruises of college athletics translate well to veterinary training, and the long hours, expectant professors, and demanding course work that veterinary school requires.

And fourth, that she would be a team player. While sports are by nature competitive, college athletes in team sports in particular understand that the whole team needs to win, for the individual to win. Building up and encouraging your colleagues to do their best every day isn’t just a nice thing to do, it’s a critical component of the success of any practice.

Of course, just being coachable, committed, resilient, and a team player, is not enough to be successful in this field. You also need to be brilliant, compassionate, and most importantly, adaptable. That’s where Cassidy really shines.

All of our students have picked up what we were throwing down very quickly. Now, it may have been because she had the privilege of being taught the ropes by three different degrees of prior students on top of our already excellent core training staff, but Cassidy became very comfortable in our practice unusually fast.

On her first day I gave her several warnings. The first was that restraint, while somewhat trainable, is also a natural talent, and it’s the most valuable one she needs to learn right off the bat, and if she sucked at it we wouldn’t let her stay. So she studied the anatomy I gave her and mastered restraint immediately.

I also warned Cassidy that we don’t tolerate drama, but that was an unnecessary coaching point. The team accepted her right from the get go, and I never once got a hint of a disagreement between Cassidy and anyone else.

My absolute proudest moment, though, came one day when the whole team was in the treatment room taking care of a pet for an annual exam, laughing and joking and having a great time with each other, and Cassidy spoke up and broke the laughter for just one critical moment to remind everyone that we had nearly forgotten to vaccinate the dog. Even while she was enjoying the environment and her colleagues, Cassidy still kept her eye on the ball, and made sure we achieved the goal. That’s just exactly what you would expect a college level soccer player to do, and she kept everyone else on task while still operating within the team, brilliantly.

No doubt, Cassidy still has a long way and a lot of coaching to go. We haven’t even begun to dive deep into the medicine and surgery bits yet. But it’s already clear she is a welcome addition to Team Leo’s Pet Care, and I’m excited to continue her training.

An update from Cassidy, Summer 2021:

I was given the opportunity to come back to Leo’s for Summer 2021 and I happily jumped on the offer. This summer presented me with more challenges and obviously more lessons to be learned. The social aspect became very prevalent as the Clinic allowed clients to come inside, rather than the curbside option due to COVID that I had experienced in the Winter. Everything changed for me because you not only have to take care of the patient’s needs or issues, but you also have to take care of the client’s concerns or questions face to face and on the spot, rather than over the phone. With this I was able to check clients in, listen to their questions and be in the room with them for the actual exam while I handled their pet. This experience made me realize how important the social aspect is and how you not only have to know what’s happening to the patient, but also how to explain it in a way that the client can easily understand. Since I was the restrainer during most appointments, I got to listen to the exchange between clients and Dr. M which helped me to learn on the fly.

I was able to continue working on the tasks that I was taught in the Winter. I became a lot more confident in making samples and doing lab work and I fully learned how to use our computer software system-which allows me to make proper notes, book appointments and look at patient history. I was very fortunate in the fact that I got to sit in on my first mass removal and be of assistance by listening to the pets heart rate and watching the breathing. Watching Dr. M teaching Hope and Abby how to do surgeries, run anesthesia, and properly suture makes me anxious and excited for the day I’m in that position. Having Abby, Hope, Jade and Angel there again to continue to teach me veterinary medicine tips and tech tasks was super helpful and made me feel more comfortable in trying them myself.

When I first joined the Leo’s Team I was hoping to figure out if Veterinary Medicine was the career direction I wanted to go in. After the Winter, I knew I liked the job and was hoping it would continue to give me the hunger to learn when I returned over the summer. After reflecting on my Summer and having a semi-nonCOVID time in the clinic, I can say with full hope that this is the career path I want to go full steam ahead for whichI can thank Dr. M and his team for. I’m looking forward to returning to the clinic, if invited, and continuing on my path. I’m hoping to get some big animal experience in the near future, as well as potentially trying out the ER vets to help broaden my horizons.


An Update from Cassidy, Summer 2022:

During my sophomore year of undergrad I really started diving into Veterinary School programs in order to see prerequisites, advice, and the application process. From researching each and every school in the United States I came away with some common ideas on what it takes to get into a veterinary school. Other than having to pass organic chemistry, which is thankfully completed, I learned how important experience was to truly know what the field had to offer. After being at Leo’s Pet Care for the past year and half I believe I am being taught key lessons and necessary skills to help prepare me for Veterinary school.

 Previously I have been under Dr. Magnusson’s watchful eye and have been learning from other students who are in Veterinary school. I knew a lot was changing with the clinics while I was at school and I had to ask Dr.Magnusson if I still had a job to come back to, which he graciously allowed. I was extremely nervous to come back to the other clinic as it was with a different staff and another doctor. My first day back was better than expected as Dr.Johnson, Ric, and Jen were very understanding and patient with me. I realized quickly that this summer was gonna be an awesome learning opportunity for me as I now had two doctors with different styles to shadow and soak in.

Once I got back into the swing of things, I felt very comfortable running appointments and jumping in with any free hand I had. The great thing about LPC is that it is a team environment and everyone is willing to help each other. With the help of Brit, Ric, and Jen I learned how to do jugular, as well as front and back vein blood draws. I’m very appreciative that the staff was patient with me learning and always looked to me to try rather than doing the quick easy option of having themself do it. Along with blood draws I got a more in depth look at cytologies and how to interpret them, which was very important for all our ear infected fluffy friends we saw :). With the trust and support from all of LPC staff I was also able to make a new intake form for our clients which I hope can build a better foundation for getting a patient’s history!

My own personal goal this summer was to get a better understanding of the injections, drugs, and treatments we had in house. It was an easy job to be able to fill a prescription and put a label on a bottle but once you have to actually explain what the drug does to the client it becomes much more difficult. I spent a lot of time researching our in house drugs, ointments, cleaners, and treatments in order to accomplish this. I was constantly asking Brittany “What’s this?” or “What side effects does this have” which she always had an answer for. With Emily’s help I also learned how to do conversions and calculations for drug dosages which was something I hadn’t yet done on my own. It also really helped that I wasn’t the noob anymore as Morgan and Bridget had joined our family! Both of them helped stimulate my learning and I even got to teach them a thing or two! Since they’re around the same age, I’m excited to continue growing with them and see which direction this journey takes us all.

Dr. Magnusson and Dr. Johnson had two different styles and ran appointments slightly differently. I found it very helpful to be able to assist both of them and learn under them so I could get a better idea of the Veterinarian I would like to be one day! Dr. Magnusson trusted me to do a lot of appointment estimates, restraint, testing, and education for clients. The hands-on experience is something I truly feel like I could not get somewhere else. Dr. Magnusson opened my eyes about the veterinary field when we sat down to talk about my future. He gave me crucial advice about choosing what direction I want to go and how he has so many opportunities for me if I wanted to look in a certain specialty. Something that really stuck with me was when he told me how picking a specialty or a certain field depended more on what you were willing to be without rather than what you just really liked. 

Dr. Johnson taught me how to get a more in depth background on a patient so I could brief her quickly and efficiently before entering the appointment. Along with this, Dr. Johnson continuously invited me to research more deeply about concepts in her Veterinary books as well as online to get a better understanding of a concept we may not see everyday. My knowledge and eagerness to learn only grew more by being tasked to look these things up. I learned the importance of charting under anesthesia and when to take action when things didn’t look the way they were supposed to.

While there was lots of craziness with the expansion and construction of our clinic, our team learned how to run appointments smoothly through the adversity as well as found solutions to any problems that came up. I realized how important it is to keep the clinic clean and organized as well as work through issues rather than run away from them. I’m so excited to come back and see the new and improved clinic. I have already started thinking of all the things I want to learn next at LPC (catheter placing, knot techniques, etc)- If Dr. M and Dr. J allow me to of course ;) !

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