DVM Class of 2025, University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine
Hope Christy introduced herself to the Leo’s Pet Care family during the summer of 2020 and spent the summer volunteering at our Main & Guilford location. Here is what she had to say about her first of what will hopefully be many summers at Leo’s!
For the past couple of summers, finding a veterinary clinic to volunteer at was annoyingly difficult. It felt like I was sending several hundred emails that probably just ended up in a junk mail folder, and even calling and leaving my name and number multiple times led to no responses. Eventually, I decided to text this girl, Maddie, I knew who was in veterinary school, to see where she volunteered when she was home in Indianapolis. She listed multiple different places she’s volunteered but made it clear that her most valuable experience came from Leo’s Pet Care.
Now I started researching all the places she volunteered at. Leo’s Pet Care was the first on my list because, as she said, it was the most hands-on and valuable experience you could get. The website popped up on my laptop, and I immediately clicked on the Work at Leo’s tab. Scrolling down, I saw all the past students, including Maddie. Reading each student’s experiences at LPC was fascinating because of everything they’ve learned to do here! The idea of actually performing blood draws, administering vaccines, and scaling/polishing for dentals was exciting to me. Without even thinking about the other volunteering options, I emailed Dr. Magnusson to ask if I could work at LPC for the summer. Unlike any other clinic, I actually received a reply back that he would like to meet me to discuss the summer sometime around my spring break.
Spring break rolls around and what do you know, we’re in the midst of a pandemic. I immediately thought there’s no way LPC or any other clinic would allow me to volunteer anymore. I emailed Dr. Magnusson again to see if volunteering was still an option and possibly a video call to discuss more about it. Once again, LPC amazed me because, despite the fact of the ongoing pandemic, Dr. Magnusson didn’t turn me away. Instead, we set up a video call so he could learn more about me and tell me what this summer would entail.
One day I sat anxiously waiting for this video call with Dr. Magnusson. We started with all of the basic questions like who I am, where I go to school, what I want to do blah, blah, blah. Once I started going over my other veterinary experiences, he started asking me questions about what I could do, like drawing blood, placing catheters, restraining dogs, etc. Basically, all the things I didn’t know how to do or learn how to do at these other places. Don’t get me wrong; the other clinics I’ve volunteered at have shown me a lot, but you can only learn so much from just observing. Even after realizing I knew how to do absolutely nothing, he just told me I had a lot to learn and could come in to meet his team as soon as I could.
As I got closer to my first day working at Leo’s, my stress and anxiety were only getting worse. Thinking again about drawing blood, preparing vaccines, and everything else seemed absolutely insane. I’ve seen these skills performed so often, but the thought of me actually doing them excited and terrified me all at the same time. Every day, I would practice restraining techniques and holding off, and feeling the veins on my dogs to help my confidence for my first day.
On my first day at LPC, I was nervously sweating through my scrubs before I even walked through their door. The first people I met were Jade and Angel, who are now two of my absolute favorite people, and who have helped me learn basically how to run everything at LPC.
Dr. Magnusson started teaching me right from the get-go, beginning with a 3cc syringe. With ease, Dr. Magnusson showed me how to hold and pull a syringe without moving the needle. It seemed like a simple task at first, but my hands were nervously shaking when my turn came around, and it was not as easy as I thought it would be.
Many of the things I’ve learned this summer weren’t as easy or as hard as I imagined them to be. Many technical skills like restraining techniques, drawing blood, using hemostats, and tying simple interrupted sutures just take a lot of practice and guidance. The people at LPC are patient and want you to succeed. But with success, there are many, many, many failures that you shouldn’t be embarrassed about. Sometimes you’ll hit a vein on your first try, and other times you might fail to try with all four legs. These are the experiences you need to have and the type of people you need to learn from. They were determined from the start to teach me everything they knew from answering phones, checking out clients, drawing up vaccines, and honestly anything you could think of, no matter how many times they had to teach me.
I cannot thank everyone at LPC enough for everything they have taught me this summer. Dr. Magnusson, Angel, Jade, and Eshan have all welcomed me into this family. I only hope that one day I can start teaching someone at LPC the way they all have taught me.
Dr. Magnusson’s VMCAS Recommendation for Hope Christy
Hope Christy is a little different than many of our students. With an unquenchable bubbly attitude and a disarming smile, Hope is great at making you feel like she’s got everything under control, even when she is whirling with nerves and excited energy inside.
What stands out to me most about Hope, is that she is unusually humble and shy about her own achievements. Throughout her training at our hospital, Hope would take notes almost in secret, perhaps not wanting to stand out as the exceptional student we all know she is. Speaking humbly of her athletic achievements, and how she left every day after volunteering a full day at our office to spend her evenings lifeguarding and teaching children how to swim all summer long, Hope never once complained about the amount of work we put on her, or the stress of trying to achieve that ever elusive work-life balance we veterinarians all struggle to find.
Hope’s attraction to animals is infectious, even to me. Hope sees every little furry wiggling butt like her very own family like a mother would take care of a child. I thought at first that this attachment to her patients might make Hope shy about restraining or performing procedures on her patients, but my fears were unfounded, and despite my reservations, Hope is a straight professional when she needs to be.
While her academic achievements speak for themselves, what I find most interesting about collegiate athletes like Hope, is how easily she swaps identities between student, athlete, and professional. I think sometimes veterinarians feel the key to balance is to do less of everything, but Hope proves you can be a high achiever in many areas at once and still have time to cuddle a puppy.
My one complaint about Hope is that she doesn’t sing her own praises enough, and may not understand just how high she can climb. I know, in this social media age, the more common problem is young people who put too much focus on themselves, but despite all she’s done and continues to achieve, that’s not Hope. She’s humble, makes all those around her feel at ease, jumps in and gets dirty when called on, and ultimately gets the job done with a smile.
Hope will make a welcome addition to the veterinary profession, and to any veterinary college smart enough to snap her up.
UPDATE FROM HOPE: Winter Break 2020-2021
After having such a wonderful summer at Leo’s Pet Care, I just couldn’t stay away. Even when I was at school, I would sit in my college home wondering what was happening at LPC. I was itching to get back to helping guide every crazy loving animal that walked through their doors. Luckily enough, Dr. Magnusson allowed me to come back over winter break, and I could not have been more excited.
This winter was different from my summer at Leo’s but in the best way possible. On the first day back, I met a few new faces. Cassidy, the new noob, is a freshman student-athlete at Valparaiso who’s just starting her journey to becoming a veterinarian. Working with Cassidy this winter has shown me how much I have grown from this summer alone, considering I was in her shoes last May. I loved being able to help teach her things at LPC that Jade, Angel, and Dr. Magnusson have taught me throughout my time here. From working hemostats to calling our clients for a follow-up, being able to watch Cassidy learn and grow this winter has been exciting.
I was also lucky enough to work with Abby this winter. She’s a second-year veterinary student at Iowa State, and working with her has given me a glimpse into my future. Aside from hearing the horror stories of vet school, being able to watch Abby do physical examinations, communicate with our clients, and perform surgeries throughout December only excited me more for what’s to come. Abby is a wonderfully smart and confident future veterinarian, in addition to being a fantastic friend. I am grateful to have her insight and guidance because she was in my shoes only a few years ago.
As for me, I have learned so much more than I could have imagined in these last 2 months at LPC. With help from Jade, Angel, Brittney, Abby, Dr. Magnusson, and encouragement from Cassidy and occasionally Eshan, I was confident I could learn to do just about anything. I have learned new technical skills such as SC, IM, IV injections, placing catheters, intubating, and much more. Additionally, I continued to practice other skills like drawing blood and administering vaccines. I even started performing physical examinations during my last month, and after watching Abby do them throughout December, I was confident I could do it as well.
During the last month of my break, working with Dr. Magnusson and taking Abby’s place as “doctor” was exciting and a little stressful as well. Before this, most of my time was spent pulling up vaccines, restraining the pets, or drawing blood for a heartworm test. This month I started going straight into the physical examinations. I would begin with the physical looking at the pet’s eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. At first, I will admit I didn’t really know what I was looking for, but Dr. Magnusson was always willing to teach me along the way. After the exams, we would speak with the clients, get them checked out, and start writing up SOAP medical notes.
Once I thought I started getting comfortable doing all these tasks, Dr. Magnusson would throw me into something new. As a student-athlete, I know it’s important to be comfortable within uncomfortable situations because that’s where you learn and grow the most. Talking to clients at first made me uneasy, but I have learned to keep it simple. Clients just want to know how their pet is. If their pet is healthy, GREAT! If their pet might need something more like a dental, plant a seed, as Dr. Magnusson says.
There are three things I try and remember when going out to speak with a client. 1. The pets’ weight. They almost always want to know. 2. What we did at today’s appointment. Since we’ve been working curbside, people want to know what you did, and most importantly, what they’re paying for. Most importantly, 3. Their pet’s name. I would often become so focused on what I would tell the client that I admit I completely blanked on their pets’ names a few times. However, if I ever said something wrong or could’ve said something better, Dr. Magnusson was always there to help, and for that, I am grateful.
The last thing I want to note about this winter is how vital teamwork is to veterinarian medicine. It’s essential to surround yourself with hardworking, confident, compassionate, and trustworthy people in this profession. The people at LPC are all of those things. Whether we’re trying to restrain a 120-lbs dog or attempting to force-feed a nearly dying cat-like Pants. All of us work together to get the job done, no matter how difficult it may be. I am so lucky to be a part of this fantastic family at Leo’s Pet Care, and I cannot thank Dr. Magnusson, Angel, Jade, Brittney, and Abby enough for teaching me these past few months.
UPDATE FROM HOPE: Summer 2021
Shortly after winter break, I was nervously awaiting interviews with several veterinary schools. These interviews would make or break my admission into school which made it even more stressful, however, I knew the best I could do was be myself. For every single interview, I was asked specifically about my veterinary experiences and every time I would indulge in my time here at Leo’s Pet Care. I praised all the incredible hands-on experience, guidance, and advice they have given these past several months. I truly believe my experience at LPC made me stand out in my applications and interviews with every single veterinary school.
After the completion of my application process (being waitlisted at 2 schools and accepted at 2 schools), I decided to accept my seat at the University of Missouri’s College of Veterinary Medicine, and I could not have been more excited! My family at LPC was extremely supportive and thrilled for my next steps towards becoming a veterinarian; welcoming me to work another amazing summer here.
Now, this summer was quite different than the last. I was officially an enrolled veterinary student AND clients were officially allowed back into the clinic for appointments. I loved being able to listen and contribute to client’s conversations about not only their pets but their lives! I loved meeting YOU whether that’s new clients, old clients, new pets, or old pets! This practice cares about so much you and your pet, which is why I love it here so much.
Thankfully, having this summer before veterinary school allowed me to keep practicing
the technical skills I need to know throughout my career. Skills I might even be able to teach my classmates in our clinical skills classes this year. I’ve become more comfortable and confident drawing blood, placing catheters, intubating, performing dentals, calculating drug dosages, and preparing medications. Above all, I have continued to practice suturing over and over and over again. In fact, I probably sat with Dr. Magnusson for over an hour (at least it felt that long) learning how to close an incision by burying a knot at the beginning, using a continuous intradermal pattern, and finishing it by burying the knot and smurfing it. (“Smurfing it” is now my new favorite phrase.) I’ve practiced this technique on countless gauze pads, towels, and fake skin suture pads. Honestly, practicing hasn’t made it any easier, but I will say I now have the pattern engraved in my head.
With many skills I’ve learned this summer it’s going to take lots and lots of practice, but I enjoy that. Being able to see improvements in my skills gives me a sense of growth and progress. For this reason, you also must appreciate the precision of many of these skills. Skills such as suturing and blood pressure checks have shown me just how precise you need to be which can also tend to be frustrating. BUT with a team like LPC behind me, believing in myself sometimes more than I believe in myself, I always managed to be surprised by my successes. To another veterinary student that might be reading this, be patient, practice, and believe in the process because not everything in life is always easy, but I will tell you it is most definitely worth it.