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Maddie Bryan, DVM

DVM Class of 2023, Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine

Dr. Bryan spent her first summer with us in 2016, and had this to say about her first Leo’s summer experience:

Experience, experience, experience… What used to be a daunting and consuming requirement needed to apply to veterinary school became exciting and attainable at Leo’s Pet Care. In  fact, volunteering at Leo’s Pet Care has been the best part of my summer and I could not be more grateful for the amount of time and effort that Dr. Magnusson, Jen, Brooke, Kristen, Abby, Rob, Angel, Eshan, and Sara have invested in my learning process. My previous animal and veterinary experiences were informative, yet distant, but boy was it different at LPC.

I knew that I needed to have more experience if I wanted any sort of chance to get into vet school, so I started to do some research about the veterinary clinics in my area and that is when I found Leo’s. After I read the other student volunteers’ online blurbs about their experiences, I was convinced that I wanted to spend my summer learning from Dr. Magnusson and decided to give LPC a call. I was allowed to come in for an interview (yay :)), but Dr. M did not take it easy on me. He cares so much about Leo’s Pet Care that he doesn’t allow just anyone to volunteer there. At first, I was reserved and stood back because that was what I was accustomed to at some other clinics, but I quickly realized that Leo’s did not work like that and I was encouraged to jump right into the swing of things. Taking me out of my comfort zone helped me grow leaps and bounds as a person this summer, and it also forced me to learn “all of the things” as fast and as well as I could. I am beyond grateful that Dr. M let me stay because volunteering at Leo’s Pet Care has completely redefined the meaning of the veterinary experience for me.

I have learned more this summer than I could have imagined possible and I could honestly go on forever about it, which I probably will by the end of this, but I wanted to start with two things that I have learned and wish I had known sooner to get more out of my previous experiences in veterinary medicine:

1) I have heard countless people tell me that I need a variety of veterinary experiences in all types of fields with all types of animals; and while there is truth to that, I can’t express enough the importance of quality over quantity. Before Leo’s I had some shadowing experience in small animal, large animal, exotic animal, and even zoo animal medicine, but it felt like I was shadowing those places as a formality for the application and to put on my resume. I can’t be too upset, though, because all of those long days standing on my feet watching from a distance led me to seek a different approach to gaining experience. The hands-on learning approach that Dr. Magnusson encourages is the ONLY way to truly know what you are getting yourself into, and I really wish that I started volunteering at LPC a couple of years ago solely because I enjoy every day that I am there learning everything that I can possibly retain. Volunteering at LPC is not just another thing to add to my resume, it is something that enriches my life, which is exactly what you should want from your experiences before veterinary school.

2) The importance of a mentor in veterinary medicine, or if you are lucky (like me) the importance of many great mentors cannot be understated. I have had numerous mentors in the past, such as coaches, teachers, and employers, but none of them stepped outside of their role as a coach, teacher, or employer. But that is not how Dr. M and the LPC staff roll. I have never met so many people so invested in the future and success of their mentees. Not only have I learned a great deal about veterinary medicine and how to do different tasks around the clinic, I have also learned a lot about myself and how I imagine my future as a veterinarian. After reading the previous volunteers’ online features, I was hoping to learn how to do nail trims, draw up vaccines, calculate drug dosages, perform blood draws, run lab samples, place catheters, perform some surgery techniques, and more. But I definitely did not expect the impact that the LPC staff would have on me. I have always had the typical student and athlete mentality that anything less than perfect is not good enough, which is not always a great way to go about life. The little victories that I have had at Leo’s Pet Care, like learning a new skill or running a successful appointment, have taught me to be proud of myself even if the task was simple and imperfectly completed. The LPC family has celebrated my little victories with me and I am eternally grateful for my newfound mentors and friends, I just wish I had known them earlier.

When I walked in on May 16th for my interview I expected the volunteer description to include a lot of cleaning, observing, and learning. I did not expect this summer to unfold the way that it had. I have been taught nearly every job in the clinic, I have learned a lot about medicine, ethics, and how to treat patients and clients as a veterinarian, and I have discovered what kind of atmosphere I would love to work in someday. Dr. Magnusson invests a lot of time and effort into teaching his students, but I can confidently say that all of his students could not be more grateful and always search for ways, no matter how small, to give back. My personal favorite is to make the clinic squeaky clean because it is something I know that I can do to show my appreciation, even though it in no way matches what Dr. M does for us. Dr. Magnusson and the other students even helped me pick apart and edit my personal statement for my veterinary school application to make sure that it is perfect. That is only one small example of how much the LPC family cares about each other.

I will always remember the influence that Leo’s Pet Care has had on me this summer from learning technical skills to growing as a person. And I hope in the future that I can be a mentor for other aspiring veterinary students, like the Leo’s Pet Care family, has been for me. There is something to be said about people who love animals, and who also love the people that love their pets. I think that those types of people are the best type of people, and Leo’s Pet Care is full of them.

Maddie’s VMCAS Personal Statement, July 2016

Two years ago I rediscovered a hidden treasure: a box of stuffed animals and index cards containing patient information from when I pretended to be a veterinarian as a six-year-old girl. My interest in veterinary medicine started like many, with a childhood admiration of the beauty and concern for the well-being of animals. Over the years, that wide-eyed wonder has developed into a true passion for the human-animal bond and the veterinary profession as a compassionate science.

My experiences as a student and as a track and field athlete briefly pushed me toward physical therapy. While I did not find my heart in that career, I did find my voice and hone my communication and debate skills through academics and student government. Life as a student-athlete taught me how to perform under pressure and help my teammates succeed despite exhaustion and time constraints. The pressure of balancing athletics and academics developed my leadership and tenacity and has matured me into a confident, well-rounded adult. My time in athletics not only fostered a strong interest in physiology and medicine but also taught me how to balance my health and wellness with my academic career.

Volunteering with the dogs at a local shelter in college gave me the push I needed to continue the journey I started as a young girl but with a refined perspective. This brought me to shadow Dr. Estes performing surgery at the Michigan Road Animal Hospital, and later Dr. Neumann performing endoscopies and ultrasounds at the Broad Ripple Animal Clinic. With each new shadowing experience, my decision to pursue a career in veterinary medicine has become even more clear. These shadowing experiences resoundingly affirmed my choice to pursue the veterinary profession, a stark contrast to my time considering physical therapy as a profession.

The next big step in my journey took me to Costa Rica and Nicaragua for Vida Volunteer to provide medical care to underserved communities. These Vida clinics were a large operation and were nothing short of fast-paced and demanding. As a result, the veterinarians put a lot of trust in us volunteers to learn technical veterinary skills quickly. This proved an invaluable opportunity to hone my triage skills and learn how to use creative problem-solving to accomplish so much for a community with few resources and minimal technology.

During the busy school year, I had opportunities to explore research as interest and potential career. I worked with the behavior and endocrinology research departments of the Saint Louis Zoo. In addition to research and observing procedures at the hospital, I watched a number of necropsies. Necropsies furthered my understanding of veterinary medicine, demonstrating not only the role of veterinarians in making the tough calls but also how those tough calls can be critical in advancing both public health and the conservation of animals across the world.

My most recent experience has been with Leo’s Pet Care, a small animal clinic in Indianapolis. Dr. Magnusson does not accept every volunteer who applies with him, and he did not take it easy on me. This priceless experience has taught me a great deal about quality small animal care and running a successful business. At Leo’s I have been taught nearly every job in the clinic, from helping clients find creative ways to finance treatment, entering accurate medical records, educating clients through challenging treatment plans, inducing and monitoring anesthesia, and even scrubbing in and assisting with surgeries. My experience at Leo’s Pet Care has given me great insight into a veterinarian’s role in ethics and medicine, and the delicate balance between home and work life needed to have a successful career.

The more I mature and develop in my studies, the more my childhood appreciation for animals has developed into a passion I am eager to build into a lifelong career. My experiences, both in and out of the field of veterinary medicine, have taught me that hard work and dedication are instrumental in achieving goals. Yet becoming a veterinarian is so much more than just a goal. Veterinary medicine is where science and compassion collide and communication is key. Challenges and setbacks will be counterbalanced with saving lives, and personal growth will be contested with heartbreak. Becoming a veterinarian is not an easy task and will bring hardship, but I know now more than ever that this is the path that I am supposed to be on and will ultimately lead to a fulfilling life.

Dr. Magnusson’s VMCAS Letter of Recommendation for Maddie Bryan

A quick review of Maddie Bryan’s resume reveals an international traveler, a volunteer worker, an accomplished athlete, an honor student, pretty much everything I never was growing up. But of course, as I learned, the real Maddie is so much more than just a sum of her experiences.

I mean, she got to go to Costa Rica?! I’ve never been to Costa Rica. And volunteer at the St. Louis Zoo! That’s amazing! It’s hard as heck to land a position at a zoo these days, isn’t it? How did she do it?!

In her minimal “spare time” between classes at St. Louis University, Maddie still manages to give back as a pre-health student ambassador, and a Vida Volunteer campus coordinator.

While she’s doing all that volunteer work after school and busting out A’s in all her classes (honor society, dean’s list), Maddie’s a collegiate-level track and field sprinter, with actual athletic scholarships and everything.

Plus, Maddie had shadowed at not one, but three veterinary clinics before coming to me, including two of the best small animal hospitals in Indianapolis, and the one really good exotic animal veterinarian. But she didn’t stop there, she wanted more.

What has Maddie gained from all her experiences? Veterinary medicine is a tough field, full of daily stress and loss and disappointment, and crazy highs and soul-crushing lows. Can traveling the world and growing up as a collegiate athlete prepare someone for life in a veterinary clinic?

That’s what I wanted to find out. And the second day of meeting with Maddie, it was clear that I wanted to take her under our collective wing this summer, the sixth pre-veterinary student through Leo’s Pet Care in as many years (two of our volunteer alumni are already enrolled in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Purdue, Brooke Fourthman in second year and Kristen Thomas in first year, and our first volunteer Danielle Lang is enrolled at The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine).

As you no doubt already know, Maddie is a stand-out among veterinary applicants. Put aside her academic and extracurricular record, and her huge list of accomplishments in and out of the clinic for a moment. Let’s look at the summer of 2016 as an example of the kind of effort you can expect from Maddie.

I have never seen a student work so hard in my life, as Maddie worked this summer. I swear, she has cleaned the toilets like 8000 times, WHILE kicking butt in the exam rooms and the surgery suite and at the front desk. Maddie polished the sinks and washed the windows, answered client questions intelligently on the phone, instructed other students on our protocols, negotiated estimates, and educated worried pet parents, she even assisted in surgery and neutered a couple of dogs (with my supervision, of course!)

Maddie did an amazing job keeping up our hospital, often without anyone offering to help her, and she did it in her downtime and during her lunch breaks in between absolutely mastering every last thing I had to teach her.

As I write this, Maddie just finished performing a cat dental start to finish, from placing the IV catheter, calculating and administering anesthetic drugs, intubating the cat (on the first try, woot!), monitoring her anesthesia, cleaning the teeth, recovering her, and preparing her discharge instructions. Truly amazing, how much our brilliant Maddie has accomplished here in only a few short months!

I’ve seen this young woman work, and bust her butt like no student before her, and we’ve had some great people come through here. I can assure you, that Maddie has fought, clawed, scratched, and EARNED every last accomplishment on that big resume of hers. She’s the kind of professional who would walk through ten feet of snow, uphill both ways, just to get a job done, and done right.

Maddie is a fighter. A nose to the grindstone, get the job done kind of kid.

Now, I’ll warn you. Maddie has been trained by her many years of high-level schooling and athletics that staying quiet and respectful is the secret to success. So when you meet her, don’t be fooled by her cool and gentle demeanor. Maddie’s personal growth this summer has been beyond measure, and her personality is just starting to bloom. Those bright blue eyes belie a heart of gold, a sly sense of humor, a massive intellect, a healthy scientific curiosity, a truly humble nature, and probably the single greatest work ethic I’ve ever seen in all my 16 years in this job.

It is absolutely without hesitation that I recommend Maddie Bryan to the program of Veterinary Medicine, and wish her very well in her career. The veterinary profession can only become better with Maddie in it, and I look forward to welcoming her back as a peer and a colleague in a few short years once she graduates from your school.

Yours very sincerely,

Greg Magnusson, DVM
University of Saskatchewan, Canada, Western College of Veterinary Medicine, Class of 2000

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