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Ali Lee – Purdue Animal Sciences Major and Future Veterinary Professional

Alison Lee

Alison (Ali) Lee spent the entire summer of 2015 volunteering for Leo’s Pet Care. Read here, in her own words, about Ali’s experience:

Ali writes about her summer with Leo’s, July 2015

Just like every other aspiring veterinary student would say, I have been dead set on working in the field of veterinary medicine since I was a two-year-old, little girl taking my first dog to the vet with my mom. I studied hard and got above the grades it took to get me into a program at Purdue University to help prepare for a career in veterinary medicine. I had everything I needed, except for personal experience.

I had myself convinced in high school that no vet would hire anyone without a degree, so I stalled the search and worked for my dad. After my freshman year of college, I called different vets and asked about experience opportunities, but clinics either didn’t get back with me or said they were looking for someone who already had a degree or previous experience, so I stopped the search and picked up the first animal-related job I could get a pet boarding facility. I kept that job for a couple summers.

It wasn’t until my Junior year of college that I put my head back on my shoulders and did everything I could think of to land some sort of position at a vet clinic. Still struggling to find experience, I spent my winter break emailing any vet clinics close to my area and somehow came upon Leo’s Pet Care on one of my many Google searches. Without hesitation, I sent the clinic an email and crossed my fingers. Unlike other practices, Dr. Magnusson got back to me the same day AND told me about the volunteer opportunities at both of his clinics. None of the other clinics I reached out to let me speak with the doctor, so hearing directly from the doctor was refreshing. I scheduled an interview, met Dr. Magnusson, and best of all; I wasn’t rejected on the spot. I was finally given a chance to see behind the scenes in a vet clinic.

I started volunteering for Leo’s Pet Care in May with absolutely no veterinary experience whatsoever. I expected that as a volunteer, I would clean up all the messes and sit back and watch as if I was job shadowing. That wasn’t the case at all. Dr. Magnusson doesn’t hire his volunteers just to do the dirty work, and I learned that very quickly. He makes us a part of his team from day one. He has given me opportunities to learn anything I’ve ever wanted to learn about veterinary medicine from the basics of vaccinations to complex diagnoses and surgeries. It is not just opportunities to watch; I get the hands-on experience I’ve always wanted. I started with learning how to do the simple tasks like nail trims, drawing up vaccines, and filling out paper work for a fecal. Then as I gained more experience, I got to learn tasks like how to scale and polish teeth, draw blood, run blood/urine samples, and placing a catheter. I learn a new technique or task every week! It’s nonstop learning in a fun way that’s a lot better than sitting in a lecture hall and reading a textbook.

In the first e-mail I received from Dr. Magnusson, he said “if you put in your hours and follow instructions, a good student can pretty much run the entire hospital by herself by the end of the summer.” He wasn’t kidding. Of course he doesn’t actually let his volunteers run the entire hospital, but I can confidently agree and say that I have a great understanding of how to run his clinics. The first two days at the clinic taught me more about veterinary medicine than the first three years of my undergrad time at Purdue so far. One can only imagine the amount of knowledge I have gained within the first two months of volunteering. It truly is incredible.

I could go on an on about how Dr. Magnusson has helped increase my understanding about veterinary medicine. He’s one of the most kind-hearted, hard-working individuals that I have ever met. He has the best interest for not only his patients but also his clients, which I’ve found difficult to come across with other veterinarians I have taken my puppy to. One of the best parts about him is his determination to help other people. He’s gone through specific case studies with me and has given me notes and advice from his time in vet school to help me in the future. I haven’t made my decision on whether I want to work with large or small animals yet, but the minute he found out I was considering large animal veterinary medicine, he got me contact information for a mixed animal practice so that I could shadow farm calls and learn the behind the scenes for large animals. I mentioned wanting to see specific surgeries, and the next day he had contact information for another clinic that specializes in what I want to see. He goes above and beyond to make sure his student volunteers, including myself, leave the summer with every bit of experience possible, even if it means going outside of his clinics.

Dr. Magnusson isn’t the only one in the clinic that helps the volunteers out tremendously. His managers, assistants, and other doctor – Angel, Jen, Ruthie, and Dr. Stoots – and even the other volunteers have helped make my time at LPC one of the best experiences possible. Each and every one of the staff at LPC has been more than willing to teach me the ropes of what it takes to work for a veterinarian. They take the time out of their day to explain what they’re doing, how to do the task, and why they are doing it. The best part is that they want me to ask questions and get answers and better my knowledge of veterinary medicine. At LPC, I don’t just learn how to do a specific task; I learn why to do that task, which is personally one of the single, most important aspects of my goals in gaining knowledge in the field of veterinary medicine. Learning why helps me understand what I am trying to accomplish. If I just knew how to do a task, I wouldn’t truly be learning anything.

Leo’s Pet Care is like a little family. It doesn’t feel like work when I go into the clinic in the mornings. I enjoy being in the presence of the doctors and staff. One of the first things I noticed the first week of work was the relationships between all the staff members. They were all close, even to the volunteers who had started a couple weeks before me. Talk around the clinic wasn’t just about work. Unlike other places I have worked at, the clinic environment is enjoyable and fun to be around. It’s almost impossible to have a bad day when you walk into such a place with happy, optimistic people.

For some reason, Dr. Magnusson had the heart to give a 22 year old with absolutely zero experience a chance to spend a summer learning the ropes of what it takes to work in a small-animal veterinary clinic. I have learned more than I ever imagined I would in just a couple months worth of experience. My only regret is not finding out about Leo’s Pet Care sooner. I finally found a place that I’m excited to get up and go to work for. I come home every evening excited to tell my family what went on at the clinic and the new things I learn each day. I couldn’t be more thankful for the opportunities I have been given this summer. I only hope to be able to continue volunteering during my breaks once the school semester starts. My time volunteering this summer has solidified my decision to go into the field of veterinary medicine. The only decision left is whether to become a DVM or an RVT. There is no doubt in my mind that veterinary medicine is where I want to be.

Dr. Magnusson’s VMCAS Letter of Recommendation for Ali Lee

May 18, 2016
VMCAS Admissions Committee
Re: Alison Lee, DVM Candidate, Class of 2017

Dear colleagues,

It is a great pleasure and my honor to recommend Alison Lee to the profession of veterinary medicine.

When she first approached me to volunteer at our clinic, Alison (Ali) stood out from the crowd of young hopefuls from the moment I read her application cover letter, which pretty much said everything I needed to know about her – “I will do anything that I am asked to the best of my ability.” In person, I’m pleased to report that confident statement is totally accurate.
Some students, you can tell within the first five minutes of meeting them that they are destined for something great. In our wonderful and varied veterinary profession, “something great” can mean anything from research to production, farm to field, from federal administration to foreign aid.

Limited by what few experiences were available to her at Purdue, Ali devoted the entire summer of 2015 to branching out and trying on the profession of small animal veterinary medicine for size, to see if it fit. Personally, I think Ali will make a fabulous dog and cat veterinarian, but if she decides food animal medicine or wildlife is more to her liking, then all the cows and pigs and horses and other critters can only benefit from her work.

Ali showed up at our clinic every day she was scheduled, bright eyed and bushy tailed and ready to learn anything we had to teach her. There aren’t many young college students out there who would give up a whole summer of fun to learn how to work, but then again, Ali clearly isn’t like most of her schoolmates.

Ali is at that wonderful stage in her growth where absolutely anything is possible, and she will go as far as she can dream. All this is possible because Ali comes built-in with wisdom beyond her years, a solid grownup work ethic that belies her generation, an unflappable attitude, a strong drive to achieve, and a carefully crafted knowledge base. If I were forced to point out one weakness in Ali’s current plan, it’s that I don’t think she fully understands her own potential, something we worked on consistently last summer, opening her mind to the world of veterinary career possibilities she can consider.

I would also like to point out that since Ali is very interested in alternative career paths in veterinary medicine, besides just companion animal care, including large animal medicine and production medicine, she is an especially rare gem. Our profession is sorely lacking in young students willing to entertain the idea of farm and food health, and when given the opportunity to snatch up someone of Ali’s caliber of character and work ethic into any one of those fields, I’m certain you should admit her to veterinary school immediately and watch her work her magic.

It turns out, persistence and hard work are pretty much the only skills anyone needs to succeed at anything, and Ali’s got both mastered. Whatever she decides to do, it’s obvious animal medicine will play a defining role in Ali’s life, and she’s going to keep at it until she’s good at it. I’m pleased we got to contribute in some small measure, to her future success, and I can’t wait to see what she becomes.

In short, I recommend Alison Lee to our honorable profession without hesitation, and look forward to seeing where she takes it.

Yours very sincerely,

Greg Magnusson, DVM
Western College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Saskatchewan, Canada, Class of 2000
Owner of Leo’s Pet Care veterinary clinics in Carmel and Indianapolis, Indiana, USA