A series of new pre-veterinary medicine classes through Western Illinois University's School of Agriculture will offer students hands-on experience and career insight, as well as expanding the University's programming.
The courses are Animal Science 280 for the Spring 2023 semester, and Agriculture 475, an experimental course taught in Fall 2022, as a pre-veterinary science clinical class.
Both courses are taught by Dr. Ashley Whiteside, a local veterinarian who graduated from WIU's School of Agriculture in 2015. Whiteside has been teaching classes at Western since Spring 2022, offering students opportunities to observe surgeries and other procedures, as well as helping start and advise a pre-veterinary science club on campus.
Whiteside said her goal for the courses is to improve student exposure to the field of veterinary medicine for both pre-veterinary students, and pre-veterinary technician students.
"I also geared some time in the course toward options for students who may want to be involved in veterinary medicine somehow without being a veterinarian," she said. "A few students have shown interest in working in diagnostic labs, doing necropsies or tissue/sample handling and processing etc., which would have them involved in vet med but not working as a doctor."
Whiteside said students in the classes will spend time reviewing some of the real cases she has experienced in the field.
"This gives them exposure to what being a small town, rural veterinarian can be like; spending time ultrasounding sheep for pregnancy and palpating cattle for pregnancy," said Whiteside.
The classes also familiarize students with basic surgical equipment so they can begin learning things like suture patterns and getting familiar with the necessary tools. Whiteside said she also spends a lot of time allowing students to ask questions of her professional experience, as well as those of licensed veterinary technicians.
"They want the education and exposure, but I think having an opportunity to ask any and all questions, without feeling uncomfortable in a veterinary clinic setting, like they were annoying a doctor or tech by asking questions while working, gives them the opportunity to feel they could ask whatever they wanted," she said.
Through the Pre-Vet Club, Whiteside works with the students on doing physical examinations on dogs. Time in both the class and the club is spent dissecting various animal body parts the Bushnell Locker has donated to the program. Students also spend 10 hours shadowing a veterinarian as part of one of the classes.
In addition to the new courses, a pre-veterinary medicine scholarship has been created to help students interested in this field of study. The Dr. Kenneth and Betty Wright Pre-Veterinarian Scholarship was created in Fall 2022, and the hope is to grant the first award in Fall 2023.
For more information about WIU's pre-veterinary medicine program, visit bit.ly/WIUPREVET.