December 01, 2009


 FFA, AVMA encourage youth to pursue veterinary medicine

Mizzou student first recipient of AVMA-sponsored award

By Malinda Larkin
Posted Nov. 18, 2009

Ever since she assisted in a surgery and felt the aorta of a 4-month-old dog, Dana White knew she would pursue a career in veterinary medicine. 

The University of Missouri-Columbia sophomore won the FFA National Agricultural Proficiency Award in Veterinary Medicine-Entrepreneurship/Placement. This was the inaugural year for the award, which is sponsored by the AVMA as a special project of the National FFA Foundation. In all, awards were given in 47 categories at the local, state, and national levels. They were announced Oct. 23 at the 82nd annual National FFA Convention in Indianapolis.
Dana White checks the health history of a horse while working at Renfro's Veterinary Service in Richmond, Mo. White worked at the clinic as part of an FFA Supervised Agricultural Experience program.

AVMA CEO W. Ron DeHaven, AVMA Treasurer Bret D. Marsh, and AVMA President Larry R. Corry were on hand to speak with the finalists and congratulate the winner.

The variety of experiences members of the National FFA Organization had in veterinary medicine, from mixed animal to equine to small animal, impressed Dr. Marsh. He said the award had garnered "lots of positive attention" and that the FFA seemed genuinely excited about the Association's involvement.

He believes word will spread about the new award and generate even more interest for next year. Ultimately, Dr. Marsh said, the award creates a synergy between two entities with similar goals.

"(The FFA) is in the business of trying to develop leaders, and that's what we need in our profession," he said.

The AVMA Executive Board agreed at its spring meeting that the Association would sponsor and promote the veterinary medicine proficiency award. The project was intended to encourage talented high school students who belong to FFA chapters to consider careers in rural veterinary practice. The cost was $13,700 this past year and will be $32,000 annually from now until 2012, after which it will be re-evaluated.

Students were eligible for the award if they had participated in an FFA Supervised Agricultural Experience program related to providing health care for large and small animals. FFA members could work alongside veterinarians and their staff in clinical practice, research facilities, veterinary schools and colleges, or the animal health industry. The proficiency awards allow students to participate up to one year out of high school. The four finalists each received a plaque and $500. White, the national winner, received an additional $500 during a special ceremony at the National FFA Convention.

White began her pursuits in veterinary medicine in 2006, when she was hired at Renfro's Veterinary Service, Richmond, Mo., as a kennel attendant. She eventually became exposed to other aspects of the practice, such as watching Caesarean sections and fracture repairs.

"The doctors saw I had an interest in learning. They would explain things any chance they got to help me learn more," White said.

The Hardin Central FFA member was later promoted to running laboratory work, assisting doctors, filling prescriptions, and performing initial examinations prior to the doctor's examination. Her adviser told White that her FFA program participation with the clinic would qualify her for the Veterinary Medicine Proficiency Award.

Drs. W. Ron DeHaven and Larry R. Corry attended this year's National FFA Convention to
congratulate Dana White on winning the first FFA National Agricultural Proficiency Award
in Veterinary Medicine-Entrepreneurship/Placement.

"I was very surprised I received it," White said. "It was an amazing accomplishment. I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to apply, let alone win. The experience (the Supervised Agricultural Experience program) provided has really paid off."

White has since been accepted into Mizzou's Pre-Veterinary Medicine Scholars Program, which entails clinical rotations at the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital. She hasn't decided what area she wants to pursue with a veterinary degree, though she enjoyed the diversity of working in a mixed animal practice.

The FFA also recognized two members earlier this year by awarding each a $1,000 AVMA scholarship. Alyzabeth Looney of Denton, Texas, and Megan Westerhold of Rich Hill, Mo., were this year's recipients.

Looney plans to use the scholarship to pursue an undergraduate degree and then a veterinary degree at Texas A&M University. She intends to practice large animal medicine. Westerhold plans to use her scholarship to attend the University of Missouri-Columbia and also is interested in practicing large animal medicine.

The scholarship winners were among 7,810 individuals from across the country who applied for FFA scholarships. Selections were based on the applicant's academic record, FFA and other school and community activities, Supervised Agricultural Experience Program, and goals.

This is the third year the AVMA has granted two scholarships through the FFA, and the Association plans to offer them again in 2010.