Students at UC-Davis, LMU make virtual connection
Veterinary students at the University of California-Davis and Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee, met recently via video conference to talk about wellness and share strategies for keeping the stresses of student life at bay.
Approximately 240 students, faculty members, and AVMA officials participated in the first AVMA Student Virtual Town Hall, held Oct. 8 simultaneously at the two universities. Presentations about the importance of mental health and well-being were given during the two-hour event, and students were provided resources to help them achieve a better work-life balance.
Additionally, students at both veterinary schools participated in a survey on wellness-related topics. They discussed the results with one another, identifying commonalities while also brainstorming strategies for managing the stresses of academic life.
A common refrain among students was the need to take breaks from schoolwork to exercise, play video games, have coffee with a friend—anything that helps a student relax and recharge. Most students said they would more likely seek out counseling if it included an emotional support animal.
Chris Moyer, a second-year veterinary student at LMU helped emcee the town hall. “From what I gathered, our students did not want the question portion to end. I had a number of students approach me afterward and say how spectacular the event was.”
Sean Gadson, a second-year veterinary student and host of the UC-Davis portion of the event, said the town hall provided an environment where students felt comfortable discussing mental health issues.
“Students from both universities shared their own experiences and strategies for dealing with the mental health challenges that are so common in this profession,” Gadson said.
“I think the greatest thing to come out of the event was a renewed sense of community for both schools,” he continued. “Students tend to focus so much on their specific school that they forget students in other places are experiencing similar struggles. Discussing mental health with another school reminds both student bodies that they are a part of an amazing community and that they can reach out to that community for support.”
The virtual town hall is the brainchild of Dr. Grace Bransford, who, as AVMA vice president, meets with veterinary students throughout her two-year term. Dr. Bransford saw value in bringing together students from distinctly different veterinary colleges, such as LMU, located in rural Appalachia, and UC-Davis in urban California, who might not otherwise cross paths to talk to one another about a common issue.
“Nothing like this has been done before for veterinary students,” Dr. Bransford explained. “It’s a relatively easy and efficient way of reinforcing that sense of community among our veterinary students, reminding them that they aren’t alone in their struggles—whatever they may be—and that there’s an abundance of help and support available to them.”
Dr. Bransford hopes the virtual town hall becomes a model for future AVMA events and will be used to connect with veterinary students at foreign colleges.