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March 01, 2020

Veterinary students find leadership roles matter at every level

Published on February 12, 2020

“Don’t Be a Crab” was the slogan Kristina Williams used when running for class president at Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, which refers to the crabs-in-a-bucket mentality. That is, when two crabs are in a bucket, as soon as one tries to climb out of the bucket, the other will grab the escaping crab by the legs and try to escape itself, with the result that neither crab ends up escaping.

“In veterinary school, there’s lots of competition. People don’t learn how to work together, and then they get in the real world, where it’s collaboration heavy, and they get culture shock,” Williams said. “I think a lot of mental health problems take root in vet school—it’s very high stress … and difficult enough without that cut-throat mentality.”

Veterinary students
Left to right: Kristina Williams, a second-year veterinary student at Colorado State University; Kayla Corey, a second-year veterinary student at Texas A&M University; Ava Mastrostefano, a second-year veterinary student at Tufts University; and Bryanna Andrews, a third-year veterinary student at the University of Edinburgh, speak during the session “Our Passion, Our Profession, Our Perspectives on the Future” Jan. 11 at the AVMA Veterinary Leadership Conference in Chicago.

Williams was one of four Student AVMA members selected to share their perspectives on leadership as veterinary students during the session “Our Passion, Our Profession, Our Perspectives on the Future” Jan. 11 at the AVMA Veterinary Leadership Conference in Chicago. They also were among 30 students who received scholarships from SAVMA that covered travel, hotel, and registration expenses for them to attend the VLC.

Ava Mastrostefano, a second-year student at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, said she was inspired by the resources she learned about at the conference. As president of Tuft’s SAVMA Wellness Committee, she’s looking forward to sharing with fellow members the AVMA’s “My Veterinary Life” podcast and resources from avma.org/wellbeing.

Mastrostefano said her positions in nonclinical leadership have proved just as valuable as the clinical experiences she’ll receive because they will make her a better veterinarian overall.

Kayla Corey, a second-year veterinary student at Texas A&M University, admits she had burned herself out on leadership during her undergraduate years. Instead of taking roles she was passionate about, Corey says she took roles that she thought would look good on her resume. So far, she hasn’t sought any positions at her veterinary college, but that will now change.

“You have to find your own ‘why,’ so when you start going into leadership, you know why you’re doing it. That’s more motivating. It’s why I’m ready to get back into leadership roles in the veterinary community,” Corey said, adding that attending the VLC has increased her motivation.

During the session, Williams shared a story about when she ran into a woman on a bus who asked what she did for a living.

“I responded with ‘I’m just a vet tech,’ and the lady told me to never say you’re ‘just’ anything because every time you do, your salary goes down,” she said. “This goes back to impostor syndrome and devaluing your accomplishments. You can be a leader in your field without holding some high-ranking position.”