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March 15, 2021

SAVMA hosts panel connecting new veterinarians with 2021 graduates

Q&A-style virtual event covers internships versus practice, first-day jitters, and more
Published on March 03, 2021

The Student AVMA hosted its first panel of recent veterinary graduates in January, with five veterinarians who graduated from various institutions in 2020 answering questions from upcoming veterinary graduates. The panelists discussed what their first day on the job was like, what life is like after graduation, and how to choose between an internship and going into practice.

Graduation cap and stethoscope


Internships versus practice

Dr. Laurie Mangeli is a 2020 graduate of Tuskegee University College of Veterinary Medicine who is working at a small animal veterinary hospital in Nevada. She said during the panel that she was torn between doing an internship and going into practice.

“I was very interested in surgery and internal medicine,” she said. “I was not sure about finances, and it took a bit of thinking. I found a hospital where I could get the mentorship in surgery and the medical aspect so I can expose myself to it and figure out what I have a passion for. I found it wiser to be able to learn in the field before pursuing an internship.”

Dr. Perry Koehler, who graduated last year from Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, said during the panel that he was positive he wanted to do a residency. Dr. Koehler is a small animal rotating intern at the University of Florida, and he wants to go into anesthesia.

“If you don’t want to do it, this atmosphere is likely not for you,” Dr. Koehler said. “If your goal is to stay in general practice, you will get better in private practice learning with a GP vet.”

Dr. Kyre Larrabee graduated from Oklahoma State University College of Veterinary Medicine in 2020 and is now an intern at an equine hospital in Colorado. She told JAVMA News that new veterinary graduates should think about their core values when choosing a place to work.

You know way more than you think you do. It is in your head, and you know who to ask to find answers. It is a time thing. You are going to struggle with it, but it passes. I am six months in, and I am still confused all the time, but I feel a lot better about it.

Dr. Perry Koehler, a 2020 Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine graduate and a small animal rotating intern at the University of Florida.

“During your time in veterinary school, you will visit many clinics and work with several veterinarians,” she said. “Use this time to your advantage. I chose to work at a practice that had similar values to what mine were when it came to work-life balance, client and patient care, and mentorship.”

First day

Dr. Larrabee said that before her first day, she was nervous but excited. She suggests new veterinarians who are preparing for their first day get a good night’s sleep and eat breakfast.

“Many people will be using their first day to get a routine established and finding their way around the clinic or hospital,” she said. “You might even already have an appointment scheduled for you on the first day, and in that case, be prepared for your first client to call you doctor for the first real time. It certainly took me by surprise.”

Several of the panelists agreed with how difficult or strange it was to introduce themselves.

“I had to remind myself that I needed to introduce myself as a doctor,” Dr. Mangeli said during the panel.

Dr. Koehler had a different perspective about his first day because he had to start teaching students.

“I’ve been a doctor for 45 minutes, and now I am going to teach you something,” he said during the panel. “It was a little awkward, but it has gotten easier. … You know way more than you think you do. It is in your head, and you know who to ask to find answers. It is a time thing. You are going to struggle with it, but it passes. I am six months in, and I am still confused all the time, but I feel a lot better about it.”

Additional advice, resources

The panelists suggested the following advice and tools for new graduates:

  • Talk to the other doctors in the practice or people with whom you graduated if you need help or have a question.
  • Use the Veterinary Information Network’s simulator of student loan repayment, watch the VIN Foundation’s “Climbing Mt. Debt” videos with Dr. Tony Bartels, and try using a budgeting app such as Mint.
  • When interviewing for a job, ask yourself, “If I have to come to this person and tell them I screwed up, how comfortable would I be to do that?”
  • Consider how practitioners are paid within a practice. If pay is production based, it could affect the amount of mentorship you receive.

See the full SAVMA panel.

The AVMA has tools for budgeting, career advice, and well-being specifically for veterinary students who are transitioning into the profession at My Veterinary Life.