Posts Tagged ‘pre-vet’

The VMCAS becomes available today. That is, the current cycle for applying to veterinary school is now officially open.

I know this because I had been looking forward to this day for quite some time. Almost three years, in fact.

It’s with a bittersweet satisfaction that I think about the drastic change in my life and enjoy the free time and peace of mind to write about it.

I’ve harped upon the difficulties I faced as a non-traditional pre-vet student trying to work my way into vet school. I’ve blogged about many of the fun and carefree exploits I’ve enjoyed since turning my efforts elsewhere.

But I haven’t said much about how much better I feel these days.

Maybe that’s because it’s difficult to describe. It’s like spending months deciding on which lottery numbers to pick, only to find out that you picked the right ones after all. It’s like trying to carry twenty grocery bags into the house in one trip, and somebody comes out and takes half of them from you. It’s like the universe opening doors for you where there were only walls.

It’s kind of like landing the perfect job after you’ve been rejected from half a dozen not-perfect jobs (still can’t get over that one).

I feel happy. Even better than happy, I feel content. It’s almost unsettling to be so content. I can’t imagine one part of my life that I would choose to change right now, or one thing that I desire to have. All I have to do right now is to keep coasting along, keeping what I have and making sure never to take any of it for granted.

That isn’t to say I don’t have goals. I have big goals, and I have little goals, and I have a ton of things that I want to accomplish in life. But the greatest thing is that I’m either doing these things, or doing what needs to be done to get to where I want to be in the future. But I’m not letting any part of it consume my life anymore. As a pre-vet, I struggled constantly with wanting to find a sense of balance in my life. I could never find it, because it just wasn’t there. I thought I was following my bliss, but I wasn’t.

Yes, I still sometimes regret spending so much time and effort on something that didn’t come to fruition. I’m sure we’ve all felt the same way at some point in our lives. It’s the reason we hang on to tired relationships. It’s the reason we sit around and talk about what we could have been if we had followed a different path. It’s why we fill up our garages and basements with unfinished projects, unwilling to let them pass on to some other place without becoming what we intended them to be.

I think everyone needs some intangible element in their life—some question of what if I had done this, instead of that? It keeps life interesting, and leaves something to dream about. And that’s okay.

Especially when you already have everything you need.

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I wanted to make a visual index of all the animals I got to help with while I completed my internship at the zoo this winter. Not only will this help me to remember what specific animals I handled and fed and cleaned up after, but it will serve as a visual memory jog so that ten years down the road I will be able to look back and say, “Oh yeah!”

These photos are not my own—I shamelessly stole them off the internets (hey, if you don’t want em stolen, don’t post em). But they do give a very accurate representation of all the furry, spiky, scaly, warty, hairy, fuzzy, feathered, slimy and lovable creatures that I’ve had the immense privilege of getting up close and personal with. It was certainly the experience of a lifetime! (And if I inadvertently left anyone out, please forgive me. It was a long 13 weeks.)

p.s. Scrolling over each image will tell you the name of the animal. 😉

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Two years ago, I decided I wanted to be a veterinarian. I had no idea how to get there or what I needed to do. I had never had any real science classes in high school; at least, not nearly comparable in caliber to what most other highschoolers get. They had attempted to teach us some chemistry, but all I remembered from that was that I didn’t get it. At all.

But I decided to jump in and go for it anyway. I had about a hundred hours of animal experience from volunteering at the Humane Society, and I had just started volunteering for IndyFeral. Every other Sunday I scrubbed surgical instruments and had no idea what they were used for. The towel clamps looked sinister, the hemostats were vaguely self-explanatory by name, but I really could not fathom what a spay hook could be used for. In good time, I learned.

I’m pretty amazed at what I have accomplished since that summer of 2009. I found out that chemistry wasn’t impossible, biology was much more complicated than I had anticipated, and that statistics and physics were totally doable with enough effort. I also found out, to the great surprise of my introverted nature, that making friends with my classmates makes a huge difference.

I’ve racked up over 1600 hours of animal experience, including everything from cats and dogs and horses to baby deer and full-grown cheetahs. I got my mediocre undergraduate GPA to inch up, little by little, to where it wouldn’t be automatically dismissed by the admissions committees. I wrote and rewrote my personal statement.

Oh, and I totally rocked the GRE.

But, sometime last November, I started to get a funny feeling. It wasn’t the stress or the exhaustion from working four days a week, shadowing one day a week, spending 30 hours a week studying biochemistry and finding the off chance to do my physics homework on top of volunteering and trying to participate in clubs. It wasn’t even the knowledge, in the back of my mind, that I was too keyed up and busy to appreciate the love of my life who was doing everything he could to help me along. It wasn’t the realization of how much vet school really costs or how little veterinarians tend to get paid these days or actually figuring up how much undergraduate debt I had already racked up (a lot). It wasn’t any of these things that really got me to doubting the one thing I had been so certain of achieving. It was Thanksgiving.

The day before Thanksgiving, I took one of those horrid biochemistry tests that I wouldn’t wish upon anyone. I had taken a physics test earlier that week, and suddenly realized that I had nothing to do over the holiday weekend. Nothing school related, anyway. It was the first breath of fresh air that I had encountered in months, and it was heavenly. I actually had time to spend with my boyfriend. We discovered the classic movie channel and watched hilariously old films all night. I had time that weekend to spend with my family without the nagging feeling of needing to study something. I had time, for the first time, to take the time to enjoy the things that are me. I felt like a different person, and when I went back to school and work and activities the next week, I had a nagging little suspicion that something wasn’t quite the same.

It wasn’t until the next semester that I lost my resolve, little by little. I quit my Physics 2 class after the first week, blaming it on the crappy teacher. I started my zoo internship, but it wasn’t as interesting as I had anticipated. I decided to enroll in the online nutrition class that I needed to apply to Purdue, but after a while I decided that I would rather use that money to pay off my car. Tentatively, I started thinking in terms of, “what if I don’t go to vet school?” I was still pretty gung-ho about applying, but I was worried that maybe, just maybe, I didn’t really want to anymore. It felt kind of like losing my religion. I couldn’t see the meaning in everything I had done or was doing, if it didn’t relate to getting into vet school.

After a time and through much inner struggle, I came to terms with my loss of motivation. If you were to see my journal, you’d notice that every entry from November 21st to the present is a whirlwind of “maybe I shouldn’t”s and “is this right for me?”s, interspersed with the inevitable “yes I will”s and “of course I want this”s. Eventually, the “maybe not”s won out, and I decided that I just wasn’t anywhere near ready to apply to veterinary school.

“Not ready” is a bit of a cop-out, though. It leaves me room to reconsider vet school as a possible future goal. Perhaps, with time and experience and a good dose of “normal” life, I will some day be ready to get back in the saddle and fill out that application. Perhaps not.

Until then, my five year plan is to live life to the fullest while doing whatever it takes to get out of debt completely. As for my ten year plan? Well, I’ve always thought it’d be fun to be a farmer. 😛

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Sometimes it feels as if trying to get into veterinary school is a grand adventure, a mysterious journey, a magical trip that will bring me way more than I had imagined or bargained for. Other times, it’s just plain exhausting.

Preparing for application to veterinary school has been the most difficult undertaking of my life thus far. And that’s only because I have yet to actually undergo the application process, which I’m sure will trump my current efforts in magnitude of difficulty. After which, pending the very tentative possibility of acceptance, I get to contemplate enduring the torture of actually working toward getting my DVM. And then? Well, it’s anybody’s guess as to how difficult my future will keep getting from here.

Not that I’m complaining. I still have a good 264 days left for me to prepare for my first attempt at applying to veterinary school. 264 days to complete an internship, to get as much clinical experience as possible, to work and save as much money as possible to pay for my final semesters, to get an A in physics 2 and thus raise my suffering GPA by a helpful fraction, to finish writing a 3000-word personal statement, to take a 4-hour test (hopefully just once), to write out every single class, activity, award, and experience I’ve managed to tuck under my belt in the past nine years.

For now, however, I feel that it is best to suppress  those futuristic visions of challenges to come and to focus on the tiny, daily baby steps that I am making. Slowly shuffling my way toward my goal.

Today, I studied five hours for the GRE. Baby step.

I decided to try my hand at practicing the analytical writing section. I chose a random “Issue” from the list of topics so generously provided by the GRE website, and took every second of my allotted 45 minutes to write a somewhat coherent response to what I thought about the topic presented. The results are a tad amusing, as I managed to cull my mind and pull out interesting tidbits such as Christopher Columbus, and incest. It’s amazing what your mind will come up with when you are desperate for supporting examples and don’t have google at your fingertips.

For my own amusement, here is my result. The format is not bad, if I do say so myself, and I think it might have earned a rating of “generally thoughtful analysis supported with logically sound reasons and/or well-chosen examples”.


I dunno, you tell me:


  1. “Important truths begin as outrageous, or at least uncomfortable, attacks upon the accepted wisdom of the time.”

While it is true that the discovery of important truths often arise amidst great controversy and opposition, there exist those revelations that are born to an accepting society. Some of these discoveries may be happy accidents that cannot be denied. Others may be belief systems that have grown and evolved over the years and occupy an appropriate space in the accepted mainstream. To believe otherwise would imply that any long-held established belief is, in fact, a fallacy.

In the relatively modern realm of science we see perhaps the greatest number of examples that would support the claim that important truths begin as attacks upon accepted wisdom. From the days of Copernicus and Galileo, to Darwin, and including the contemporary issues such as stem cell research and assisted euthanasia, science is continually pressing the boundaries of accepted truth and daily creating a new world view which is, understandably, feared and rejected by many.

However, science is a novelty, prone to intense scrutiny and skepticism by its very nature and process. When we consider truths of a different nature, there is less evidence to support the claim that truths are always initially resisted by society.

For example, consider the many universal truths that have been found to be ingrained in every society. Anthropologists study the phenomenon of universal taboos. Every society since prehistoric times has frowned upon–outlawed if you will–the notion of incestuous relations. It seems to be accepted as a universal rule that incest is a dangerous and prohibited activity. While it makes sense to avoid incest for the sake of preserving genetic diversity and preventing genetic mutations, this reasoning was not explicitly known by earlier societies. My point is that no one person made the discovery that incest is harmful, presented it to a society, and was ostracized. It is simply an inherent belief, perhaps ingrained in our very instincts as a species, that has been persistently and universally accepted by all known civilizations.

In addition to accepted truths, we must consider those discoveries that have been embraced by the societies in the eras in which they were made. Columbus departed from Europe to make an astonishing discovery that would drastically alter the course of history. As far as King Ferdinand and Queen Isabela were concerned, Columbus “discovered” this immense truth that a new continent existed. Instead of rejection, Columbus’ new truth was embraced and celebrated. The importance of the discovery of America is undeniable. The fact that the discovery was well received and acted upon by Columbus’ contemporaries would be difficult to deny, given the evidence that surrounds each of us in our daily lives.

While it happens often that important truths are met with controversy and sometimes derision, it is not correct to assume that all truths are born in this manner. New discoveries, most often of the scientific nature, are often considered outrageous and offensive until they are more widely accepted and incorporated into the mainstream. However, those fundamental truths of humankind, which have arisen and become accepted by the very nature of humankind, cannot be ignored. These truths have always been present, and have had no need for discovery. Thus there are some truths that have never been anything but accepted wisdom; neither outrageous nor uncomfortable.

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Last summer, while braving the tribulations of bottle-feeding fawns and fostering litters of opossums, I had a motto of sorts. It went something like this:

“Do what scares you most.”

My motto has served me well since I said my last reluctant goodbyes to the grabby juvie raccoons and the shrieking chimney swift nestlings. I had new fears to face.

I started joining clubs, and actually going to meetings and making verbal contributions. And eye contact. With much tremulation I dialed up an old family friend that I hadn’t seen in years and asked if I could start hanging out at his vet clinic. I decided I wanted to go for an internship at the zoo, so I found out the name of the volunteer coordinator, called her until she called me back, and asked her a barrage of questions simply so that my name might make a small impression in her mind when it came time to start looking through those applications.

The results? I’ve become an officer in two school-related clubs. I’ve logged over 50 shadowing hours (so far) with three different vets at the vet clinic. And I landed the zoo internship. Not bad for things that, quite frankly, scare the bejeesus outta me.


Earlier today, the aforementioned old family friend (owner of two clinics, manager of four veterinarians, and veterinary practitioner of who knows how many decades) placed his hand on my shoulder and said,

“I want to give you some advice. If something scares you, DO IT.”

I politely accepted his sage advice, and thought to myself,

Yeah, I know. But I like my version better.

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Dream Big

A book called The Rhino with Glue-on Shoes has proven to become one of the most rewarding gifts I have received this past Christmas. Angela very wisely selected the book off my Amazon wishlist, and I’m glad she did!

As a pre-vet student I have some very vague (albeit grandeur) visions of what my future could hold. The thought of someday becoming a wildlife veterinarian is a motivating force that I haven’t felt in my life since I believed in Heaven and Hell.

It seems these days that every step I take leads me closer to my goal. But it’s not always easy to know exactly what that goal is. There isn’t a lot of literature out there for aspiring veterinarians to get an idea of what they may become, beyond the iconic image of the friendly stethoscoped neighborhood vet at the clinic down the street. But even as a pre-vet student I’m not sure what my options are beyond this..

This book has taught me a wealth of wisdom since I began savoring it weeks ago. It has taught me that I may one day be tube-feeding an eel, or suturing the eye of a dime-sized frog, or darting a wild elephant, or bracing the leg of a baby giraffe. It’s assured me that my creativity and well-roundedness will not only be an advantage, but a necessity. It’s made me believe that the possibilities are endless. It’s given me a bit of a glimpse into the personal lives of the type of person I aspire to be, and the type of people who will one day be my colleagues.

It has also taught me that many veterinarians are not the best creative writers. Don’t get me wrong; I find the entire book to be highly entertaining and insightful, but it’s not a source of great literature by any means. These are no James Herriots who have taken the time to record these anecdotes for the likes of forgiving readers like me.

So naturally I have decided that I would like to write my own book. In fact, I’m already thinking about my first chapter. I realize that writing a book about one’s adventures is a long and painstaking process, especially when one has yet to encounter said adventures. But I’m willing to take all that into account and continue looking forward to the day when I will have something worth writing about. And who knows, maybe it will even end up being interesting!

That being said, I’ve already prepared my Fantasy Bio, which will be featured in my amazingly riveting future-autobiography. Now I know, of course, that all or many of these things may never come to pass….

But hey, a girl can dream, can’t she?



Marie Brown graduated from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts. In 2016 she graduated from Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Brown completed her zoological medicine residency at the Bronx Zoo, and went on to gain field experience through volunteer work with wildlife conservation and rehabilitation programs across the U.S. Board certified by the American College of Zoological Medicine, she has worked as researcher and veterinarian for the Lemur Conservation Foundation in Myakka City, Florida. She has gained extensive field experience working with small primates in Madagascar, and serves on the Scientific Advisory Board for the Foundation. Dr. Brown continues her passion for conservation medicine as Chief of Veterinary Services for the American Wildlife Foundation in Molalla, Oregon. Dr. Brown enjoys educating the public through various media. In addition to writing, she has been filmed at work with animals in cable television documentaries, and lectures regularly at universities across the Pacific Northwest. She enjoys life on her small farm just outside Portland with her husband (Dr?)________, their two adopted children ________ and ________, and their modest menagerie. She hopes to continue caring for the wild and endangered for many years to come.

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Vestigial Me

Surviving my first semester as a pre-vet undergrad was no overwhelming task. I remember a time not too long ago when I wondered if the science-based classes were going to be too hard for me. Having had few science classes in high school, and those being not quite of the par of what most high schools offer, I never had any idea of whether or not I was actually going to be capable. It was similar to my first semester in taekwondo: I would watch those who were training to receive their black belts, and I knew that if I ever had a dream of getting to that point then I would have to be able to do everything that they were able to do. And they were able to do many things I could not.

I had no idea if my abilities would ever be adequate.

But that is the beauty of taking things one step at a time. First you learn the basic steps. You learn the simple maneuvers and you become comfortable with the atmosphere. You adjust to the difficulties you never knew existed, and you look ahead to the next challenge. The pivotal point comes when you break your first board. It’s a moment when you can’t turn back. You can’t go back to not being able to do it. You can’t go back to not knowing if you are capable. From there you can only move on or stop.

I’ll never be able to go back to the point when I didn’t know if I could break wood with my bare appendages. I’ll never get back to the point when I question my ability to calculate the de Broglie wavelength in nanometers of an electron with a mass of 9.11 x 10^23 and a velocity of 2.2 x 10^6 meters per second. And one of these days I may or may not ever be able to get back to that point when I don’t know whether or not I will ever be able to give open heart surgery to a western lowland gorilla on the jungle floor of the Congo. 🙂  It’s all about taking things one step at a time.

That being said, my greatest challenge of the semester wound up being my transition back into the “real world.” As classes finally wound down early last week I first felt the obligatory joy, which melted into an inexplicable apprehension. The more time that passed when I did not have to be in a specific place doing something specific and seeing the same specific people at the same specific time, the more restless and empty I felt. I had poured my entire self into doing well in my classes, which I did, but I felt abandoned as my rigidly scheduled life disintegrated before me. As silly as it sounds coming from someone who has interests and passions as diverse as my own, I suffered a certain degree of identity crisis that day and for several days following. I found myself completely unable to study for finals for the good first half of last week. I didn’t do much of anything but brew in existential angst. I didn’t know what I was possibly going to find to fill the next three weeks until school started again. Someone asked me at one point last week what I do for fun, and I had absolutely no answer to give. I honestly did not know.

My balance had been knocked askew by my ambitions over the course of the past few months, and I hadn’t even had the time to notice. I’m not sure how or when the haze began to lift, but I slowly began remembering all the things I had been setting aside in order to focus on my studies. I remembered what it feels like to want to draw for hours on end, or to have the time to watch a movie without feeling as if it were just another task. It took some time and it wasn’t easy, but I finally began to feel some life in those phantom limbs of mine. And I’m delighted, at last, to have a few weeks to devote to myself, to reshape what I hadn’t even realized I had lost.

And so, as a response to no one in particular, regarding the question of what I like to do for “fun,” I’ve come up with an answer all my own…

Dear Anyone,

I never quite know how to answer the question, “What do you do for fun?” I’d much prefer it if someone would ask, What do you do for joy?

For joy I spend time each week with my family, catching up on our daily lives and small personal victories and dramas. For joy I put on my favorite playlist and get lost in my latest drawing. For joy I cuddle up in bed at night to watch a documentary on my laptop. For joy I spend a lazy hour or two in the library or a bookstore, soaking in the overwhelming possibilities and diversions.

For joy I take a summer evening stroll up the Monon with someone special, stopping off in Broad Ripple to eat or grab a drink out on a patio somewhere. For joy I take on a new creative project, whether or not it ever ends up getting finished. For joy I feel the spontaneous need on a mild spring day to feel dirt on my hands and grass under my feet. For joy I own a porch swing, and a fire pit, and a bicycle, and a telescope, and a tent, and a picnic basket.

For joy I go to the dollar theatre and see whatever was popular four months ago. For joy I stop off at the IMA to visit my favorites and to see what’s new. For joy I grow flowers in the summer. For joy I count turtles basking along the canal. For joy I curl up in an armchair on a rainy day with a good book. For joy I take a weekend road trip to somewhere not too far, but far enough. For joy I get dressed up for a night at the symphony. For joy I ask someone to teach me something new. For joy I write, in my journal or my blog. For joy I watch thunderstorms passing through.

For joy I daydream, and wonder about small things and big ideas. For joy I take naps on a free afternoon. For joy I try to take note of every pleasant sight, smell, sound or feeling wherever I am and whatever I’m doing. For joy I like to share a familiar experience with someone I care about; to experience my love of something special vicariously through fresh eyes and a fresh mind.

For joy I take the time to be myself, because that is how I find joy in sharing.



black belt test

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Art in the Age of Study

smoothiedoodleI’d just like to point out that I made the time yesterday to do THIS, and it felt great. Today I feel like more of an artist, and less of a pre-vet undergrad schmuck. Do what you love, and everything else will follow.

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High On Life

I have begun my first semester as a nearly full-time pre-vet undergrad. This is the first time that IUPUI has recognized incoming freshmen as a class intent to graduate within four years (that’s not something we typically aspire to here at IUPUI). So, here I am in these freshman level Biology and Chemistry courses with this Class of 2013, as they are called.

My first class this week was actually a tennis class I signed up for in order to fill a small hole in my schedule, and to give me yet another hobby (as if I need that). The first day of classes are always pleasant to me because I enjoy the awkward silence as everyone sits around not knowing each other and not wanting to speak at all. We all sat together like this waiting for our tennis instructor to arrive on Wednesday morning.  I looked around me at the well-worn rackets sitting next to these teenagers with fresh faces. I’m clearly the oldest of this group, though thankfully I don’t think that is obvious to anyone but myself. I’m wondering how I am going to pretend that it hasn’t been 12 years since I tried to play tennis. And how I’m going to reconcile the fact that most of my classmates were about 6 or 7 years old the last time I tried to play tennis. I’m hardly aged, but it’s strange to notice myself beginning to think in these terms. I suppose that if worse comes to worse and I embarass myself and end up feeling like a slow achy old woman, then I can always brandish my racket and yell “I have a college degree!” and that should make me begin to feel superior once again.

Our tennis instructor never showed. We sat around for a full 45 minutes, during which I absent-mindedly picked up a copy of Better Homes and Gardens to pass the time. I don’t know why there was a copy of Better Homes and Gardens at the tennis center, but there it was. So I flipped through it, and it was 60% ads, and 30% bad remodeling ideas, and about 8% barely interesting articles about landscaping. Just as I was about to chuck it in disgust, I came across an article aimed at parents. The article was meant to warn parents about the ease of purchasing drugs over the internet. However, I found it more enlightening and persuasive than anything else. I’m not exactly in the loop about these kinds of things, but I hadn’t considered the possibility of ordering drugs online and having them shipped straight to my door, as was explained so insistently in the pages of this magazine. The article not only tells you how easy it is, but goes on the say that there is no policing of the internet, so it’s safe. In addition they give you a short but informative description of the online drugs available and their effects. I’m thinking–this article sounds more like an advertisement than an admonition. I wonder how many lonely bored SAHMs picked up this article and started thinking about how easy, how safe, and how efficient it would be just to do a little browsing and have a little recreation shipped right to their doorstep.

Maybe none, but the thought of it amused me. And I was curious. So when I got home I did a little research. I wanted to know if it were really as easy as they said it would be to have drugs shipped to my house (“just a few clicks of the mouse!” or “within minutes!”). My initial search came up with a lot of “legal marijuana” for sale, hybrids and herbal cigarettes and whatnot. But no, if this article were legitimate then I should be able to get something highly illegal brought to me. So I kept searching. I went from one link to another, following hints and sending some emails to get links to other sites which linked to still other sites and more emails and finally, after jumping through several hoops in this manner, I have ended up with an email contact of a man in the Netherlands and a “menu”. But as of yet no address to send money and an order. Getting drugs online is clearly possible but not what I would call easy. And so my search ends, because I am not willing to waste the time of someone who seems very wary of what they are doing (with good reason) in order to inquire about something that I have no interest in acquiring. I’m only interested in wasting my own time in order to give my curiosity a reasonable amount of satisfaction.

And no, I won’t give you my contact’s email address 🙂

And thus concludes my adventures of my first half-week back in college. By this time next week I should be considerably less relaxed, considering that my three classes consist of seven different parts, in seven different buildings, at varying times each and every day, which means leaving at a different time and parking in a different part of campus every time I drive to school, which will be twice a day two days a week and once a day the other three. Not a routine that can be easily slipped into. But it will all be worth it in the end, right?

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