If you decide to become an Army Veterinarian, whether in the active duty or reserve program, the U.S. army will help with student loans and/or tuition through their Health Professions Scholarship Program. A veterinary career in the military can be a viable way to get tuition help for vet school. Oftentimes a military veterinarian will work in the reserves program while still holding a job in a regular veterinary office.
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Check out this book: Veterinary Medical School Admission Requirements (VMSAR) to help you navigate all of the requirements for each college.
Name, veterinary school attended, and year that you started.
Leilani Im, DVM
Vet School Name: Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine
What was your major in undergraduate college?
Bachelor of Science in Animal Science, minor in Chemistry, at the University of Illinois.
At what age did you first apply to vet school?
How many schools did you apply to?
How many application cycles did you apply to, before being accepted?
How many schools invited you for an interview?
How many of those gave you an acceptance letter?
Do you remember any specifically challenging interview questions?
“What would I do if I was not accepted into veterinary school?”
What was your GPA (in undergraduate)?
Did you attend grad school?
What types of paying jobs did you have before going to veterinary school?
-UofI Dairy Research Farm- aided in research projects and the milking parlor
-UofI Meat Science Lab- aided in research projects and worked on the kill floor and cutting room processing meat
-Small animal veterinary general practice- veterinary technician
How many people read your personal statement before submitting it?
At least 5
Did you volunteer? If so, where?
The local animal shelter
When did you decide to become a veterinarian?
When I was in high school.
Did you interview any veterinarians before starting the application process? If so how did you approach them?
Yes, I approached the veterinarians that I worked for.
Were you a member of the pre-vet club at your school?
Yes, but I was not as active of a member as my colleagues because I worked other jobs. But it was a great resource that helped me get those research jobs in my undergrad.
Did you join student clubs in your DVM program? If so, which ones? Were they helpful?
Yes, I joined the Student Chapter of the American Veterinary Medical Association (SCAVMA) and anatomy club. I found both to be very helpful and a fun way to make friends outside of the classroom. My advice is to not get bogged down with too many outside activities because your schoolwork is very important.
Did you apply for vet school after, or during your Bachelor’s education?
Who gave you your letters of recommendation? Did you know them well?
I had gotten them from a Professor and a few DVMs. I knew the doctors well because I worked for them, but I did not know my professor as well as the doctors.
When you were ready to do your clinical year (4th year) at a vet school in the states did you get your top choice?
No, I didn’t get my top choice. In fact, I got placed in a school that wasn’t any of my 3 choices, but I’m so thankful I got placed there. I went to Auburn for my clinical year. It is an amazing school and everyone was so welcoming. We were also the first class to be able to use their new small animal hospital.
Do you have any advice for students thinking about attending Ross University College of Veterinary Medicine?
Going to Ross is a huge step. It’s not just going to a very prestigious vet school; it’s moving out of the country away from family. That might be hard for some people, but all of the hardships that came with being in a different country while studying made me a stronger Veterinarian.
What did you like most about Ross?
What I liked most about Ross was how everyone treated each other like family. We were all stuck on that rock together and we bonded so tightly together through all the hard times. I also loved how some of their teaching and research styles are unconventional. I would have never been able to be apart of sea turtle and fish research programs if I went to a stateside school. I loved how the school was year-round so we can finish faster.
Are you happy that you chose this career as a reserve army veterinarian and emergency vet?
Absolutely, most days I am happy with my career as a military veterinarian. Obviously, there will be days where I wish I chose an easier job, but in the end, I am always happy every day going to work.
Do you have any advice for students, once accepted?
Stay focused on your goals and roll with the punches. Accept that you will not know all the answers, but what matters is that you do your best.
Any study tips?
Find a good study partner(s); multiple minds are better than one. Go to as many teaching assistant sessions/professor office hours; especially if you are struggling with the material. Get help early! Find a good study pattern that works for you and stick with it. If you don’t do well on a test, figure out what went wrong and keep moving. Don’t let one grade drag you down.
Have there been any classes, within your DVM program that were especially relatable to your current position as a working military veterinarian?
Anatomy, physiology, surgery, and medicine; I use these core ideologies every single day.
What was the most challenging class, in your DVM program?
What shaped your decision to go into army reserve and work as an army veterinarian?
I have a lot of family members in the military (mostly the Navy) so I also feel the same pride in serving my country. My way of serving was to become a military veterinarian. As an army veterinarian, I love that I get to do something a little different than what a typical vet does every day.
Military veterinarians are trained to be soldiers first so it’s been pretty fun learning how to shoot guns, etc. The bonus of being in the military reserves as a veterinarian is that I can also have a civilian job. More importantly, this gives me the flexibility that I want.
As a Doctor, and an army veterinarian, do you have a favorite medical case?
That’s very tough because I have had a lot of great cases in my short career. If I had to choose one case, it would be when I was working at an animal shelter. An older dog was surrendered for urinary issues and the owner did not have the means to pay for medical care. We found out that this sweet dog had a very large bladder stone. I performed the surgery to remove the stone, and she recovered well. We felt bad for these owners and knew that an older dog would have a harder time getting adopted out so we contacted them to give them the good news. They came back to pick her up and it was a very happy ending!
Do you have a specialty, whether as an army veterinarian or ER vet or are you working towards one?
I am working towards specializing in small animal surgery.
What has been your most challenging case, either as an army veterinarian, resident, or ER vet?
I had a lot of tough cases during my rotating internship while working ER because there were some high-stress situations. Challenging cases usually occur when you try to do everything you can for the patient, but in the end, the patient does not survive.
Do you frequently have to research cases, on off-hours?
Very often, and I am humbled by that. I do not know everything, and I am not ashamed to look things up or ask a senior clinician for advice on how to approach a case.
Have you read or listened to anything worth sharing?
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Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, this was an amazing book!
Do you have any last words of wisdom?
This is a very tough career, but worth all the blood, sweat, tears, scratches, and bites. If this is what you want to do, then don’t ever give up. But also understand that everything happens for a reason. I did not get into vet school the first time around, but that allowed me to get more work and life experience that made me an even stronger veterinarian today.
How can people find you?
*If you want to read more interviews with Ross students and alumni check out these other interviews.*