Read on to find out how Dr. Gardner started vet school at 31, went on to become a hospice veterinarian, and start Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice with Dani McVety. Lap of Love is the largest network of veterinarians dedicated solely to end of life veterinary care.
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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.
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Name, veterinary school attended, and year that you started.
Dr. Mary Gardner, University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, 2004
What was your major in undergraduate college?
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?
The only question I remember was my stance on terminal surgeries during vet school – meaning, we use animals that were intended to be euthanized (like at a shelter) do surgeries on them and then euthanize them after the surgery. I remember saying that I don’t think it’s necessary with the advanced technology today and that I would elect to use a cadaver and not a live animal for ‘practice’. It turned out that the person asking me the question was the professor who TAUGHT that surgery course. But he still accepted me because I gave a good solid response.
What was your GPA (in undergraduate)?
Not great! Like 3.2
What was your GRE score?
I don’t recall what the exact score was but it was the minimum to get into vet school! I remember suffering through that exam and excited to have gotten the minimum! I’m not a good test taker!
Did you attend grad school?
Did you have large and small animal experience prior to applying to veterinary school?
NOT much – I worked at a humane society and as a kennel worker for 1 year before being accepted.
What types of paying jobs did you have before going to veterinary school?
I was a software trainer and business architect for 10 years before getting accepted to Vet school.
How many people read your personal statement before submitting it?
Did you volunteer?
Humane Society in South Florida
When did you decide to become a vet?
When I was 30 yrs old. I’m a ‘second career veterinarian’. It wasn’t until I lost my own pet that I decided to go back to school.
Did you interview any vets before starting the application process? If so how did you approach them?
I did – UF! I drove to Gainesville for a tour and talked to one person in the admissions office, she gave me some tips. I also spoke to the Dean at the time and he said that volunteering alone would not get me into vet school and I needed a paid position in the animal world… that is when I became a kennel worker. I did what was suggested and in turn, I got more experience through my paid position at the humane society.
Were you a member of any clubs at your school? If so, which ones?
Yes – I was the President of the Canine Club for 3 years.
Did you apply for vet school after, or during your Bachelor’s education?
Who provided you with your letters of recommendation? Did you know them well?
I had letters from both a Professor and a veterinarian that I worked with during that year. I also had a letter from my boss from the software company.
Did you find the application process stressful? Why or why not?
Not really – it’s more tedious than stressful.
Do you have any advice for students, once accepted?
You’re in – don’t sweat the small stuff!
Any study tips?
Get a good night’s sleep every night!
Have there been any classes, within your DVM program that were especially relatable to your current position as a hospice veterinarian and founder of Lap of Love?
Small animal medicine
What was the most challenging class, in your DVM program?
Endocrinology and pharmacology!
What did you like most about The University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine?
We had awesome professors and clinicians. I’m now friends with many of them. Very down to earth, approachable and many were amazing mentors!
Are you happy that you chose this career?
Yes – very
As a Doctor, has there been any particular case that was your favorite?
My first resection and anastomosis.
Do you have a specialty or are you working towards one?
I’m not in a board-certified specialty but I am involved exclusively in veterinary hospice, palliative care and end of life. One day becoming a hospice Veterinarian may be a specialty.
How did you get into veterinary hospice care, and decide to work as a hospice veterinarian? Did it happen organically or was it something you were interested in prior?
I have always had an affinity for geriatric dogs and cats. The reason I became a veterinarian was because of the passing of my dog – so I have an appreciation of what end of life is like for families. When in private practice, I was always good at discussing quality of life, helping owners with their terminally ill pets and delivering euthanasia. But doing it ‘full time’ wasn’t a thought until I connected with fellow UF graduate Dani McVety (she volunteered for human hospice during undergrad). She was doing in-home hospice and end of life care for almost a year when we got together. It was then that I decided that the hospice veterinarian niche was perfect for me.
Since you are dealing specifically with people who are in an emotional state, was there anything you had to learn prior to being able to handle the exclusive work of becoming a hospice veterinarian and having to deliver euthanasia?
I had to learn how to be non-judgmental and very empathetic. Compassion is ‘easy’ for me but having empathy can be more challenging for people. You have to be very good at active listening during these appointments. You also need to have a massive amount of respect for the pet – owners want to see that you care just as much as they do. Even after the euthanasia, you must handle that pet with the same dignity that you would for your own.
What has been your most challenging case?
Do you frequently have to research cases, on off hours?
Have you read or listened to anything worth sharing?
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