This is our first interview with a Penn vet graduate. Dr. Klein got accepted to 4 vet schools and chose The University of Pennsylvania. As a Penn vet graduate, you will receive the title of VMD. It is the only vet school in the country to award a VMD instead of a DVM. Both the VMD and DVM are similar and each graduate will have to take the NAVLE, North American Veterinary Licensing Examination, in order to practice veterinary medicine.
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Name, veterinary school attended, and year that you started.
Ashley Klein, VMD University of Pennsylvania, Started in 2012
Who are the animals that you currently share your life with?
Daisy, 3-year-old dog
Where did you attend undergrad and what was your major?
The University of Maryland, Animal Sciences/Preprofessional (BS)
At what age did you first apply to vet school?
How many schools/application cycles did you apply to before being accepted as a Penn vet student?
I applied to 6 schools and was accepted my first application cycle.
I applied to Ohio State, North Carolina State, Virginia-Maryland, University of Florida, University of Pennsylvania, University of Georgia.
Were you waitlisted at any schools?
I was waitlisted at North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine
How many schools invited you for an interview?
4 – Ohio State, Virginia-Maryland, University of Florida, University of Pennsylvania
If you were accepted to more than one school, what were some reasons in
your choice of to become a Penn vet student?
I was accepted to 4 schools (Ohio State, Virginia-Maryland, University of Florida, University of Pennsylvania). I ended up choosing University of Pennsylvania because I was very interested in research at the time and they had a lot of research opportunities at the school and nearby; They had a very good reputation among the veterinarians I knew; I had gotten a scholarship; It was near family and I had heard it was challenging and I wanted support from family to be accessible if needed (That became very important for me).
Do you remember any specifically challenging interview questions?
I felt the interview questions at Virginia-Maryland were the toughest because each of them was not a standard question. They were things like: Tell us about an issue important to you and how you would present this issue to the public OR An owner can’t speak English, how would you tell them their pet should be euthanized and make sure they understand you?
Most other interviews were set up like a conversation to learn about your experiences and interests.
What was your GPA (in undergraduate)?
What was your GRE score?
1215 (or something similar to that, it’s hard to remember)
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Did you apply to vet school after, or during your Bachelor’s education?
During (summer between Junior to senior year)
Did you attend grad school before becoming a University of Penn vet student?
Did you have exotic, large and small animal experience prior to applying to
I had volunteered with wildlife including bears in High school. I had experience with farm animals (cows, sheep, pigs) through the campus farm. I had worked with dogs and cats in a small animal practice one summer during college. And I had worked with exotic animals on a study abroad program in South Africa during college. In summary, I had a broad array of experiences with various species, and this was something I sold as my major strongpoint in my application – Throw anything at me, I’ve probably worked with it.
What types of paying jobs did you have before going to veterinary school?
My jobs from high school to becoming a Penn vet student were:
Camp counselor, Waitress, Secretary at a pharmaceutical company, Writing Center Tutor, Small Animal Hospital Intern. I also worked as an Anatomy Teaching Assistant.
Did you volunteer? If so, where?
I volunteered as a Girl Scout through high school, at a Wildlife rehab center, I was in multiple volunteer clubs in high school and college. I also co-founded a volunteer club in college. I volunteered/did independent study at the NIH in the Pathology department.
How many people read your personal statement before submitting it?
I think 2 people – a roommate and my father
When did you decide to become a vet?
I went to college knowing I wanted to work with animals and Sophomore to Junior year I began researching and shadowing different careers. I found that every job I loved required a veterinary degree – whether it was a veterinarian or a researcher. At that point I decided the only way I would feel fulfilled was with a veterinary degree.
Did you interview any vets before starting the application process? If so how
did you approach them?
I shadowed and talked to veterinarians in Zoo medicine and primary care medicine as well as veterinary professors at school and veterinarians I met in research. I found that if you ask someone to tell their story, they generally do not see it as an imposition. A simple “Hi, I’m interested in going to veterinary school and would love to hear your story” is usually all it takes.
Were you a member of any clubs at your undergraduate school? If so, which
Terps Roots and Shoots and the Pre-vet club mostly
Did you join student clubs as a University of Penn vet student? If so, which ones? Were
I joined the Penn Vet Jewish Network and the campus fraternity (only for one year). I found them to be a helpful way to meet people and attend events that were non-veterinary school related. They helped me maintain a small work-life balance.
Who gave you your letters of recommendation? Did you know them well?
I had letters of recommendation from the veterinary pathologist I worked with at NIH, one of my animal science professors, and the veterinarian I had worked for one summer. I knew each of them pretty well as I had worked closely with them for at least a few months so they knew me personally as well as my work ethic.
Did you find the application process stressful? Why or why not?
Very, I constantly felt I was filling something out wrong or missing something. I felt as if any small mistake would cost me my career.
Are you happy that you chose this career? What makes you most happy about
this career choice?
I am very happy with my career choice. It is not for everyone though. I love the constant challenge, that I can find a job almost anywhere, and most of all I love teaching my clients and finding the best way to communicate with them. For me, the animals and medicine are interesting but the best part is the communication and teaching.
Do you have any advice for students, once accepted?
1) Enjoy your summer before school, you can study if it will help you relax but I can assure you that the people who studied honestly did not have a leg up on the students who didn’t. There is so much to learn and you can’t learn enough on your own in one summer to really make a dent in it so generally I recommend enjoying the summer and celebrating your achievement!
2) The first semester will be hard. You will find that the study techniques you mastered in college may no longer work. You may find you are no longer the top of your class and your grades have dropped. You may find your work to life balance is offset as you try to figure out how to manage the new course load. DO NOT BEAT UP ON YOURSELF! This happens to the best of us. Be open to trying new study techniques, be open to making mistakes and learning from them, be open to doing your best and having that not be an A. You will adjust and adapt over time, but only if you are open to change.
3) Do not burn yourself out, make sure to take some time for yourself – whether it’s your favorite TV show, a movie, a dinner with friends, a long run with the dog, etc. It’s easy to get sucked into the workload but don’t let it consume you.
4) Everyone is struggling in their own way and will show it in their own way. DO not assume the smiling party boy is not stressed…support your classmates and they will support you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help – from family, friends, therapists, etc.
As a Penn vet graduate do you have any study tips?
As said before – be open to new study techniques. There are online notecard systems which allow you to flip through cards on your phone or any computer. You can get note-taking programs that allow you to write notes on the powerpoints on your tablet. You can listen to lectures repeatedly on double speed. Find what works for you…that’s my biggest tip! I would get so stressed because I would see others studying a certain way and think I was doing something wrong….but I wasn’t.
Have there been any classes, within your DVM program, as a Penn vet student that were especially
relatable to your current position?
Clinical pathology – I wish I had paid closer attention to it. But honestly – every class has a baseline for veterinary medicine – anatomy helps with surgery, physiology helps you understand how a disease might cause clinical signs, pharmacology introduces you to the treatments you will use, etc. I think mostly it is important to keep the clinical use in mind…it was easy to get caught up in the nitpicking questions on exams when the truth is, try to keep the big picture in mind as much as you can!
What was the most challenging class, in your DVM program, at The University of Penn?
As a student, did you have to take out loans for your education? If so, are you
concerned about the amount of debt you will have after graduation?
I had a lot of help from parents to be completely honest. I also had scholarships, I worked through vet school (Library assistant during school, research jobs both summers), and tried to keep my costs low. Even with all of this, my debt was about $180,000 on graduation day.
It honestly stresses me out every day – am I on the right repayment plan for my future, what is the best way to pay this off, am I saving enough. I have had multiple financial advisors review it and they all feel I will be fine and be able to maintain a healthy lifestyle and have a family. So far they are right and I have created a diligent savings plan which I am able to stick to while having a better lifestyle than a student.
Is there anything in particular about your DVM program at The University of Pennsylvania or the school itself
that you liked?
I liked the location, I was near family in NJ and you were in the middle of the city so it was easy to access food and fun when you had minimal free time (you can also walk to things which makes things cheaper). I also do feel my education prepared me well for practice – except not so well for technical or surgical skills but that seems to be pretty common across the board with veterinary programs.
As a Doctor, have there been any particular cases that were your favorite?
My favorite cases are allergy cases and endocrine cases where the animals come in looking horrible and I can quickly turn it around with a simple medication!
Do you have a specialty or are you working towards one?
I was very tempted to do a Pathology Residency but in the end, truly loved communicating with clients and realized I would not get enough of that in Pathology. Short answer – no I am in general practice but have also done Emergency Medicine.
What has been your most challenging case?
The most challenging cases are the ones where the owners are aggressive, ungrateful, demeaning or where the money is not available to do what’s needed. Confusing medical cases happen but if the owners are understanding and have the finances, you can either do a workup, transfer to a specialist, or discuss the quality of life.
Do you frequently have to research cases, on off hours?
I research cases almost every day, but I am also a baby doctor who only graduated a year and a half ago 🙂 I hear the researching never ends – and it shouldn’t if you want to stay up to date on new techniques!
Have you read or listened to anything worth sharing?
Lollipop Moments – Ted Talk (about being a leader and impacting others)
Articles in Clinician’s Brief on Euthanasia have been helpful in communicating with owners
Do you have any last words of wisdom as a Penn vet graduate?
Ask for help and build a support network in and out of the veterinary field. I don’t say this just because Veterinary school is notably challenging, I say it because this is a healthy way to approach Veterinary school and a Veterinary career! This career is rewarding and exciting but no matter what area of medicine you enter (research, large animal, small animal, government), this career will have its tough days and you need to be able to have people you are comfortable talking to and you can count on.
How can people find you?
I am always happy to answer questions or listen to others vent about their experiences. I can be found at firstname.lastname@example.org