The University of Minnesota has a dual PhD/DVM program.
This rigorous program at the University of Minnesota is one that can prepare you for a career in academia or private sector careers in veterinary and biomedical research. If you love research and academia then a dual DVM/PhD will be right up your alley! This interview with Emily touches on what it’s like to be a student in such a demanding program. Emily says “I’m so happy to be here and to have all of the opportunities that are available to us, both on the research side and on the clinical side.”
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Name, veterinary school attended, and year that you started.
Emily Pope – University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, started fall 2016 I am in the dual PhD/DVM program.
Who are the animals that you currently share your life with?
I have 2 kittens, Weeble and Wobbles, both with cerebellar hypoplasia, a 22-year-old pony named Duckie, and a 21-year-old Thoroughbred mare named Nikki.
Where did you attend undergrad and what was your major?
The University of Minnesota, B.S. in animal science
Did you attend grad school? No.
At what point did you decide to go for a dual PhD/DVM?
I worked in research for a few years after finishing undergrad at The University of Minnesota because, during my senior year of undergrad, I took a molecular biology of cancer course. That class got me interested in pursuing research and since I hadn’t been admitted to vet school, I had a chance to explore that career path and see if it was right for me. I spent 2 years in the lab and knew at that point that I wanted to go for a dual degree. I really enjoy being in a clinical setting, but knew I couldn’t see myself only doing that and not doing research as well.
What is the most challenging aspect of your PhD/DVM program at The University of Minnesota?
I’d say most challenging is probably switching mindsets from being research-focused to school-focused and back again. During the academic year, school has to be my top priority, and putting projects on hold or on the back burner is challenging because I want to keep working on everything!
I know you are still a student but do you have any long-term goals for life after vet school?
Right now, I think I’d like to pursue a surgery residency when I’m all finished with my program, but that is a long way out and there are so many things that I’d like to do in the meantime that I don’t have a plan set in stone yet. I’d eventually like to end up in academia and work primarily in research, but have some clinic time as well.
At what age did you first apply to vet school? I was 20 the first time I applied.
How many schools/application cycles did you apply to before being accepted?
I was accepted into the dual PhD/DVM program at The University of Minnesota on my second application cycle.
Were you waitlisted at any schools?
How many schools invited you for an interview?
1; many of the schools I applied to did not do interviews.
How many of those gave you an acceptance letter?
One (The University of Minnesota)
Do you remember any specifically challenging interview questions?
I don’t recall any that were particularly challenging in that they were difficult to answer because there was a “right” answer or a “wrong” answer. I interviewed at my school and the interviews here are behavioral, so sometimes thinking of an answer required a lot of introspection and understanding myself. I think that was more challenging than any specific question.
What was your GPA (in undergraduate)?
It was quite average – a 3.5 or 3.6.
What was your GRE score? NOTE TO READER: CHECK OUT THESE 5 TOOLS (SOME FREE) TO HELP YOU STUDY FOR THE GRE
- I honestly don’t remember what my writing score was.
How many extracurricular activities did you list on your application?
Not that many – I didn’t do that many! I rode horses in showjumping at a high level and devoted the vast majority of my time to that. I didn’t have much time for other activities.
Did you have exotic, large and small animal experience prior to applying to veterinary school?
I had small animal, equine, and some exotics. I did not have any production animal experience.
What types of paying jobs did you have before starting the dual PhD/DVM program at The University of Minnesota?
I had some teaching experience (working as a teaching assistant) and some photography jobs.
Did you volunteer? If so, where?
Yes, I volunteered at some small animal clinics and was involved with a nonprofit organization that focuses on improving the lives of children living in underdeveloped countries.
How many people read your personal statement before submitting it?
A few. I think one of my references read over it, and a few students in both vet school and undergrad looked it over.
When did you decide to become a vet?
I always wanted to be a vet. I was one of those kids who just knew that.
Did you interview any vets before starting the application process? If so how did you approach them?
Not really, no. I talked to the vets I worked with or brought my animals to, but wouldn’t say that I did something like an informational interview.
Were you a member of any clubs at your undergraduate school? If so, which ones?
I wasn’t. I was so focused on my academics and my riding that I didn’t take advantage of some of the club opportunities that we have.
Have you joined any clubs as a vet student at The University of Minnesota? If so, which ones? Were they helpful?
Yes – now I’m involved in so many things, I’m making up for my lack of involvement in undergrad. I’m currently heavily involved in student government organizations; I’m president of the Veterinary Medicine Student Council and have a leadership role in our Professional Student Government across the entire university as well. I’m also a part of the Student Society of Veterinary Surgeons, Research Animal Medicine Club, and president of an organization called Jump Start!, which helps first-year students with the transition from undergrad to vet school. I think being in clubs is really helpful for getting more experiences and making connections with future colleagues.
Did you apply to vet school after, or during your bachelor’s education?
Who gave you your letters of recommendation? Did you know them well?
I had to have a lot of letters of recommendation because the process of applying for dual degrees is pretty extensive, so my references all knew me very well. I ended up submitting the maximum of 6; 3 were from vets, 2 were from professors I knew from undergrad, and 1 was from the PI of the lab that I’m in.
Did you find the application process stressful? Why or why not?
I didn’t find the application process itself stressful, but the waiting was!
Are you happy that you chose this career? What makes you most happy about this career choice?
Absolutely! I love that there is always something new to learn and experience. Some of my favorite moments so far have been learning about areas of medicine that I might not end up practicing in, but still get to experience. Vet school is really difficult, but it’s never boring, and I’ve never questioned what I’m doing here or why I’m working this hard.
Do you have any advice for students, once accepted?
Make sure that you take time for yourself to relax and have some fun. You’ll know how you learn best; study smart, not long – and don’t let yourself fall into the trap of thinking that if someone else is studying 12 hours a day, you need to do that too. You have to make time for self-care and wellness, it’ll make you happier and more successful! There’s nothing wrong with a mental health day or taking an hour a night to watch some Breaking Bad. Even on days where it’s super crazy, you can usually find at least a few minutes to do something to relax a little bit.
Any study tips?
Study with people, even if you don’t talk to them that much while you’re working. It’s always helpful to be able to clarify concepts with someone else, even if your version of studying together is sitting in the same room but wearing headphones and usually not talking. I don’t find that I do group studying a lot in the sense of actively communicating with the group, but it’s good to be able to bounce ideas off someone and to be able to get some laughs in. You have to find humor in what you’re doing to get through some of the tougher times.
What have been some of your favorite classes within your DVM program at UMN?
One of the greatest things about vet school is that every class has something to offer. My favorites vary so much – I really enjoy clinical pathology and our medicine courses, but I also liked immunology the first year. Clin path is definitely my favorite this year.
What has been the most challenging class in your DVM program at The University of Minnesota so far?
I have to work hardest at radiology because I’m not a very visual learner, so learning how to learn for that class is something I’m still working on.
Is there anything in particular about your DVM program or the school itself that you like?
I adore my school and program. Minnesota is so focused on the students being successful by working in teams and focusing on wellness. Our professors are all so engaged and invested in making sure that we understand the material, and listen to feedback from us about what is working and what isn’t. I can’t say enough about how great the faculty members here are. I’m so happy to be here and to have all of the opportunities that are available to us, both on the research side and on the clinical side. We have a lot of chances to get clinical experience and to see the different aspects of the services here, and there’s always a chance to learn something new.
Do you have any advice for students thinking about attending your University?
Ask questions! Get in touch with people at the university before you apply and figure out if it sounds like a good fit for you. Everyone out here is happy to help. Don’t let the climate scare you off too much, it gets cold here, but it’s not the Arctic Circle all the time.
At this point do you think you will have a specialty?
This is tough to answer because I’m so far out from getting my DVM. A lot can change in the next 6 years! Right now, I think I’d like to pursue a surgery residency, but we’ll see if I’m still thinking that by the end of my program.
As a student have you had any challenging cases yet?
I haven’t had any cases that I needed to manage yet since I’m only a second year. I do have patients that I care for and monitor at my job; I work overnight shifts as a student technician in our large animal hospital, and some of those cases have been challenging due to the specific problem(s) the patient has. For me personally, one of the toughest cases I’ve been involved with was a llama, simply because I’d never seen or touched a llama before vet school, so I didn’t know their body language very well (and they’re pretty stoic!).
Have you read or listened to anything worth sharing?
I try to make a point to read something for pleasure a little bit every night, even if it’s only a page or two. I’ve always been a big reader, and getting in a tiny bit of a book before I go to sleep really helps me to relax. I read a lot of advice from both current vet students and vets who are out in practice and try to heed that by taking time for myself when I can find it.
Do you have any last words of wisdom?
Take time for yourself when you can and focus on the positives! It can feel really overwhelming in school sometimes when you have a ton of exams, but there are almost always a few little moments each day that you can appreciate if you make a conscious effort to.
How can people find you? I’m on Facebook, but it can be hard to find my profile, so the best way is probably to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m happy to help in any way that I can!