Being a veterinary student is hard. Really hard. Did you know the average veterinary student graduates $250,000 in debt? Did you know there are only 28 veterinary schools in the country? That means half of the veterinary students have to leave their state to go to veterinary school. Do you know most days, your veterinary staff doesn’t get lunch until suppertime? And after they finish appointments, they still have hours of records to complete and phone calls to make before they go home at 9:00 pm for dinner and to see their families. Being a veterinarian isn’t as glamorous as many may think.
But there are many blessings and great memories made too. As a veterinary student in 1980, I was blessed to have some great opportunities. We had two blocks of eight weeks each to spend off campus. I chose to spend mine in California and Arizona.
The block I spent in Arizona was life-changing. I was lucky to select a small animal, two-doctor practice in Phoenix. I had the chance to do many surgeries, including spaying a dog on the tailgate of a pickup truck. I learned how to diagnose the fungal disease coccidiomycosis or Valley Fever. The veterinarian I trained under was amazing – he could diagnose almost every patient based on their owner’s description alone.
This doctor and his wife were from Indiana and moved to Phoenix for their health. They had five children, three of whom were adopted. Of course, since this was in 1980, the doctor is now retired, and their children have children of their own.
A Thanksgiving Feast
So what does this have to do with Thanksgiving? Thanksgiving fell during the eight week span I spent with them. The doctor’s wife was a stay-at-home mom and an amazing cook. On this Thanksgiving, she invited me and several of her friends to join her family for dinner. Many of her friends were vegetarians. (Funny side note: a lot of people assume all veterinarians are vegetarians – not sure if that is a spelling issue, a pronunciation issue, or an assumption we don’t eat our patients.)
The doctor’s wife was determined to have a vegetarian Thanksgiving feast for her friends. So before you wonder, “but what about the turkey!?”, don’t worry, she served us a grand turkey dinner the weekend after Thanksgiving. So on Thanksgiving, we had a full-out traditional dinner with all the side dishes, and macaroni and cheese as the star of the dinner. I personally am a huge mac and cheese fan, but not the kind from a box. I am from Wisconsin, the land of the most amazing cheeses. So I was very happy to have macaroni and cheese as the main dish.
We are all blessed to have the opportunity to celebrate Thanksgiving in our own special way. Even though this year, Thanksgiving will look very different for many of us, Thanksgiving is uniquely an American holiday. So make the best of the changes we have to make to remain safe and healthy. And count your blessings that there is bountiful food, internet so you can share your holiday with family who can’t personally join you, and for the freedoms we enjoy as Americans.
-Dr. Marty Greer, DVM