Pictured:ABAC student Olivia Spooner from Iron City conducts research during her internship at the Georgia Veterinary Diagnostic Lab.
Biology and animal science majors at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College gain a competitive edge when applying to veterinary school due to a partnership with the University of Georgia Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.
Dr. Jenny Harper, professor of biology at ABAC’s School of Arts and Sciences, said that the internship is funded through a USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture grant opportunity designed to streamline and track the acceptance rate of ABAC students into veterinary colleges.
“We do 10 a year,” Harper said. “Four in the Spring, four in the Fall, and two in the Summer. The grant supports them to have those paid internships. These 10 kids are all in the pre-vet focus, so they’ll be biology and animal science majors.”
Harper said that the vet lab is special because it’s the oldest veterinary diagnostic lab in the country. Any time a veterinary office needs any kind of lab work done, those lab samples are sent to Tifton.
“They do all the diagnostic work from practitioners not just in our state, but regionally,” Harper said. “They can determine an illness or sickness and try and diagnose that in pets.”
Scoring an internship at the vet lab in Tifton is invaluable for students who are planning to apply for veterinary school after they graduate from ABAC, according to Harper.
“It’s so hard to get into vet school,” she said. “You have to have supervised vet hours, and most applicants have small animal vet experience because that’s the easiest place for students to get internships or jobs at, it’s the most common. But if they have diversified experience, such as large animal experience, or diagnostic lab experience, that really stands out.
“There aren’t that many diagnostic labs, and it’s a really great experience because students get to see a completely different side to the vet med,” she added. “It really sharpens their skills and knowledge on the laboratory side of vet med.”
Olivia Spooner, a biology major and co-president of the Pre-Vet Club, was one of the Summer interns. She said gaining a spot is highly competitive because there are only a few spots per year. Being an active member of the Pre-Vet Club is a prerequisite.
“I knew about it for two semesters and I wasn’t able to do it, because the seats were already taken,” Spooner said. “Everybody wants to be part of that program because it’s such a great experience.”
She did 10 weeks in the lab over the Summer and was able to rotate through every area of the lab and gain experience in every department, ending up in the clinical pathology department.
“I got to do a research project there on the bovine pregnancy test methods,” she said. “Bovine pregnancy testing is important because it helps farmers make proper management decisions and adequately meet nutritional demands for a specific animal.”
Spooner compared the accuracy rate of three different kinds of bovine pregnancy that work differently, are different price points, and some can be done by farmers while others must be sent to the lab. The project was something she wanted to research not only because she would like to be a food animal veterinarian, but also because her family has a cow/calf operation.
“That’s something I’ve seen, is the OnFarm pregnancy test, and I knew it was more expensive. But I was wondering if it’s as accurate as the one the lab offers,” she said. “Food animal (animals that will be entering the market for consumption) is where I see myself, so this experience was really in line with my future career goals.”
She was also able, along with the other interns, to go to the vet lab in Athens and participate in different practical labs.
“We learned how to work, we learned time management and efficiency,” she said. “We got to meet a lot of people and were introduced to a lot of different sides to vet med. Not only are you getting to be around veterinarians and go on calls, you’re getting research experience. I’d not had any research experience prior to this internship, and that will help with my application process because vet school is very competitive.
“I’m currently applying right now and it’s a big process,” she added. “You can have a 4.0 but if you don’t have the hands-on experience like they’re providing in the lab, you’ll probably not get accepted.”