Students Learn About Being a Veterinarian
BY FLORENCE GILKESON
Forget firemen or professional athletes. When they grow up, many fourth-graders at Sandhills Farm Life School want to be veterinarians.
The students almost mobbed Dr. Dana Vamvakias, her veterinarian technician Stacy Mabe and Animal Control Officer Frank Ringelberg after a class on veterinary medicine and care of pets.
Challenging them for attention was Chinook, a Siberian husky who was rescued from the animal shelter by his handler, Nancy Copeland.
Chinook is a certified therapy dog, with the best disposition on earth. He let the children smother him with pats and squeezes and cheerfully cooperated when Vamvakias used him to demonstrate procedures used in examining her patients.
"Veterinarians look after all animals on earth," said Vamvakias, a veterinarian with the Banfield Pet Hospital in Aberdeen. She told the children to call her "Dr. V" to remind them that she is a doctor of veterinary medicine.
She said some veterinarians specialize in zoo animals, others specialize in wild animals, others in birds and there are even miscellaneous categories within the field of birds. She told the children that vets are responsible for the food we eat, which means they inspect meat and milk for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, inspect factories that handle food and specialize in animal-transmitted diseases.
The class was the fourth and final at Sandhills Farm Life sponsored by the Citizens' Pet Responsibility Committee. The panel was initially appointed by the Moore County Board of Commissioners to tackle the issue of pet overpopulation, an expensive taxpayer burden causing shelter overcrowding and thousands of unnecessary euthanizations.
In its first two years, the committee focused on spay/neuter projects in individual communities, starting with Robbins and the northern part of the county. However, since revision of the county animal control ordinance, the committee has been concentrating on education and offers a program as part of the character education initiative of school guidance counselors.
The program is available to all interested elementary schools, and the committee is working its way through all interested schools in the county.
The Monday morning class was especially meaningful because the committee has been awarded a $7,500 grant from the Banfield Charitable Trust to further the educational initiative. Vamvakias, who is chief of staff for the Banfield Pet Hospital, sponsored the application.
At a Monday night meeting, the Board of Commissioners officially accepted the grant from the Banfield trust fund.
"As a committee, we are focused on the students' treatment of the animals in their lives now - and their responsibility to spay and neuter their own pets when they are older," aid Angela Zumwalt, co-chairwoman of the committee. "We are hoping they will carry home the spay/neuter/kindness message now."
Apparently the message is getting through to the fourth-graders. When Zumwalt asked the students for a solution to prevent animals from reproducing unwanted litters, the answer was a chorus of "spay and neuter."
Zumwalt said that for the final class, guidance counselor Daphne Smith recommended that the committee describe the opportunities within a veterinary medicine career.
Vamvakias said she decided to become a veterinarian when she was in the third grade. Her father was a doctor specializing in fish. At the time, she decided she wanted to grow up to become a vet in order to save dolphins and whales.
After graduation, she worked for a while in animal emergency service. Then, after marrying a military man, she learned that the military has use of veterinarians, and she joined the U.S. Army in time to serve in Germany, where her bridegroom was stationed.
"I've done a little bit of everything," Vamvakias said. "The neat thing about veterinary medicine is that it is the most diverse profession you can choose."
Vamvakias, who has been a veterinarian for 16 years, told the students that it is a tough field and students must study hard and concentrate on their subjects. There are only 28 veterinary schools in the United States, and it is difficult to secure entry. N.C. State University has one of the best of those schools and it is the only one in North Carolina, she said.
Mabe, her vet tech, said it takes eight years to qualify as a veterinarian, and she is halfway there. She has already earned an undergraduate degree in animal science at N.C. State and wants to go on to veterinary medicine school.
"There's not an animal out there that doesn't have a veterinarian to work with it," Mabe said.
Mabe and Vamvakias then demonstrated how a typical examination is conducted on a dog. They used Chinook as their "patient" model.
Vamvakias said she starts with the nose and mouth and gradually works her way to the dog's tail. The children were warned not to touch their pets in such ways, at least until they become licensed vets.
"I like surgery, because it's hard, and I like to be challenged," Vamvakias said. "I love all aspects of veterinary medicine."
She likened taking care of an animal to taking care of a little brother or sister.
"An animal is not like a person, but it's right behind a person," Vamvakias said.
Her presentation included dozens of tips on pet nutrition, medicine and diseases.
Ringelberg reviewed the duties of the county's Animal Control unit, then answered dozens of questions from the children.
By then, the class period was almost at an end and lunchtime had arrived. The time did not seem to bother the children, who crowded around their visitors and made sure Chinook received a special petting.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at (910) 693-2479 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
More like this story