The Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association, and the Maryland Veterinary Medical Association sponsored an annual mentor workshop that brought 64 veterinarians and 148 veterinary students to the veterinary college’s Blacksburg campus on Oct. 13-14.

“Pairing a student with a practicing veterinarian helps the student explore their expected career path,” said Robin Schmitz, executive director of the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association. “It may also help a student decide that they may want to explore a different aspect of veterinary medicine.”

Dr. Jennifer Hodgson, associate dean for professional programs at the veterinary college, said that the college appreciates the time and efforts mentors contribute to the program. “We know our students benefit greatly from the conversations they have at the mentor workshop as well as their ongoing relationships with their mentor,” Hodgson said. “This program adds another valuable facet to our students’ journey to becoming a veterinarian.”

During the mentor workshop, veterinarians representing a wide variety of private and public practices, industry, and academia meet students paired with them based on area of interest and location.

“Most mentors let their students ask the questions,” Schmitz said. “They range from how to balance work and family to how to negotiate a position with a potential employer.

These conversations continue after the workshop for many of the participants, and some of them even schedule visits at the mentor’s practice or at veterinary conferences. In total, 143 veterinarians and 347 veterinary students participate in the program. Many, but not all, of the mentors are alumni of the veterinary college.

According to Schmitz, the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association and the Maryland Medical Veterinary Association ask their members to volunteer their time for the program. Others hear about the program from their colleagues and ask to sign up. “Members or not, all veterinarians are welcome to participate,” she added.

The mentor program, which was one of the first successful such programs, has been a model for similar programs in other states.

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