In the late 1990’s, academic thought leaders in veterinary medicine began to recognize that veterinarians were long on technical skills and scientific training and short on communications and business skills.

In recognition of that fact and with the encouragement of college friends like Dr. Bob Brown, an Arlington, Virginia based practitioner and well-known consultant, the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine (VMRCVM) began offering a more comprehensive orientation experience for first-year veterinary students and has made some curricular modifications.

“We thought it was important that we provided a solid transitional experience for these students who are beginning their medical education,” said Dr. Grant Turnwald, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs who speaks frequently at national meetings on the role of communications in the veterinary curriculum.

So this year, consistent with the desire to produce the most well-rounded and professional veterinarians possible, the college once again welcomed first-year veterinary students with an in-depth, week-long orientation prior to the commencement of fall classes.

The class of 2010 participated in a variety of activities designed to help them prepare for their chosen career path, get to know one another, and have some fun as well. Representatives from the Virginia and Maryland Veterinary Medical Associations, the District of Columbia Academy of Veterinary Medicine, the college's alumni society, and corporations working in the veterinary profession also participated in the orientation event.

According to Director of Student and Alumni Affairs Lynne Young, the orientation program included dozens of community-building presentations and activities, ranging from personality assessment inventories to bonfires and scavenger hunts.

To help them understand themselves and others better, they began their week with a session led by Dr. Bob Brown, owner of Cherrydale Veterinary Clinic and a noted practice management and organizational development consultant. That exercise was intended to help the students analyze behavior skills and review their emotional intelligence.

During the week, they also participated in an all day ropes course, an experience that was designed to help the students improve upon team building, leadership, self-confidence, and communication skills.

Other highlights included a review of professional standards by Dr. Grant Turnwald, associate dean of academic affairs, and a presentation on “Survival Tips” for the years ahead by Dr. Ludeman Eng, head of the Department of Biomedical Sciences & Pathobiology.

Dr. Rick Hartigan, president of the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association, and Dr. Greg Svoboda, president of the Maryland Veterinary Medical Association, were each on hand during part of the week to welcome new students and talk with them about the profession.

The week concluded with a “White Coat” matriculation ceremony where each of the first-year students was presented with their first lab coat. While now common at many schools, the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine is believed to be the first college to begin this welcoming ceremony.

The Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine (VMRCVM) is a two-state, three-campus professional school operated by the land-grant universities of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg and the University of Maryland at College Park. Its flagship facilities, based at Virginia Tech, include the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, which treats more than 40,000 animals annually. Other campuses include the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center in Leesburg, Va., and the Avrum Gudelsky Veterinary Center at College Park, home of the Center for Government and Corporate Veterinary Medicine. The VMRCVM annually enrolls approximately 500 Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and graduate students, is a leading biomedical and clinical research center, and provides professional continuing education services for veterinarians practicing throughout the two states. Virginia Tech, the most comprehensive university in Virginia, is dedicated to quality, innovation, and results to the commonwealth, the nation, and the world.

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