Vet School in the Age of COVID

Oct 21, 2020 / Student Blogs

[Mackenzie with Odin the red-tailed hawk]

A First-Year’s Perspective

Under normal circumstances, starting professional school feels a bit like stepping into the unknown. As I anticipated my first quarter of veterinary school, this feeling was only amplified by the uncertainty of a global pandemic. Not only was I unsure of what classes would be like, I was worried that things such as in-person laboratory classes would be impossible. However, the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine had a plan.

With all of these [COVID] measures in place, I felt myself begin to relax and let myself focus on school rather than uncertainties.

Mackenzie Wells, Class of 2024

Though my first month of vet school was a bit unprecedented, I can’t complain about the quality of my education or my safety. In order to comply with social-distancing guidelines, the first-year class was split into several lecture halls. Our faculty members rotate so that each room has the same amount of time with an in-person lecturer. Each lecture is broadcast to the other classrooms in real time as well as to the homes of students who prefer to learn from home. We can also ask questions in real time.

Our laboratory classes are modified somewhat but still comprehensive. Lab groups have been reduced from four to two, but two lab groups communicate to complete one project. All veterinary students are required to be COVID tested weekly. You’re not allowed inside the building unless you have a recent negative test result.

[Rachael, Mackenzie, Nora]

Mackenzie (center) with classmates (and COVID-bubble housemates) Rachael and Nora in their blue lab coats, indicating their first-year vet student status.

With all of these measures in place, I felt myself begin to relax and let myself focus on school rather than uncertainties. I developed my study schedules and strategies, then modified them through trial, error, and advice from others. Many of my classmates even shared their study resources with the class electronically.

I also got involved with a number of extracurricular activities within the vet school, my favorite being the Wildlife Medical Clinic. (That’s Mackenzie with Odin the red-tailed hawk, an ambassador animal for the Wildlife Medical Clinic, in the photos above.) Club activities are also adjusted due to the pandemic. While in the Wildlife Clinic, face masks and face shields must be worn at all times. The number of personnel allowed in the building at one time has also been reduced. Other clubs, such as the Wildlife Disease Association and Shelter Medicine Club, have opted for Zoom rather than in-person meetings to reduce risks.

Despite the unforeseen challenges this school year has brought already, vet school no longer feels like an unknown opponent. Now four weeks in and halfway through the first quarter, I’ve settled into the rhythms of this new chapter of my life. I study quite a bit, but I still find time to participate in extracurriculars, spend time with friends, and kick back and relax. With the help of faculty, upperclassmen, and fellow classmates, I even survived my first midterm exam.

It certainly hasn’t been easy, but with hard work from everyone at the College of Veterinary Medicine, we’ve been able to overcome this obstacle together.

Mackenzie Wells, Class of 2024