Career Exploration: Equine Veterinarian
I’ve been in a rather reflective mood lately. I guess that’s what happens when you’re as old as I am. All of this thinking has taken me back to the days when I was trying to decide what I wanted to do with my life. Boy, I sure am lucky I ended up as a part of the mounted patrol team. Can you imagine how sad I would have been without all of the opportunities to make new friends and try exotic foods? (My life would be incomplete without the donuts I’ve come to love!). My journey as a member of the mounted patrol and mascot for the Equine Science Center would have never been possible without the guidance and wisdom of my friends and mentors. Now it’s my turn to serve as a mentor and provide suggestions for YOUR future career.
I had this wonderful idea to explore many of the different career options available in the equine industry by interviewing some of our friends and former students here at the Center. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but my hooves make holding a phone and typing a little bit difficult. I’ve recruited my friends at the Center to give me some help, but you can be confident that all of the brain power behind these interviews belongs to me!
Join me as we begin our exploration of equine related careers. Hopefully, this series will give you some ideas of what you want to do later in life. For this first installment, Dr. Jessica Martin of Mountain Pointe Equine Veterinary Services visits with us about her job as an equine veterinarian. Dr. Martin is an alum of Rutgers University, so she is a fabulous person to kick off this series!
Lord Nelson (LN): What does your typical day at work look like?
Doctor Martin (Doc M): There is hardly a typical day in the life of a traveling horse vet, because we see so many different types of cases. These can include routine vaccinations and health check-ups, field surgeries such as castrations, and lameness evaluations with treatments to prepare horses for competition. It is common for my schedule to change throughout the day, because sick horses may need to be treated urgently. I spend a fair bit of time in the car, driving from one farm to another, and do all of the paperwork with a technician at that time. I am on call for after-hours emergencies on evenings and weekends, just in case a horse is feeling sick or hurt!
LN: What is your favorite part of the job?
Doc M: My favorite part of my job is building relationships with horses and horse owners. As a veterinarian, they both look to you for support during difficult times, and share with you their successes during triumphant times. I also enjoy spending my time outdoors and with the horses (even in the winter), and I feel blessed to have a job that keeps me active!
LN: What is your least favorite part of the job?
Doc M: My least favorite part of the job is sometimes knowing that you cannot treat or help an animal for financial reasons. As a veterinarian, I am an animal lover and would love to help every animal, but we know that the services we provide ultimately cost money that the owners can sometimes not afford. In addition, a common issue with veterinary medicine in general is that many veterinarians are struggling with a huge amount of student debt, which is concern not only for me but my veterinary peers.
LN: If someone were considering a similar career path, what advice would you offer to them?
Doc M: I would recommend studying hard and getting as much hands-on experience as you can. By this, I mean shadowing different veterinarians, both large and small animal, on a volunteer or paid basis. This will give you a good idea of whether you think this is the right career path for you. Do your research! Find a veterinary school that fits you, and make sure to get the facts on what it will financially cost you to attend that school. Make sure your expectations are set and go for it, you will be excellent.
LN: What is your most memorable or favorite memory?
Doc M: When I was an intern during my first year as a veterinarian, I remember receiving a call for a sick baby horse, referred to as a foal, that had pneumonia and was coming in as an emergency. About one hour later, a pick-up truck drove up and I opened the back door to find a tiny, premature foal lying flat out on the back seat. He was severely sick and dehydrated and needed oxygen, fluids and antibiotics as soon as possible. As a young vet, this critical patient was dying before my eyes, but quick acting from my fellow team of veterinarians and staff allowed us to stabilize the foal. Several weeks later, this foal was alive and thriving! He was eventually able to go back home to his owner to hopefully live out a long and happy life.
LN: What made you decide on a career as a veterinarian and how did you establish yourself within this field?
Doc M: I knew that I wanted to be involved with animals, specifically the equine industry. I grew up riding and competing horses from a young age, and have always felt at home in a barn setting. In school, I had an interest in science and therefore decided that the veterinary field would fulfill both of these interests. I attended Rutgers University School of Environmental & Biological Sciences with a major in Animal Science (Pre-Vet), followed by Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine to obtain my DVM. I completed an internship at Mid-Atlantic Equine Medical Center in Ringoes, NJ for 1.5 years following graduation from veterinary school. During my time at Rutgers, I took a course entitled “Advanced Equine Health Care and Management” taught by Dr. Michael Fugaro, and he served as a mentor for me throughout my continued years in veterinary school and my internship. I joined his practice, Mountain Pointe Equine Veterinary Services in Long Valley NJ, as his first associate veterinarian in July of 2018. I attribute much of my success in life to the opportunities provided at Rutgers for hands-on experience, such as the 4 years spent working as a work-study student in the Animal Care program at the Rutgers Farm.
LN:Thank you for sharing your thoughts and insights with us Doc Martin!
Doc M:It was my pleasure Nelson!
I hope you gained some insight into life as a vet. I know I learned some new things about vets and my friend Dr. Martin! Keep your eyes peeled for the next installment in our series. I have some great ideas about what careers I want to explore next! If you have a particular equine career you want to learn about, let me know and I’ll see who I can line up for an interview!
Until next time!