When asked about her dream, Makenna Hittson’s answer has always been to become a veterinarian.
Makenna Hittson knows first-hand the definition of rural living. She was born and raised in Des Moines, New Mexico where she graduated high school in 2018 with a total of seven other students.
Makenna has a passion for sports particularly volleyball. In fact, upon graduating high school she continued her volleyball career at Northeastern Junior College in Sterling, Colorado and in the Spring 2019 she graduated with her associate degree in science.
Shortly after, she transferred to West Texas A&M University in Canyon, Texas where she wasted no time working towards completing her pre-vet pre-requisites in order to apply to Texas Tech University's new School of Veterinary Medicine in Amarillo. She is now part of the School of Veterinary Medicine's inaugural class.
Currently, Makenna is the student chapter president of the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP). She is also a member of the food animal club, veterinary business management association, and Christian veterinary fellowship club.
Let's get to know Makenna Hittson through a series of questions.
How did you become interested in veterinary medicine?
Growing up on a ranch and being surrounded by animals my entire life gave me the inspiration to pursue a degree in veterinary medicine. I have always pushed myself to learn new things and take on new challenges so I knew that I needed to pursue a career that would do just that. I have wanted to be a veterinarian since I was in elementary school. I remember every new teacher asking me at the beginning of every school year ‘what I wanted to be when I grow up?' and my answer never changed. Once I got into high school, I wanted to keep my options open, but nothing else felt right other than veterinary medicine. The deal was finally sealed when I began working at Mobile Veterinary Practice in Amarillo in the Fall of 2019. Having the opportunity to learn and be mentored from such intelligent and talented veterinarians inspired me to want to reach that same level of greatness. I could see my future in this career field and knew it was the path for me.
How does your previous life experience coincide with the School of Veterinary Medicine's mission?
I gained a lot of my experience with animals growing up on a ranch. I spent most of my childhood around cattle and horses and learned how to appreciate a rural community. Many people do not understand how much work and dedication is tied to a farm or ranch or how many sacrifices are made each year. However, when I became a student at Texas Tech University School of Veterinary Medicine, I was thrilled to meet so many people that do truly understand the importance of rural communities and providing veterinary care within those communities. My knowledge and experiences in a rural community help me coincide with the School of Veterinary Medicine's mission in many ways. Just as stated in our school's mission, “empowering faculty, staff, and students to engage in service that enhances our community-based partners, their clients, patients, and communities…,” I have spent most of my life engaging in services that benefit rural communities and the people in them. Now, I am just taking what I learned growing up in a small town and applying them within the veterinary profession.
What led you to decide the School of Veterinary Medicine was the place where you wanted to pursue your career in veterinary medicine?
I can distinctly remember a conversation between my dad and I during my junior year of high school. He had been reading about the developmental process of the Texas Tech's School of Veterinary Medicine and it was looking like it could be built around the time I was about done with my undergrad degree. Yes, I know we were thinking four years ahead, but my dad knew how passionate I was for pursuing a degree in veterinary medicine and how this school was potentially the perfect fit for me. I knew how competitive the program would be and how hard I would have to work to reach this goal of mine and yet this just made me even more excited to begin working towards my future in veterinary medicine. As the process of developing the School of Veterinary Medicine was becoming more of a reality, I began doing more research about the school's mission, core values, and what they were looking for in a veterinary student. Once I truly understood what this program was going to bring to the veterinary profession, I knew it was the place for me. My dad could see it four years out and I'm extremely grateful he did because I know I would not be receiving the same educational experience anywhere else while also meeting so many amazing people along the way. I continue to be more and more grateful everyday for my opportunity in this program and constantly look forward to every new challenge and experience thrown my way.
What does it mean to you to be part of the inaugural class at the School of Veterinary Medicine?
Being part of the inaugural class at the School of Veterinary Medicine is an honor to say the least. I cannot truly express how appreciative and grateful I am to have been given this opportunity. My class and I are determined to set the path for our new program and help make it the success we all know it will be. Our core values explain our program the best; community, integrity, kindheartedness, grit, and inspiration are the foundation of our program. Every single person that is involved in the School of Veterinary Medicine expresses these core values which makes this program such a positive learning environment. We are all determined to carry these values with us the next few years in school and then out with us when we begin working in a clinical setting. Not only will we inspire each other to be great, but we look forward to inspiring classes after us to continue the legacy we are creating and making this program a success in developing veterinarians that can serve a rural or regional community with grit and perseverance.
How was your first-year experience at the School of Veterinary Medicine?
I had a great first year at the School of Veterinary Medicine! The first semester was a learning curve for sure as I had to learn how to adjust my study techniques for each class and learn how to take effective notes. There were challenges as there should be, but I was given every opportunity to learn and ask questions to overcome those challenges. The promise of more hands-on learning was a success as I felt very confident with many of the skills I learned this year. It's one thing to learn about a topic and memorize every detail, but it is a whole other thing to be able to take what you learned or memorized in the moment and then apply it to a clinical setting and that's exactly what we did this year at the School of Veterinary Medicine. I was able to take what I learned one day, then actually perform the task or explain the process the next day when we were working on models or live animals.
Not only am I extremely happy about how much information I was able to obtain through hands on learning this past year and half, but the one-on-one learning each student was able to receive from our professors was very helpful. There were many times I would have a conversation with a professor after class to help me tie concepts together and clear up any questions. This was extremely helpful and a great feeling to know how dedicated our professors are to giving us a proper education. I am very confident that everyone at the School of Veterinary Medicine is dedicated to helping each and every student succeed and that makes me even more proud to be part of this program. I am even more excited for my third year to begin after having such a positive first year and a half!
What are your career plans after graduating the School of Veterinary Medicine?
After graduating the School of Veterinary Medicine, my plans are a little undecided at the moment. I have a huge passion for practicing in a rural or regional community, but whether I want to be mixed animal or strictly equine is the question. I have most of my experience in equine medicine and lean more towards it every day as I meet more equine practitioners and gain more experience. However, I have only completed my first year and a half of veterinary school, so I don't want to be completely closed-minded quite yet. I want to learn it all from small animals all the way to large animals to become well-rounded in my education so that's a great question, but I can only answer part of it at the moment!
How are you going to help the School of Veterinary Medicine achieve its mission?
I believe there are many ways that we as students can help the School of Veterinary Medicine achieve its mission. Personally, I will strive to become as well rounded in my education by learning as much as I can across all major domestic species so I can be an asset to rural and regional communities. Along with that, during my years in school I will find ways to serve communities through community service, volunteer work, helping with local 4-H or FFA programs, and anything else that I can do to connect rural and regional communities with the veterinary profession. As a student, I will continue to bring new ideas and knowledge to the School of Veterinary Medicine and help to stay innovative in our education.
What advice would you pass along to an incoming student at the School of Veterinary Medicine?
First of all, I would congratulate every single new student into our program! It is such an honor to have the opportunity to take your education to the next level and be part of a program that is so dedicated to every single student's success. I could write out every single piece of advice because veterinary school will be challenging as it should be, but I will gladly talk about two very important ones that I want every student to know.
First, I would advise they become as involved as they can while in school. This is the perfect opportunity to begin building relationships with practice partners, professors, and fellow students that will be future colleagues. I am an introverted person, but sometimes I have to make myself step outside of my comfort zone to meet new people and take on new opportunities. We have so many different clubs that are developing at the School of Veterinary Medicine which is a perfect chance to meet people who share the same interests or to learn something new. We have made the School of Veterinary Medicine a place for new ideas and opportunities as we are constantly getting ideas from students on activities and events to add to the schedule.
Second, as I mentioned before, we have all entered this professional program together and will be meeting and spending time with students that will be our future colleagues. The veterinary profession is a small community within itself. We will cross paths with each other the rest of our lives and will have situations where we need to rely on each other for assistance or advice. Therefore, I want to emphasize how important it is for everyone to support one another. We are no longer competing against each other to get into a veterinary program and should all utilize this time to learn from one another and help each other grow. We are all here because we have the same goal of becoming veterinarians and serving a rural or regional community. This looks like helping fellow students' study for exams, practicing communication and clinical skills together, giving positive feedback, or pushing each other to do better and learn something new each week. I look forward to meeting every new student that becomes part of this program and would love to help in any way I can!