Texas Tech University

Learning from the Best: Student Spends Summer with Veterinary Professionals

Katlyn Marr

July 28, 2023

Katlyn Marr taking photo with veterinarian

Katlyn Marr jumped in headfirst this summer to learn invaluable skills from several different veterinarians.

As a second-year veterinary student, I can probably speak for most of us when I say we are always looking for opportunities to better our knowledge and skills. What better way to do this than by jumping in your first summer as a veterinary student and working with several professionals in the field? That is exactly what I did this summer. 

My name is Katlyn Marr, and I am from Victoria, Texas. Currently, I am a second-year veterinary student at Texas Tech University's  School of Veterinary Medicine. Ever since high school, I knew I wanted to be a veterinarian. Growing up with a family that owns a small Brangus cow-calf operation and a few retired rodeo horses has really allowed me to appreciate and enjoy being around large animals. 

In fact, when I graduate veterinary school, I plan on practicing mixed-animal medicine, with a preference for large animals. However, I knew if I am going to be the best veterinarian possible then I need to gain experience by visiting several different types of veterinary clinics. 

As soon as classes ended in May, I had two main reasons for getting involved with veterinary clinics. First, I wanted to gain as much experience and exposure to veterinary medicine as possible before I graduate. Second, I needed to find a few internships that would compensate me, as I have a goal of budgeting for each year while attending school.Student working cattle

My summer began at Out West Veterinary Services, a mixed-animal veterinary clinic owned by Dr. Josh Swarb in Monahans, Texas. Dr. Bethany Schilling, assistant professor of general veterinary practice at the School of Veterinary Medicine, recommended his clinic to me. Immediately, I reached out to him, and he was ecstatic to have me and a few of my fellow classmates visit his clinic. 

I spent three weeks with Dr. Swarb getting to learn all about rural mixed-animal medicine and being a solo practice owner. Dr. Swarb was very encouraging and challenged me to use the knowledge I had learned in my first year of veterinary school. He allowed me to practice many of my skills, such as placing a catheter, taking radiographs and sedating patients for surgery. 

Also, every time we ran in-house blood work, I would analyze it and then we would break down each level and talk about what those values mean amongst other things. The highlight of working at the clinic was when Dr. Swarb let me perform several spay and neuters on my own. One of the things I am learning at veterinary school is how to communicate with clients. I feel as though the School of Veterinary Medicine has definitely prepared me to have conversations with clients and to be confident with what I have to tell them. 

In just three short weeks, I learned so much from Dr. Swarb and his amazing staff. I hope to take the tips and tricks I learned with me into my own practice one day. Being mentored by a veterinarian like Dr. Swarb, who challenged me and made me think outside the box, has been the best experience for me because it has allowed me to become more confident in my knowledge and skills.Katlyn Marr working cattle

Next, I spent two weeks at Victoria Veterinary Clinic with Drs. Sam Williams and Paul Daniels. Here I learned the ins and outs of rural large-animal medicine in my hometown. While there, I assisted with his appointments and helped with clients who brought their animals during the end of breeding season. I also was able to palpate about 200 beef cows, perform joint injections, help during surgeries, aid in lameness exams, practice floating teeth on horses, assist in equine distal limb nerve blocks and travel with the doctors to several farm calls. 

Student summer experience

It may have been hard work in the hot and humid weather, but I had the best time working at this clinic which solidified my passion for large animal medicine. Drs. Williams and Daniels were great mentors that explained the steps they took during appointments or procedures.They also took the time to show me how they do certain things and allowed me to be hands on. We discussed common joint injection drugs, common antibiotics, and even got to culture some staph and strep species from a corneal lesion at the clinic. I enjoyed getting to go back home as a veterinary student to interact and help clients within my own community.

Finally, I spent two weeks at Hillcrest Animal Hospital with Dr. John Beck, who is the sole owner of a small-animal practice. I worked there before I became a student at the School of Veterinary Medicine, so it was great to see familiar faces again. This is a high-volume clinic where I learned a multitude of different tips and tricks that are still applied in today's realm of veterinary medicine. Student with puppy

I got to see a ton of patients (including a few exotics). I practiced inputting health records into a system and calculated drug dosages for patients. One of the things that really benefited me was when Dr. Beck would go over blood results or testing reports and explain what he would do or wouldn't do in certain cases. He also allowed me to spay and neuter some of the local shelter animals, which was an amazing experience. I have seen a tremendous improvement in my surgical and communication skills while working here and I am excited to bring back what I have learned to my next semester of school.  

One thing I valued was applying what I learned in all my first-year classes to my summer experience. For instance, I saw the clinical application of what I am learning in classes such as parasitology, microbiology, physiology, and anatomy. I am so thankful I have had amazing professors teach me because learning the material and then applying it in clinical settings made working at veterinary clinics this summer that much more fun.

My hope is that these experiences will help me achieve my goal and the school's mission of producing “day-one-ready veterinarians.” When I graduate, I want to feel confident practicing veterinary medicine right out of school. My end goal is to move back home to the Victoria area to be close to my family. It is a dream of mine to be a practice owner and open my own mixed-animal veterinary clinic that is majority large animal with some small animal. Katlyn Marr

Eventually, I want to give back to the younger generation. I have been so blessed to be taught by so many veterinarians that let me visit their clinic and take time away from their appointments to teach me things and give me a hands-on opportunity. To me, teaching and mentoring is one of the most valuable skills a veterinarian can have. 

One day, I aim to teach and mentor veterinary students once I am established. That is the only way we can keep veterinary medicine thriving, and I intend to do just that.