Texas Tech University

Veterinary Student Applies Her Knowledge and Skills in a Real-World Setting

Emalee Hoffman

July 20, 2023

Emalee working with veterinarian

Emalee Hoffman spent her summer experiencing different veterinary clinics and learning more about the beef industry through a popular event.

My name is Emalee Hoffmann and I am a second-year veterinary student from Marlin, Texas. My family owns and operates a large-scale Corriente cattle operation that my father started from the ground up. Growing up in this environment, along with showing horses, is what led me to pursue veterinary medicine. 

This is the only profession I have ever dreamed of, and large animal medicine is truly my passion. I obtained my degree in Animal Science from Texas A&M University, so attending veterinary school there had always been my plan. That all changed when I came to interview at Texas Tech University's  School of Veterinary Medicine in Amarillo

I knew after my interview that Amarillo was where I was supposed to be. While it took a few weeks after my acceptance offer to commit to my spot, I knew I wouldn't be able to pass up the opportunity to be a part of a new program that has so much passion for the veterinary industry and investment in the veterinarians it will produce. Texas Tech University's School of Veterinary Medicine has truly been the best leap of faith and they stand by their mission and core values. After this summer, I have a deeper appreciation for the school because they prepared me so well for my first summer working with a veterinarian as a veterinary student. 

Since I play a role on my family's cattle operation, going home for the summer is what I planned to do when I started school. We process and ship cattle almost every day all over the country, so I was excited to bring home all of the knowledge I have learned over my first year at veterinary school. Even so, I wanted to extern at a few clinics to keep up with that knowledge and put it into use. Student palpating cows

First, I externed for a week at Brazos Valley Equine Hospital in Navasota, Texas. This is a multi-doctor practice and I was scheduled with a different doctor every day in their respective specialties. Equine medicine has not been the front runner in my interest. However, during this week, I had the opportunity to broaden my horizons and I even set a few equine-related goals for myself for the upcoming year. 

All the doctors were very hands on allowing me to really hone my skills. At the same time, I was asked challenging questions such as questions on anatomy and what I saw with a specific case being presented. Also, I was able to help with x-rays, lameness exams, nerve blocks, routine joint injections, and I even practiced my suturing skills and helped flush and debride a septic joint. Brazos Valley Equine Hospital has always been the veterinary clinic I have gone to for as long as I can remember, but being the veterinarian and being able to understand the anatomy and physiological processes gave me a different perspective and so much joy. Students at US Beef Academy Event

Texas Tech University's School of Veterinary Medicine also allowed me and one of my classmates to attend the United States Beef Academy event in Corona, New Mexico. While this wasn't a clinic experience, it was definitely impactful and gave me a better understanding of how the beef sector works. This event was a week-long course that was taught mostly by veterinarians. 

Hearing and learning every side of the beef industry was so interesting. It was nice because we were able to have our school notes and academy lectures side-by-side to compare and add to. Having the background knowledge helped me and deepened the experience of what we were learning. We worked with cattle handling, immunology and vaccine protocols, rangeland management, reproductive management, and nutrition practices for each region of the United States. 

My favorite part of the week was palpating bred and open cows. Dr. John Wenzel, who is the main director of the program and has been a veterinarian for almost 40 years, taught us his tips and tricks. Food animal medicine has been my goal from the start, so this week was so refreshing and allowed me to dive deep into what I love. Student with Veterinarian

My last externship for the summer was at La Vega Veterinary Clinic in Waco, Texas. I met Dr. Tamra Walthall, La Vega Veterinary Clinic owner and former Texas Veterinary Medical Association (TVMA) President, at a scholarship dinner this past semester and she invited me to come to her clinic. When I got a few days off, I took her up on that offer. 

While at this veterinary clinic, I was able to see how a small animal clinic operates. I have never worked or shadowed in a small animal clinic, so this was way out of my comfort zone. Dr. Walthall threw me in from the moment I stepped through the door by having me talk with clients and perform physical exams on dogs and cats. She is primarily a solo practitioner, so we were busy all day with three rooms running at all times. 

Client interactions is an area in veterinary medicine we practice a lot in school, and I was able to put my communication skills into practice when talking with the clients. Having this opportunity has made me feel much more relaxed and ready for the upcoming semester because I have a better understanding of what it will be like in an exam room. Also, while I was at the clinic, I took x-rays, gave vaccines, spayed, and drew blood from multiple different areas on an animal which gave me lots of practice. I am so thankful I was able to spend a few days and learn from someone who is so willing to teach and is efficient at running a busy clinic. Student holding Parrot

When you're in school, it feels like you know nothing. But going out into the real world, it is very evident that you know much more than you think you do. I really got a glimpse into every sector this summer and was able to apply my first-year knowledge in every situation. These experiences allowed me to better help our operation at home and will help me in the long run with serving my respective community. I was able to see a multi-doctor hospital, a solo practitioner, and veterinarians who work in extension and industry. 

My experiences might be a little unconventional, but they were exactly what I needed. Large animal medicine is where I see myself in the future, but there are so many opportunities that I am definitely open to change. I am excited about veterinary medicine, and I can't wait to take back my knowledge from the summer and build on it during my second year. The fun part is, summer is not even over yet! So who knows what else I might get to see.