Meera Patel, a senior at the University of Tennessee at Martin, is on her way to veterinary school and believes her UT Martin education has helped her get there.
Patel, of Bartlett, is preparing to graduate with a degree in animal science and a focus on pre-veterinary science, and she has been accepted to Louisiana State University’s School of Veterinary Medicine. She says her chosen profession doesn’t only help animals, it serves their human owners as well by providing education, comfort and support through the challenges of pet ownership.
“I just feel good at the end of the day when I come home from work. I like that feeling and knowing that I accomplished something at the end of the day is really nice to have,” she said. Patel currently works part-time at the Wolfchase Animal Hospital outside Memphis when she is home from school. She says this experience, along with the hands-on training through the UT Martin program, is what gives her the confidence to pursue her dream.
“We talk about anatomy in class, the different bones and things, but actually being able to feel it on a cow or a sheep or a goat or a horse, it’s a lot different than being able to see it on a chart or a picture,” she said. “Anybody can label bones on a chart, but being able to go out and feel it and understand where it is in comparison to the rest of the body is interesting. The more hands-on stuff I do, the most excited I get about vet school and being a vet.”
After practicing as a veterinary professional, Patel hopes to return to the academic world and teach future generations of animal scientists. She is getting a jump-start on that experience while still an undergraduate through the UT Martin University Scholars Program, which requires a two-year research project from each graduate.
Patel is working with Dr. Jason Roberts, professor of animal science, to evaluate the UT Martin Veterinary Health Technology Program and pinpoint the factors that influence whether or not a student is likely to pass the Veterinary Technologist National Exam at the end of their collegiate career.
“What we’ve done is compile student information like their grades and ACT scores and grades in certain vet tech and science classes and the types of internships they’ve had and see how those (create trends),” she explained. “The NCLEX (national nursing exam) pass rate is 100 percent at UTM, and we’re trying to get that in the vet tech program.”
Patel is also involved in the Ned Ray McWherter Institute, a professional-development program for selected students.
“It’s mostly networking and professional-development skills. You learn how to talk not only to your peers, but also to professionals,” she said. The group also travels both domestically and internationally, an experience with which Patel is already familiar.
Patel’s parents immigrated to the United States from India before Patel was born, and she has visited India several times to stay with family still in the country. She also speaks Gujarati, the language from the area of Gujarat, where her parents are from.
Patel looks forward to graduation May 4 with excitement for the next steps in her career, and she plans to use her specialized knowledge to serve furry friends of all kinds as well as the humans who love them.