My name is Dr. Shannon Finn, and I graduated from the Ontario Veterinary College in 2018. The Future Vets Club is near and dear to my heart as I was on the executive for all 3 years of my undergrad at Guelph.
I grew up in a small town in Ontario, between Stratford and Kitchener. It’s a very agricultural-rich area, and I’m grateful to have been brought up around farming and agriculture. I always loved animals, science, and working with people, so going to vet school was kind of a no-brainer. When I was in high school, I worked at a very tiny, small animal clinic where I learned to do just about everything from restraining animals, to anesthetic monitoring, to reception. I also worked at a local horse boarding barn where I cleaned stalls, fed and turned out horses. Both of these experiences showed me that I didn’t want to work full time in either small animal or equine! I enjoyed aspects of both, but I was worried about how demanding both pet and horse owners can be. I did keep an open mind going forward, and embraced learning about all species and aspects of veterinary medicine.
During my undergrad, I was in the Animal Biology program, along with many other future vet hopefuls. I found this extremely intimidating at first. I really had to dig deep and learn to stop comparing myself to others. I also didn’t adapt my studying techniques right away. In high school, I found I could study the night before a test and get by just fine! When the volume of material increased in university… this wasn’t sufficient! I actually failed a chemistry midterm in second semester and I was devastated. I started changing my preparation and study skills: I got a planner (life-saver!), I made cue cards, I went to Supported Learning Groups (SLGs) in the library, I quizzed with a classmate. This slowly improved my marks and set the tone for how I needed to study in vet school! I applied to the OVC during my third year of undergrad and was lucky enough to get in. I think many of my extracurricular volunteer roles prepared me well for my interview. By being a part of the Future Vets Club, I learned about the MMI format inside and out and networked with a lot of helpful people. I also was a UofG ambassador tour guide for a few years, which helped build my confidence in talking to people. I took a role with the applicant call center, where students in their respective programs call high school students that have been accepted to that program to see if they have any questions or concerns about the university experience. This fostered my empathy and furthered my communication skills. I would encourage all students to look for opportunities like these!
Vet school was a dream but also a huge challenge. I ultimately fell in love with herd health, population medicine, and public health/food safety. I did my externship placement (an 8 week rotation at a mixed animal practice at the beginning of your final year of vet school) at a local practice near home at Milverton-Wellesley Veterinary Services, focusing mostly on large/food animal medicine. I accepted a position with them as a large animal associate veterinarian once I graduated, and I’ve been there ever since. I work mostly with dairy cows, but we also work with a good amount of equine, beef, sheep and goats. As a new grad, I mostly do emergency work, and help with coverage of the regular herd work. I do lots of surgeries, calvings, and general medicine. I absolutely love working with farmers on a daily basis. Farming is such a thankless job, involving long, hard hours to provide food for the general population. With agriculture becoming increasingly polarized, and people becoming more out of touch than ever before with what farming actually is, I admire our clients immensely and feel honoured to be a part of providing safe and high-quality food to the population.
That being said, the veterinary profession is not without challenges. The biggest challenge I’ve faced is being a small, female veterinarian. I’ve had to learn new tricks to work smarter, not harder, and I think I’ve been able to earn some respect in this way. At the end of the day, getting the job done and showing care to clients and animals alike is the most important thing! The learning curve after graduation is incredibly tough, but in the end, veterinary medicine is a humbling career where the learning is ongoing! I’ve learned to embrace the lessons as they come and I feel grateful every day for what I get to do.