An Internship in Veterinary Science: Building Connections in the Field
During the summer of 2020, Ukari Perkins ’21 completed an internship at Brentwood Animal Hospital near her home in Maryland. An aspiring veterinarian, Ukari understood the importance of hands-on experience and building connections in the field.
Entrance into veterinary school is very competitive and completing the required 200 hours of experience was an essential step in her preparation. What she did not expect was the amount of work the veterinarians let her complete.
"I was very surprised with how much they let me do," said Perkins. "The doctors were open to teaching me and then trusting me to complete procedures such as administering vaccines, drawing blood, and obtaining skin scraping samples. This experience solidified my career path and helped me to see whether I want to be a surgeon, specialize, or own my own practice."
To prepare her for this experience, Perkins, a Biology major, completed BIO 470: Internship in the Natural Sciences under the mentorship of Dr. Soraya Bartol, Professor of Marine Biology and Director of Undergraduate Research at VWU.
During the internship, she served as a veterinary technician and was tasked with assisting with the triaging of patients, filling prescriptions, working with animal and human clients, assisting in surgeries, administering x-rays, and caring for animals in the hospital boarding facility. She reflects that the most memorable moment of the internship was during a surgery.
"I was assisting in a surgery where we had to remove mammary gland tumors from a dog. Unfortunately, during the operation, we found the cancer had gone deep in the tissue and spread from her chest wall to her anus. This was my first time truly seeing cancerous tissue and because of the Histology course I took at VWU, I was able to look at the biopsy and identify the cancerous cells in the dog’s tissue."
When asked about her most important takeaway from the experience, Perkins shared a personal revelation.
"I learned that I need to trust myself and believe in myself because when you are confident, many things are possible."
She elaborated on her growing confidence and preparation for the future.
"This experience will help me so much in veterinary school. Not only do I have prior knowledge walking in, I also gained mentors. The veterinarians I worked with expressed how willing they are to help me and guide me on my own journey to becoming a veterinarian. Dr. Pervaiz Manzoor, the hospital owner and lead veterinarian, offered me a position after graduation. I look forward to his mentorship in the year between VWU and veterinary school."
When asked what she would tell her peers about an internship experience, Perkins advised, "to any student debating an internship I would tell them to go for it. An internship gives you so much insight and creates vital connections." Further, she recommended that "students prepare for the internship by studying various techniques and terminology of the field."
She noted that, "when you come in and have prior knowledge, you are more likely to get greater hands-on experiences."
For information on the Biology major, and the pre-professional tracks available, visit the VWU website. To learn more about internship opportunities, visit the Career Development Program, in The Lighthouse: Center for Exploration & Discovery.