Young Iowans attend summer day camps to learn about skills from acting to archaeology, but one of the more popular courses teaches the basics of veterinary medicine. Dr. Pat Rohret, from the Adel Vet Clinic, tells campers between the ages of 14 and 18 it takes more than just a love of animals to be a successful veterinarian, but that’s a good start.
“We work on cats, dogs, cattle, horses, elephants, whatever, we’re supposed to know it all,” Dr. Rohret says. “We have to be more individualized people so my work is never boring. We don’t know what we’re going to do when we get up in the morning. All day, you may have appointments, but you don’t know what’s going to happen. That’s the exciting part and the bad part because your day, you can’t plan so well.”
The Iowa Veterinary Medical Association is offering the hands-on camps at county fairs around the state. The camp in Dallas County featured four stations, including one on how to give vaccinations — using a banana as the recipient. Rohret says he has a favorite station.
“The most fun one, maybe, is the handling of the organs,” he says. “They’re going to get to identify some organs. They’ll put on gloves and handle some organs and see some things and find out why this organ is different from that one. It’ll be fun for them.” Among the vet campers, 16-year-old Alexis Stine of Adel is taking in all the information as if there will be a quiz at the end of the two-hour session.
“It was really cool and I really liked suturing — that was really fun to do,” Stine says. “Then the organ part. That was really interesting, seeing different organs and how they’re different in each animal.” Rohret, who’s had a veterinary practice for 40 years, sees the camps in rural areas as a way of getting teenagers interested in a challenging but rewarding career.
The Vet Camps moved to the county fair level in 2009 after being wildly popular at the State Fair for several years. The camps are limited to 30 participants for each session, and just like real vet school, competition to get in is tough. This year’s registration was filled in just one day.