I had the pleasure of speaking with the vivacious Kristina Vivar. She is second-year student at the UCD School of Veterinarian Medicine, teaches FAP 192, and co-coordinates Knights Landing Clinic. She has been a tremendous help to PSSD and Knights Landing, which is one of the many reasons the PSSD board chose her as the inaugural vet student of the month. Plus, she's just a really cool human being.
I’m at the end of my second year. I will graduate May of 2018.
What is your track?
We have just selected our “streams”, I selected small animal. I would like to go to general practice. UC Davis allows you take some “non-stream” clinical rotations, so I plan on taking some equine rotations.
Where are you from?
I’m originally from Texas – a small suburb by Houston called Spring, Texas.
Where did you do your undergraduate?
I did [undergrad] at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. I needed a change from Texas.
What was your degree as an undergraduate?
Biochemistry. I thought this degree was really helpful for UC Davis. At the veterinary school here, the curriculum emphasises self-directed-learning. They don’t teach you every aspect, like all of the nitty-gritty details about metabolism. They go through all of the material very quickly. I felt lucky with my background because I could fill in some of the gaps. It was a good background for this school, but maybe not for other schools.
If you could be animal, what would you be and why?
I’d be a cat. I love cats; they’re my favorite. They’re very mischievous, intelligent and rebellious and they do whatever they want.
What are some challenges you faced during undergraduate? What about in veterinary school?
I had a few hardships during undergrad. I had to withdraw from a class one quarter. I was able to make it up later.
I feel like I’ve had more difficulties in vet school than undergrad. Last year, I [was] diagnosed with a panic anxiety disorder. I stopped going to class, and was doing poorly. I started having a panic attack every single time I would go into lab.
How did that affect your schooling?
I’m playing catch up with some subjects, like cardiology. The school was pretty understanding. They’re not just going to fail you. I just took an incomplete, took a two week leave from school and will be making up cardiology over the summer. It’s a little difficult because some of the subjects overlap and there were some questions on the exam [today] about cardio.
How is vet school different from undergraduate?
It’s strange. It’s not the material that is any harder, it's the larger volume of material that makes it challenging. And you’re actually expected to remember it forever. It’s material that’s important to know as a veterinarian. It’s not like you can cram for a test and forget about it because it’s just going to keep coming back up. The stress of “This is real” gets to our heads.
What made you pursue veterinary medicine?
I always liked the idea of going into medicine. I always enjoyed studying the aspects of pharmacology. I always found it interesting. It’s originally why I went into biochemistry. I also really liked fixing something and knowing that I fixed it. I thought about going into human medicine, but I realized I like animals more than humans – even though I have to deal with humans on the client side a lot. [Working with animals] is more rewarding, though. The animals can’t help themselves. From what I have gathered from my human medical friends, a lot of the people that you see come into your office do really dumb things and don’t follow your directions. Whereas clients, though they don’t always listen to your directions, they’re more likely to because it's their animal family member versus themselves. People don’t take care of themselves a lot of the time.
What advice can you give to undergraduates who face people who tell them they will never attend veterinary school?
Ignore them. You’ll have jerks your entire life and you’re going to face those kinds of people no matter where you are in your life. You’re going to have clients that will say, “Oh, you can’t be a veterinarian because you’re too young or you’re a woman” and they won’t listen to you. You’re going to have that forever. You’re going to have to just move past it.
So what exactly do you do for Knights Landing?
I am a co-director for the Knights Landing One Health Clinic. We have three co-directors and we all work on managing the clinic, trying to improve it, working with the med students and the community to [make] this clinic the best it can be.
I’m in charge of education of all the volunteers whether it is undergraduates, vet students or doctors. I also oversee lab coordinators. I thought it was important to have heartworm testing for preventative care as well as CBC/Chem panels for our clinic– even though we won’t use it a lot (because we are a preventative based clinic), it is another tool to have when we need it.
For the management part of clinic, I do the “clipboard job”. I coordinate the volunteers (vet students, undergrads, and veterinarians) and appointments. When I first started volunteering as a first year, things were always chaotic and wouldn’t flow very well. When I stepped in as co-director, I started assigning people to their cases and managing doctors on where they go. It is my job to know where everyone is, what everyone is doing, what clients need to be seen, which patients need veterinarians, and that everything is running efficiently.
How could you sum up your job at Knights Landing?
Part of my job at the clinic is basically just telling people where to go and what to do. It’s basically making decisions when decisions need to be made. I give a lot of the credit of my fellow co-directors and all of the other officers for how far we have come. We’ve come very far with the clinic in a short amount of time. The clinic is only three years old.
Why did you start FAP 192?
I started the class because I wanted the undergraduates to be more involved because we need all the help we can get. I also thought it would give the undergraduates valuable experience. When I was an undergrad, I had a hard time getting experience with animals to put on my resume for vet school. Also, if you do get to work at a practice to get more experience, the veterinarians expect you to know things magically, which is just not possible. If you go in and say, “I’m familiar with these medical words, and I know what they mean,” you’re a lot more likely to be hired and a lot more likely to get more out of the experience. I hope this class and clinic will give the undergraduates more of a “leg up”.
What clubs are you part of on the vet campus?
I’m a co-president for HSVMA (Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association). It’s a very small club. We do a yearly clinic up in Hoopa Valley, CA at an Indian Reservation. During the year, we do some lunch talks. Basically, it’s really hard to have [more than] two leadership roles while in vet school. It’s a bit overwhelming.
What about clinics?
I go and volunteer in other clinics, like Mercer Clinic for the homeless. Then, there’s a trap neuter release programs for feral cats that has given me a lot of great experience. It’s good to practice a lot of physical exams and injections or anything to get experience. UC Davis [has] self-directed learning, so you basically have to do a lot outside of school to get the experience you want. They teach you one lab of physical exams and that’s it. Those who don’t do anything extra [outside of school], don’t get as much clinical experience (in my opinion).
Are you planning on doing a residency after vet school?
Nope. I’m tired. I am ready to be done with school. I’m going to go straight into general practice. There are areas that I have a special interest in, like Neurology. But, when I think of it, it’s not worth it to me. It’s not worth it because all your debt is adding up, the interest not deferred. It is personally not worth it to me to spend another 4 or 5 years getting paid very little, when I could go straight out to practice and start my life. It is true that I won’t be bombarded with cases to learn from, like I would be in an internship, but I am okay with that. For internships, you work a ridiculous amount of hours [and only earn] about $20,000 for that year. Then after internships, you’ll go into residency where you’ll be paid not much more, and that’s for three or four years depending upon what you want to do.
So what are your plans after graduation?
I want to move somewhere new. I like change in my life and adventures.
What are some tidbits of advice you can give our members?
Do well in classes. Get the grades you need. Do the research on what GPA you need for each school. Look up schools that meet your interests and fit your learning style because they’re all different. Apply to schools that look for applicants like yourself. If you have a lot of practical and clinical experience, but a poor GPA, it may not be the best idea to just apply to schools that only factor in GPA for admission.
Also, get to know your professors during undergrad. Go to office hours. Get to know them. The sooner you do it and as long as you keep that connection, the better your letters of recommendation. You are also more likely to get the grades you want if your professor knows you care about the subject.