As she nears the completion of her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) program at Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine (Ross Vet), Keegan McElroy, class of ‘24, has had her clinical year filled with new educational experiences and prestigious awards from notable veterinary organizations.
Separately, the American Animal Hospital Association’s (AAHA) Award for Proficiency in Primary Care and the Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Society’s (VECCS) Award for Proficiency in Emergency and Critical Care cover unique aspects of patient care and are just one exemplification of the range of career paths veterinarians can take. Among the 2023 recipients of both awards, McElroy has proven throughout her journey to veterinary medicine that effort and dedication to your craft can lead to extraordinary results and recognition from mentors and future colleagues.
“To be recognized for the effort I put in and be told by people I look up to in the field that they see me means a lot,” shared McElroy. “It is inspiring as a student to be seen by your mentors who help me feel like I can do this, and it is not as far-fetched of an idea for me to be a veterinarian as I sometimes make myself believe. It really means a lot.”
Commitment to Patient-Centered Care
As one of the key criteria for the AAHA’s Award, the human-animal bond has been a foundational piece in McElroy becoming the soon-to-be veterinarian she will be when she finishes her clinical year at the end of 2023.
She grew up in Houston, Texas, in a household always filled with family pets and memories of playing with the dogs outside, sleeping on their beds with them, and growing the special bond that forms between humans and their pet companions. When one of her dogs got sick, she would accompany her parents to the veterinarian visits where treatment plans and all the ways her dog could be helped fascinated McElroy at a young age. From then on, as she says, “it’s the only thing I have ever wanted to do.”
Being able to now translate the human-animal bond to the classroom and clinical practice has made her student experience at Ross Vet and Louisiana State University, her clinical site, all the more real and personal.
“I pour everything I have into every patient I have, and it has shaped my schooling because you read about these things in textbooks and learn through lectures, but once you put a patient to the case or disease process, it really hits home and you remember it forever,” McElroy said.
Caring For Emergency and Critical Care Patients
After she graduated from Texas State University with her bachelor’s degree in animal sciences, McElroy began her early career working for a specialty and emergency hospital in New Orleans, Louisiana. Though she primarily helped in surgery services, she started taking extra emergency medicine shifts on the side and felt right at home with the patient connections and type of work an emergency setting put her in.
“I fell in love with being there, being an advocate for my patients, and being able to communicate with clients at possibly one of the worst times of their lives to make them feel more comfortable and understand what their pets are going through,” McElroy said.
Her experiences in emergency practice brought McElroy to Ross Vet with a vision to specialize in small animal emergency medicine. Naturally, that aspiration connected her to the campus’ VECCS chapter where she ultimately took on the president role for three of her semesters in St. Kitts. Through the chapter, McElroy spent a lot of time with Melissa Bucknoff, DVM ‘10, DACVECC, assistant professor of biomedical sciences and clinical pharmacology. McElroy’s passion for emergency and critical care was further solidified as the two worked closely to facilitate extracurricular labs and medical technique practice sessions for VECCS chapter members.
“My experiences on St. Kitts with my clubs and taking advantage of early opportunities to put what we learn into action has made me a better student,” McElroy said. “The recognition I earn through these awards is very nice, but it’s not without many faculty noticing my abilities and demonstrating confidence in me to let me do more in practice. The more I put into it, the more I got out of it.”
Coming Full Circle
With two new awards and one semester remaining to complete her DVM, McElroy is now gearing up for the next step in her career. Where she first fell in love with emergency and critical care during her time in New Orleans, she will return to the same hospital as Dr. McElroy and no longer be the first-year technician volunteering for extra shifts. Upon passing her NAVLE, the hospital offered McElroy a spot in their emergency clinician mentorship program beginning in February 2024.
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