Veterinary Medicine Uncovered

The dream of studying veterinary medicine is often quite different from the reality. The Veterinary Medicine Student Association invited high school students to an info day to give prospective students a taste of what studying veterinary medicine entails.

Marita Fuchs

Birds of prey and their diseases Image Gallery
Birds of prey and their diseases
Dreaming of becoming a vet? Where can veterinary medicine lead and what do students need to know when they are still at school? Such questions were answered at the info afternoon. (Image: Simon Schwyzer)


109 high school students from all over Switzerland – some even having traveled from as far away as Valais and Ticino – fill the semi-circular demonstration lecture hall of the Vetsuisse Faculty and listen to the lecturer: “The cow has swallowed a nail which has pierced the wall of her stomach and is damaging the nearby organs.” The cow is not well, that much is quickly clear to the young listeners.

Working with animals

On this 1 November afternoon, the high school students are visiting the Veterinary Teaching Hospital in order to get a better idea of what studying veterinary medicine actually entails. Veterinary medicine is a very popular subject, especially among female students, but it seems that the reality often does not live up to the dream. The course is very demanding and even if they successfully complete it, many people become disillusioned with the daily working life: “Many vets do not stay long in the profession,” says Yaiza Herrero of the Veterinary Medicine Student Association.

That’s why she decided to get together with other students to organize the info day for high school students. “We want to paint a realistic picture of veterinary studies,” she explains. “Because the reality of training to be a vet is nothing like the romantic idea that people have of working with animals.” The veterinary medicine program has a packed timetable. Before they eventually sit the state board examination, future veterinarians have to get to grips not just with chemistry and physics, but also learn about food safety, animal diseases, and animal welfare. “Many people who are interested in studying veterinary medicine don’t realize that at first,” says Herrero.

Anatomy exercise on the spleen

The prospective students were able to spend a whole afternoon listening to short lectures and taking part in practical exercises. The organizers from the student association aimed to give students an overview of as wide as possible a range of subject areas. Physiology, endocrinology, pathology, farm animals, and diagnosing cancer in dogs, for example. In addition, high school students were also able to get their hands dirty with a practical anatomy exercise using freshly dissected livers and spleens from various different animals and the dissected hind limbs of horses.

At the end of the busy afternoon, attendees were given a tour of the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, followed by refreshments and the opportunity to ask current students about their experiences. Herrero sums up: “The afternoon was a great success and we received very good feedback from the school students.”

Marita Fuchs, editor at UZH News.

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