What is your position at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln?
I am an assistant professor of practice for the Professional Program in Veterinary Medicine (PPVM). I created and currently manage the clinical skills laboratory (CSL) and am an instructor in surgery, foundations, exotic medicine, ultrasound, animal welfare and other courses offered through in the program. Most of my instruction involves hands-on laboratory experiences with live animals or simulators, and many of my courses are designed as a flipped classroom. Students are responsible for reviewing the material ahead of the scheduled in-person laboratory. During class, they participate in hands-on experiences that require them to recall and apply that knowledge. The clinical skills laboratory is also used in several of our core and elective classes. The models and simulators allow students to develop good technique and muscle memory prior to performing a procedure on a live animal. Students also have access to the CSL to practice during their free time.
What drew you to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln?
During my time in private veterinary practice, I was a mentor to several students that enrolled in the PPVM. The experiences they shared about the program's culture impressed me. The close-knit community and being able to offer unique experiences that would be difficult to organize in a larger academic setting truly make it a wonderful program for students and faculty alike.
What aspect of working in an educational setting do you enjoy the most?
Interacting with the students and watching them develop into competent veterinarians brings me the greatest satisfaction. The program's small class size allows you to truly get to know and support your students. It's more than teaching or organizing meaningful laboratory sessions, it's sharing experiences and encouraging them to follow their passion. Being able to teach what I am passionate about and share that with someone who is as excited and passionate about the same discipline makes the position incredibly enjoyable. It's not all sunshine, though. There is a great deal of pressure placed on veterinary students due to the massive amount of information they must learn. While it saddens me that they are experiencing stress due to that load, I find it incredibly gratifying to help students achieve work/study life balance, see the bigger picture and start developing healthy boundaries and balance they can maintain during their professional lives.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Developing the CSL would be my biggest accomplishment at UNL thus far. The current CSL was created from the bacteriology laboratory that was associated with the old veterinary diagnostic center. I spent a large amount of time researching and discussing the design of the laboratory with clinical skills laboratory directors from around the world. This allowed me to best apply the generous donations made to the program to benefit our students. Designing the laboratory was only half of the process. The other half was spent designing simulators and models for our students. Unfortunately, compared to the human medical field, commercially available simulators for veterinary practice are few and far between. Little did I know that my 4H arts and craft skills would come in handy during my professional career. Many of the models are made from scratch and are the result of countless hours testing materials and design to give students a realistic simulator that translates over to live animal and/or tissue. Teaching "feel" is incredibly difficult, but with these models and simulators students have the advantage of developing muscle memory and some feel prior to real life application.
What is something that most people don't know about you?
I am passionate about exotic animals and wildlife. My family and I have an exotic animal business and raise ball pythons. I have an extensive collection of reptiles, tarantulas, as well as different avian and small mammalian species. While I personally enjoy their presence in my life, I use many of my animals for educational purposes, teaching students and families about proper husbandry and veterinary care. I created my Introduction to Zoological and Exotic Medicine elective due to the increasing demand for exotic pet care in our region. Hopefully in a few years these educational efforts will benefit our community, wildlife and nontraditional pet owners.
What is your life like outside of work?
Busy, but I wouldn't have it any other way. Besides taking care of all of our animals, I am a fitness junkie and wellness advocate. I love lifting weights, creating nutritious recipes, and hiking. I am also an avid equestrian. Trail riding is one of my favorite past times and I have been a competitive barrel racer since I was 10 years old. I love traveling, learning about different cultures, trying different foods and meeting new people. You could say movement, in any form, is a key part of who I am. I do stop to smell the roses occasionally. I love to write, draw, read fantasy and adventure books and meet up with friends and family for good food and conversation.