At the ripe old age of 11, Christopher Carpenter had already figured out what he wanted to do for a living.
“I can remember the day like it was yesterday… I saw my mom in the kitchen of our house and told her that I wanted to become a veterinarian,” Dr. Carpenter recalled. “My dog Alice, a German Shepherd mix, was the biggest influence on that decision.”
Making such a choice by age 13 is not uncommon for most veterinarians, adds Dr. Carpenter.
“And from surveying hundreds of tween and teen aspiring veterinarians over the past year, we know that the No. 1 thing that influenced their decision was having a special pet at home,” he said.
Dr. Carpenter is the founder and president of Vet Set Go, an online community for young, would-be veterinarians. And March 2 through 28, those who will be entering sixth through eighth grades this coming fall can further their animal knowledge by entering the Become a Veterinarian Camp Contest 2020.
Here’s how the contest works: With assistance from a parent or guardian, students enter by using the official entry form (click here). They’ll be asked to complete an online essay (maximum 300 words) that addresses one of the following: why they want to be a veterinarian, why they love animals and what they’ve done to acquire animal experience or learn more about science. Contestants will be asked to submit a photo showing themselves with a favorite pet or animal or doing something to demonstrate their animal experience.
Three winners, who will notified no later than May 30, will get to attend Auburn University’s Junior Vet Camp from July 12-17 at the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine in Alabama.
This marks the fourth year of the contest, and it came to fruition following Dr. Carpenter’s work shooting videos of veterinarians in action for content on the Vet Set Go site.
“I remembered how badly I wanted to see what veterinarians did when I was a tween-aspiring vet, and I decided that I could show them via video,” he said. “Basically, these videos allowed veterinarians, who could only have one or two people shadow them a week, reach literally tens of thousands of aspiring veterinarians.” Over time, Dr. Carpenter also began to make videos of veterinary camps and zoo camps.
“After about six years working to educate future veterinarians on animal science and the veterinary profession through VetSetGo.com, I thought, ‘Why don’t I start a contest and send them to these amazing veterinary camps?’ ” he said. Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine — his alma mater —was equally as excited about the prospect of a contest and has been a partner since the first edition.
Due to age, “it can be difficult for young people to find opportunities to gain animal experience or volunteer, which is a competitive factor for entrance to veterinary programs,” said Dr. Carpenter. “Our Vet Set Go contest offers a solution to this challenge by giving future veterinarians a unique opportunity to pursue their dreams — starting now.”
At top: Dr. Christopher Carpenter with the 2019 winners of the Become a Veterinarian Camp Contest.