William Woods pre-vet biology major Alicia VanMatre has always known she wanted to be a vet. “Since a very young age I’ve loved animals, and I’ve loved learning and knowledge,” VaMatre explained. “As my education progressed I loved science and I loved helping people — helping their animals and helping people through their animals.”
While looking for colleges, VanMatre knew she wanted to go to the same institution as her twin sister, who was pursuing a degree in equestrian studies. It was her sister’s love for horses that introduced VanMatre to William Woods, but it was the biology and pre-vet professors she met on her tour that showed her it was the right school for her.
“I just knew that I would have wonderful professors that I would be able to learn so much from, and I just really enjoyed the atmosphere.”
Now in her senior year, with acceptance letters for graduate programs from two elite schools for veterinary medicine, Alicia is more sure than ever that William Woods was the right decision for her undergraduate degree. “It’s been a great experience and the best life choice I’ve ever made so far.”
Balancing a full academic work-load, a job at the campus library and being actively involved in the equestrian and pre-vet clubs on campus, VanMatre still finds time to take full advantage of having a full-time, on-campus veterinarian, Dr. Schiltz.
What started as shadowing Dr. Schiltz through his veterinary techniques course and any other opportunity that presented itself, turned into a full-time summer internship at William Woods.
Through her internship, VanMatre worked with one patient in particular — a horse named Tater who had a Keratoma, a non-cancerous mass that grows slowly under the hoof wall or sole of the foot. After diagnosing the patient and taking him to have the tumor removed, she spent the rest of the summer taking care of him in recovery — daily changing bandages, monitoring for infection and watching his progress. The radiograph image to the right diagnosed Tater’s Keratoma. The black space in the middle of the bone shows where the mass was located.
“That experience in itself totally changed me,” said VanMatre. “I knew that I was capable of all of these things that I’ve achieved, but at the same time I didn’t realize that I’d be doing this in undergrad.”
The following semester, because of all the experience she had gained, VanMatre was chosen to be on the on-call rotation for the barn — something that no undergraduate student has been asked to do before.
When asked what advice she would give to future students coming to William Woods pre-vet program, VanMatre responded, “Work with Dr. Schiltz.”
“To be honest I thought that people would be flocking to shadow him — and that’s not the case. It’s a gold mine over here — I mean you get so many experiences that you would not have thought, and there are so many pre-vet students here now that don’t take advantage of shadowing him.”
VanMatre credits this opportunity to shadow and work closely with Dr. Schiltz as the single greatest resource in helping prepare her for veterinary school.
“Having a veterinarian on campus is one of the best things [William Woods] could have ever done for their pre-vet program. Especially Dr. Schiltz — I’ve shadowed with so many different veterinarians and he is, by far, the best veterinarian I’ve ever shadowed with,” VanMatre explains.
“He’s just so willing to teach — especially if you’re willing to put in the time and effort. He’ll put faith in your abilities and he will push you.”