Dr. Yarbrough’s Story
Jennifer Yarbrough, DVM
Where do you practice?
Banfield, The Pet Hospital in Olympia, Washington
How long you have been practicing?
Where did you attend veterinary school?
Oklahoma State University
What was your favorite or least favorite subject in school?
I loved math and chemistry. I was bored in history.
What activities outside of school helped you prepare for your career?
I volunteered at our local animal shelter (I think everyone should donate some time to their local shelters – it’s as good for you as it is for the Pets), I also shadowed at a vet hospital.
What was it like getting in to veterinary school?
When I got the letter, I was too nervous to open it. I had to have my roommate open it for me, and when she told me I was jumping up and down – I was so excited!
What was the most challenging part of veterinary school?
All of it! Vet school was more challenging than I had ever imagined. It was the hardest thing I have ever done. But I never lost my passion and it carried me through the hardest times. I am so glad I didn’t give up. And now I get to live my dream!
What high school and college classes would you recommend to students considering a veterinary career?
Chemistry (all types), biology, zoology, anatomy, physiology, and even pathophysiology if it is available.
What are some of your favorite parts of being a veterinarian?
I love the Pets! It is amazing to get to go to work and play with puppies all day!
Your least favorite?
I don’t like the financial aspect of veterinary medicine. I know it is a necessary part, but I wish people weren’t so suspicious of vets at times.
Did anyone, or anything in particular inspire you?
I grew up on a ranch and my mom was a human nurse. I had always admired veterinarians, but never really thought about doing that myself. I always had pets growing up.
When I was in a sophomore in high school, we got a chocolate lab puppy named “Chilli”. He and I were inseparable. We spent every afternoon and weekend together hiking, running, training, etc. When Chilli was 4 years old, he was involved in a car accident which left him paralyzed from the neck down. Chilli was rushed to our local vet in Laramie, WY. My mom called me that night at college and told me the news. She had already arranged a flight for me to get to him. I still remember lying with him at that vet hospital. We all thought he would never walk again. He layed there with no sign of improvement and little hope of survival.
One day, someone mentioned that we might look into the veterinary school in Ft. Collins. They said that this facility had all of the best medical and diagnostic equipment. We had little to lose at that point so we transported our 90 pound paralyzed lab from Laramie, Wyoming to Fort Collins, Colorado.
They performed a myelogram (a special X-ray of the spine, spinal cord and surrounding structures) and found a blood clot pushing against his spine. Chilli had neurosurgery that next day and the surgery was a huge success! Chilli regained function in all but one leg. After he had recovered from the neurosurgery, Chilli had another surgery to remove the paralyzed leg. Chilli was placed in a cart for rehabilitation and physical therapy. The vet students put signs on his cart “Will Walk For Food!” He made the local newspaper hopping around the hospital wagging his tail in his new cart.
After he came home, it wasn’t long before he was out of his cart and taking his first few steps to try to make it to a treat. That summer I returned home from college and Chilli and I were back together. He had regained so much strength and agility, we were back to running and hiking together! I changed my major the next semester to pre-vet and never looked back. Chilli lived nine more amazing years on those remaining three legs. I will never forget him. He changed my life, and I knew that if I could ever give that much back to an animal and his family, I would love my career.
What advice would you give young students interested in becoming a DVM?
I volunteered at a shelter and would recommend that to everyone (no matter what you want to do in life). I think it opens your eyes and your heart in ways nothing else can. I also job shadowed and would recommend that as well. I think you need to know in your core that this is what you want and you are willing to do whatever it takes to get it.
What is one of your most memorable, or unusual cases?
My most memorable case was Duke Dollins, a seven year old mixed breed that I diagnosed with lymphoma (a form of cancer). His mom went through the entire chemotherapy protocol with me at our hospital. I loved seeing him as he went into remission. He had a new lease on life. I think he knew that every day was a gift. He and his mom both treated it that way and it touched everyone who saw them together.
Any other advice for future veterinary students?
Be sure you know what you are getting into! Spend time with vets. Try to get summer, or shadowing experiences, ask as many questions as possible, try to be objective when inquiring about the profession.