Hi Lisa, tell us something more about yourself 🙂
My name is Lisa Buren and I am a student of veterinary medicine in Utrecht, the Netherlands. I am 22 years old but have been a vet student for over 5 years by now and I am not close to graduating, at all. That tends to happen when you want to have a little bit of everything vet student life has to offer. Once you get a little involved in veterinary student organizations, there is no escaping becoming what the cool kids call ‘an eternal student’ and maybe I should be proud to hold that title. After all, no one is ever done learning more about veterinary medicine.
Why did you decide to become a vet?
Same old story, actually. When I was four years old, my cat fell very ill and then there was this amazing veterinarian who helped him get better again. That was the moment I decided I wanted to become just like him. After a while, childlike-admiration turned into serious consideration and my marks were up to par to actually make it into vet school. However, I went to a rather fancy high school which did complicate the matter a bit – all of my teachers and friends at the time were baffled to learn I was actually serious about going to vet school. I was told over and over again that it was ‘a waste of potential’ and ‘not worth my time’. Give it up for puberty to decide to ignore all of that and enroll anyway. It was not an easy decision to make at that time, but I have been grateful I did ever since. The more I learn about my profession, the more confident I become I made the right choice.
Where do you study?
I study at Utrecht University’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, the only vet school in the Netherlands and ranked 4th of the world QS score. Because of that, it is very hard to get in. I am one of the rare few that got selected upon first try, for me that was in 2015. Ever since, I have had a love-hate relationship with my vet school. As any vet can tell you, vet school is a fickle lover; she keeps you up studying all night and yet you are happy to be running into clinics the next morning. One of the things I like most about my vet school is the amount of hands-on experience we get throughout our study. From the first year on out, you’ll be interacting with life animals to gain confidence in animal handling.
What still strikes me as odd is that the entire study program is in Dutch, so hardly any non-Dutch students can enroll. I find that very hard to match with a high-ranking university that wishes to maintain its position within a rapidly growing, global veterinary community. That was the main reason I became part of IVSA in my first year, but more about that later 😉
Tell us something more about veterinary medicine in the Netherlands
I am definitely speaking from my experience here, and there might be many Dutch vets with different opinions on this, so please bear with me. From my perspective, veterinary medicine in the Netherlands is incredibly diverse. The Netherlands is a country with an immense export in agricultural products, that has historically been supported by a strong veterinary community. Because of this, veterinary medicine, especially in the area of production animals, has been given ample opportunity to thrive. Many big companies active in veterinary medicine have some roots leading back to Dutch vets and their research.
To live up to this legacy, the sole vet school in the country is responsible for training students from throughout the country to supply a national market. This makes for an incredibly small professional circle in which most vets know each other some way or another. Then again, due to the size of our country and the ever increasing demand, in the field we have vets that studied elsewhere too. The majority of them have studied at Ghent, Belgium and are Dutch nationals.
As most European countries, the Netherlands has seen a rise in veterinary cooperate chains like Evidensia and Anicura, rapidly altering the working field for most companion animal vets. It is no longer financially feasible to have your own practice and less veterinarians are willing to work fulltime, let alone take ownership of a practice, making an ideal environment for the chains to thrive. Offering financial stability, social security and opportunity to specialize, it has become hard to say no to them.
For the large animal vets, however, this development is still in the early stages. The biggest issue here is that a lot of large animal vets retire and there are too little new graduates to take their place. This continuous shortage leads to a lack of vets in rural areas and public health. The salaries thus rise, but the interest is still lacking. Many new graduates prefer companion animals over working with farms. Due to recent development in environmental legislation and welfare standards, the production animal sector is under a lot of pressure to change. Sometimes even so much farmers are forced to file for bankruptcy.
I think with these two factors combined, now is a more interesting time than ever to become a veterinarian in the Netherlands!
What is IVSA and how does it impact veterinary students?
The International Veterinary Students’ Association (IVSA) is the largest veterinary student organization with over 35.000 members. Their mission is to “benefit the animals and people of the world by harnessing the potential and dedication of veterinary students to promote the international application of veterinary skills, education and knowledge”. IVSA does so by having local Member Organizations (MO), currently in 73 countries. These MOs usually represent one or more veterinary faculties. Their activities consist of organizing exchanges with other countries, hosting lectures/workshops, helping international students find study spots at their own university and creating other local activities for their members.
On a global level, the various MOs meet twice a year during IVSA Congress or Symposium in a General Assembly. Here, the organization of IVSA is discussed, as well as how IVSA can best represent the opinion of such a diverse group of vet students on veterinary matters to other global organizations such as the WHO, OIE and WVA. Alongside this, there are various committees and working groups active on a global level with specific topics such as One Health, Animal Welfare and Wellness. But before I keep on rambling, please check out ivsa.org for even more IVSA activities!
What do you do as an IVSA member?
As an IVSA member, there are so many ways to get involved that there is bound to be something you are interested in. I have been a member of IVSA the Netherlands (the Dutch MO) since I started vet school in 2015. As a member, I took part in various exchanges, attended lectures and workshops and soon got active on a global level. I represented the Netherlands in the General Assemblies of IVSA, became committee member and consequently committee Chair of IVSA’s Standing Committee on Veterinary Education and overall got to meet a lot of amazing veterinary students from around the world.
Right now, I am the President of the MO IVSA the Netherlands and working on setting up the 70th IVSA Congress in the Netherlands.
Tell us about the 70th IVSA Congress
The 70th IVSA Congress will be held in Utrecht from the 19th till 29th of July 2021, uniting 140 delegates from all over the world. For ten days, the delegates will participate in the IVSA General Assembly, attend lectures and workshops and go on various trips throughout the country to see what veterinary medicine looks like in the Netherlands.
The lectures and workshop will be centred around the main theme ‘the digitalization of veterinary medicine’. This is the perfect chance to get to know veterinary students from other countries while learning more about veterinary medicine in the Netherlands. Applications open on the 1st of March.
For more info, take a look at ivsa.nl
If you would like to know more about IVSA or the upcoming Congress, feel free to contact me through [email protected] 🙂