Dr. Andy Roark spoke at my veterinary school graduation. I remember being inspired by his words; his advice and wishes for our future were so…right, so applicable, so funny. Now, I don’t remember anything he said. The first oh-so-challenging months of a rotating internship in small animal medicine and surgery have all but swept away that bright-eyed idealistic feeling.

But that feeling is coming back. I can almost taste that same sweet sense of possibility that was so inspiring at the start of the summer.


I was unprepared for the rigors of being an intern, especially in a high-volume private practice. I spent my first month working long shifts overnight in the ER. I managed to get through on little sleep and less confidence, but lacked the perspective to know the value of all that I learned in that time. I have never been more emotionally fragile in my life. Thankfully I was able to hold it together at work, but at home anything sad, happy, or cute – basically, anything on the internet – was enough to set me to weeping. I sent my mom a sappy birthday card that was so out of character for me, I later called to apologize in case she thought it was a sign of a mental breakdown (which perhaps it was…)

I’m here to write this, so clearly I survived that harrowing start to my veterinary career. I’m even far enough removed from that trauma to know that it was (probably) worth it. I’ve seen scores of cases and am so much more equipped with necessary skills to communicate effectively with clients and colleagues.

So what else have I learned? Plenty of medicine, sure. That’s the point of this trial. But here’s a list of arguably more valuable lessons that apply to life outside of veterinary medicine (which is to say, when I’m no longer an intern and I have a life outside of veterinary medicine, I can apply these):

1. When someone takes the time to teach you something, have the humility to listen and absorb without defensiveness.

2. Try to develop perspective on your experiences. If you can’t see the value now, give yourself time and distance (mental and physical) to appreciate the lessons.

3. Celebrate things large and small: the shifts survived, the lives saved, the paperwork completed, the days spent working out, the days spent doing nothing.

4. Set yourself up for success and happiness with goals and rewards.

5. Don’t be a doormat. Advocate for your patients. Advocate for yourself.

6. Comparison is the thief of joy. The people around you are sharing in your life, not competing to be the best at it.

7. Power stances, aphorisms, pictures of puppies. Find what you need to get your head in the right place at the start of the day. These sayings greet me on my mirror before every shift:

Never let anyone treat you like a yellow starburst. You are a pink starburst.

Be a faucet, not a drain.

Be extraordinary.

Maximum effort.

Keep moving forward.

It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the DrAndyRoark.com editorial team.


My name is Kendra Rushing, I am a recent graduate originally from the Pacific Northwest. I’m currently a small animal rotating intern.