Published on 03/20/18

Georgia 4-H students visit UGA-Tifton lab to learn about veterinary medicine

By Clint Thompson

Thirty-six 4-H members from 14 Georgia counties visited the University of Georgia Tifton campus Thursday, March 15, for 4-H Veterinary Science Career Exploration Day.

UGA Cooperative Extension’s Southwest District 4-H Youth Development program and the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) partnered to present the event.

Middle and high school students toured the UGA-Tifton Veterinary Diagnostic and Investigational Laboratory and learned about various topics related to veterinary medicine, including how to examine viruses and, using a calving simulator, how to properly deliver a calf.

Melinda Miller, the Southwest District 4-H program development coordinator, planned the event with district UGA Extension agents and program assistants who have active 4-H animal programs. The agents and staff recruited students interested in pursuing careers in veterinary medicine or animal sciences.

“We, as 4-H Youth Development professionals, always innovate to build career exploration into our programs,” Miller said. “Providing our students with hands-on experiences like this helps youth make better decisions when considering college and career choices. There is a great need for food animal veterinarians in our state. The opportunities for careers in agriculture are virtually limitless.”

Daniel Peterson, a 4-H member from Lowndes County, was among the students at the event. Though Peterson hadn’t thought of veterinary medicine as a career option prior to his visit to the UGA-Tifton veterinary diagnostic laboratory, he found the experience eye-opening.

“It was very interesting. We learned a lot about viruses and how they do autopsies, how they test the blood. It was really cool,” Peterson said.

Kayla Stephens, a Crisp County 4-H member who works at a veterinary clinic as part of her school’s work-based learning program, also attended the event.

“Coming here today really showed me that this is what I want to do, and I’m going to go for this dream,” she said. “This day really reinforced what goes into becoming a veterinarian and what comes through the diagnostic lab. It was really great and opened my eyes.”

Veterinarian Dr. Lee Jones, associate professor in the veterinary college’s Food Animal Health and Management Program at UGA-Tifton, and the staff of the veterinary diagnostic laboratory provided instructional labs for the students in virology, bacteria, pathology, DNA, blood and fecal matter, and zoonotic diseases.

Additionally, 4-H members heard presentations from Dr. Janemarie Hennebell, veterinarian with the Georgia Department of Agriculture; Dr. Wendy Cuevas, veterinarian with the Georgia Veterinary Medical Association; Dr. Scott Brown, UGA veterinary college associate dean of academic affairs; Breanna Coursey, director of student and employer engagement for the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences; and the veterinary college.

For more information about the Georgia 4-H program, visit

Clint Thompson is an agriculture writer based in Tifton, Georgia.

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