Kerry Rood, doctor of veterinary medicine and associate professor in Utah State University’s School of Veterinary Medicine, and second-year students Jessica Thomas and Cinda Pieper, recently made a house call to USU's Dolores Doré Eccles Center for Early Care and Education to check on the preschool’s beloved class pets – two guinea pigs named Popcorn and Edwin – and inspire the children’s curiosity about veterinary medicine.
“Ask most veterinarians and they will tell you their desire to become a veterinarian started from a young age,” Rood said. “This was a great opportunity to get the preschoolers excited about and interested in veterinary medicine.”
Kimberly Hebert, the senior preschool assistant teacher, said the idea originated because they had a few questions about the guinea pigs’ health, but it evolved into much more.
“Our hope was to make this an educational experience for our students,” Hebert said. “We were put in contact with Dr. Rood, who was extremely helpful in answering all of our questions and even volunteered to do an ‘at home’ visit. He was able to bring two veterinary students with him, which really allowed our students to see some of the training required to become a vet.”
Edwin – or Princess Anna, depending on who you ask – and Popcorn were given physical exams to make sure they were healthy. Additionally, the preschoolers were taught about the importance of caring for pets. The children learned about the guinea pigs’ and other animals’ heartbeats and, with the help of the veterinarians, listened to their own heartbeat with a stethoscope.
Thomas said she loved interacting with the students and hopes she was able to share her passion for veterinary medicine with them.
“Teaching them how to use a stethoscope was my favorite,” Thomas said. “They all loved it and were so excited when they actually heard something. I remember being that age when I decided I wanted to become veterinarian. I hope we sparked some of the same enthusiasm in them!”
Pieper agreed and said it was fun to see how engaged the students were at a young age.
“Visiting the preschool was a lot of fun and it was a great opportunity to teach the kids a little bit about veterinary medicine,” Pieper said. “It was awesome to see how excited the kids were to see us come in and do a physical exam on their guinea pigs.”
According to Hebert, the visit had a positive impact on her students and is something she looks forward to continuing.
“We had several students go home saying, ‘I want to be a veterinarian when I grow up’,” Hebert said. “It was a wonderful experience that I hope to continue throughout the years.”
As for Popcorn and Edwin’s diagnosis, they are happy, healthy and receiving all the care they need from their loving preschool caretakers.