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The Weight of a Heart

Winner, Life as a Vet Student and Overall Best Entry
Lea Mehrkens, UC Davis

Today I held a dog’s heart in my hands.

I did not hold a dog’s beating heart. I did not massage said heart back to life. This heart was from a dog who had been dead for five years. By the time I found this heart, it was an old, preserved specimen in a library of macabre, floating organs. It was one jar unceremoniously stacked amongst many. The label read, “Bernese Mountain Dog. 5 years, 2 months. Female.” I winced when I read the word “female”. This dog was a male. He was my dog.

I don’t know why I expected to recognize it right away, why I thought that there would be some reflection or semblance of the dog I loved and grew up with in that heart. There wasn’t. In fact, the only reason I found it was because I recognized my own name on the jar’s label. This was a shock in and of itself; as a first year veterinary student, you really don’t expect to find your name on a jar nestled in the depths of Pathology.

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Winner, Op-Ed
Nikko Poulos, University of Minnesota

It has taken me nearly 3 decades to become comfortable as a gay man. The label, “gay,” often brings people to think about the sexual history of the word. Even the term, “sexual orientation,” makes people focus on the word “SEX!” For me, becoming comfortable with being gay meant bigger things.  I always knew I wanted a family and I knew that it was going to happen with a person of the same sex (there goes that word again).  Now, at 33, I have everything I could have hoped for. I’ve been partnered for over 10 years and in that time we’ve adopted two wonderful African American infant girls, now 3 and 5 years of age. We are a family. Surprisingly our undeniably conspicuous family has never felt conspicuous to me. We have had the luxury of living in major metropolitan areas like Chicago and Minneapolis, where there are often other families like us. Where there are people seeing, knowing and interacting with more families like us.

Beyond building a family, my life’s goal was to become a veterinarian. That became a reality last year when I started my first year of veterinary school at the University of Minnesota. The first year flew by quickly and like most first year students, my eagerness for hands on experience was a given. I’d been in the small animal field for over 10 years – as a vet tech and then as the owner of one of Chicago’s largest pet care companies, but over this time my interests in large animal grew as well. About 5 years ago we purchased 12 acres of peaceful land in Iowa. We’ve spent as many weekends as possible restoring the land and building a vacation cottage while also getting to know our little town of less than a thousand people. However, this past summer we decided to spend more time there to give meaning to the name, “summer home.”  I knew it was the perfect place to get my hands on­, and in, a cow.

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Announcing the Winners!

There were so many great entries for this edition of The Vet Gazette that it was hard to decide. This edition will have posts including salamanders in the night, large painted murals, and a tale of a foal's meningomyelocele. Congrats to the winners! Winnng entries will start posting next week, and all other entries following that.


Creative Corner: Laura Clay and Mandy Valin 

Cases/Abstracts: Winner: Ashley Nichols. Honorable mentions: Jacquelyn Horner, Hailey Harroun

Forum winner: Lucy Chou

Experiences: Winner- Michelle Sanborn.Honorable mentions: Chelsea Anderson and Sally Moseley

Foot in Mouth: Winner: Jenny Heath. Honorable mentions: Kelly Kontur and Charlie Cosimini

Life as a Vet Student: Lea Mehrkens. Honorable mentions Briana Hallman and Amanda Fischer

Op-Ed: Nikko Poulos and Lucy Chou

Overall best submisison: Lea Mehrkens

Trivia: Grace Stearns and Michelle Newton




Pics for Pets's new campaign, Pics for Pets, is an issue SAVMA can get behind. Read on for how to get more involved.

Henri is a Pics for Pets featured pet, learn about their stories at 


Every year, approximately 3-4 million animals are euthanized in shelters - that's 60% of the dogs and 70% of the cats that are taken in.

One reason these pets don't get adopted? Their online photos don't do them justice. There are plenty of great companions in shelters, but their photos are often taken when they first arrive, scared and confused. Pair that with harsh lighting and sterile surroundings and it's tough to compete with the puppy in the store window. 

II. BIG IDEA AND CALL TO ACTION is launching a nationwide campaign to increase adoption rates in shelters through young people and their cameras. Elsa is a Pics for Pets featured pet, learn about their stories at There's two ways that young people can take action with us through the campaign. The first level mobilizes young people to visit their local shelters and to take irresistible photos of adoptable pets. They'll upload these photos to our website for everyone to see. Every time someone submits a photo, they will be entered to win a $4,000 scholarship (5 photos is 5 entries, etc.). 
The second level of involvement involves sharing the photos online. Once the photos of adoptable pets on the website, there will be the option to share the photo and the animal with a friend who might adopt them! Once a photo gets 400 shares, will donate needed pet supplies to the shelter. would love it if readers of the Vet Gazette could help in either visiting shelters to take photos or take action online through sharing the pets. Last year, 91,000 teens joined the effort, help the campaign and be part of it today.

Meet the Executive Board: Chase Crawford

This post is part of a series made to introduce you to your SAVMA Executive Board. They were elected by their fellow delegates and are here to serve you. Read on for a spotlight on the Information Technology Officer!

Name, Position on EB: Chase Crawford, Information Technology Officer (ITO)

School and Year: Texas A&M University Class of 2014

Hometown: Houston, Texas

Your area of interest within veterinary medicine:  International opportunities, Public Health, Epidemiology, Infectious disease, Ophthalmology, Organized veterinary medicine. 

Description of what your office entails: The ITO works in conjunction with the Vet Gazette editor to develop the web presence of SAVMA through its Facebook page and website. Additionally, the ITO works with the SAVMA House of Delegates and its committees to ensure all necessary information is distributed in a timely manner. The ITO is also responsible for taking photographs during the SAVMA HOD and SCAVMA President’s meetings.

Your favorite thing about holding that office: I have a reason to use my Photoshop skills!

 Something exciting that your office is doing/has done for vet students this past year: The ITO has been working hard to increase the online presence of SAVMA. We have come a long way and are excited to build on this momentum.

Your favorite SAVMA related experience thus far (EB or not): The best part about SAVMA is getting to meet and work with colleagues from other schools that I may not have ever known otherwise. There are some truly amazing people representing their schools in the SAVMA House of Delegates. 

Something fun about yourself: I am doing a 3 month externship at the FAO headquarters in Italy!