American Association of Feline Practitioners

Veterinary professionals passionate about the care of cats

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AAFP Student Stories

November 16, 2022 

MSU Feline E-board Members Volunteer at 2022 AAFP Annual Conference

Michigan State University's Feline Club E-board members traveled to Pittsburgh to volunteer at the 2022 AAFP Annual Conference. Read on to learn about their experience volunteering and attending a professional event!

Stephanie Monterroso Stoekl (2024): Feline medicine has become a huge passion of mine. Being the outgoing president of our Michigan State University Feline Club, it was my goal before I transitioned into the clinical phase of my curriculum, to bring some members of the Feline Club executive board to the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) Conference. Luckily the AAwasere looking for student volunteers and I jumped at the opportunity. I arranged for 5 of our MSU Feline Club E-board members to sign-up and attend. During this 4-day conference, I learned a tremendous amount about feline medicine and was able to network. I felt at home with my fellow feline-oriented professionals. I also had the pleasure of meeting one of the feline diplomats I will be externing with next year. It was a great opportunity to meet her in person as she is a huge inspiration to me. Before the conference, I debated whether I would go the residency route to become boarded in feline medicine. However, this conference along with the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (ABVP) booth, presentations, and speaking with one of my future mentors made me realize that I am going to pursue the residency route. I, unfortunately, can't make it to the conference next year due to being preoccupied with clinics, but I will definitely be returning when I am a veterinarian in 2024 and beyond. I am nervous but excited for my journey ahead. Thank you again to the AAFP team for allowing us to volunteer and attend this conference, as it was life-changing for me!

Ashley Kimmel (2024): I very much enjoyed the AAFP conference. Volunteering offered a unique opportunity to connect with some members and offered a conversation starter during the networking events. Helping with the lunch and learning offered me one-on-one time with the speaker to network, ask questions, and offer support if needed. As a current student, opportunities like these are incredibly valuable and educated me about different career opportunities.

Karla Zabala Amon (2025): I had the wonderful opportunity of attending the AAFP conference as a volunteer this year. It was a validating experience to be surrounded by veterinary professionals that are working towards improving both the psychological and physical health of our feline patients. Many of the lectures touched on how feline-friendly handling affects diagnostics and treatment, and I will definitely be using some of these considerations when I enter into practice! I also really enjoyed getting to know and network with the exhibitioners to learn about upcoming externship opportunities and get a preview into the technologies that will be more available by the time we graduate! I was particularly excited about the advances in both feline pain recognition and management. truly appreciate this opportunity and cannot wait to attend more AAFP conferences in the future.

Samantha Ziomek (2025): This was my first veterinary conference of my career, and it was thrilling! Peeking behind the scenes through working the registration desk and speaking to employees provided an interesting insight into the logistics of running a conference. It was also a great way to make a friendly connection with professionals I later spoke with during refreshment breaks and networking hours. I met wonderfully passionate DVMs who I aspire to be similar to and who connected me to possible externship experiences. I left AAFP feeling eager to continue my classroom learning, re-invigorated for my future as a feline practitioner, and with new resources to refer to throughout my career!

Crystal Chang (2025): My time volunteering at the AAFP Conference has been an amazing experience. It was rewarding for me to be able to contribute to a field of veterinary medicine I am passionate about by attending so many insightful lectures about feline medicine from outstanding speakers who are experts in the field, networking with the companies at the booths and with all the other attendees that were just as passionate about cats as I am. I also made a friend who was a veterinary student in Canada and was even able to reconnect with a veterinarian I worked for years ago while checking them in at the registration desk! I am very grateful to have been able to volunteer for the AAFP conference and for this wonderful opportunity. I hope to come back in the future to volunteer and experience it all over again!


June 23, 2022 

Supporting Cats and Clients in Greece

Ashley Walker, University of Minnesota (2022)

Let's Be S.M.A.R.T is a shelter and rescue organization that aims to address Greece's profound overpopulation of feral cats. The organization provides veterinary care to injured and ill feral cats, finds homes for adoptable cats rescued from harsh conditions, and educates the public (children and adults) on the importance of animal welfare and how it impacts the environment and human safety.

Through their formal internship program, I visited three different veterinary clinics of varying economic status and capabilities. I was also able to experience their unique open-concept free-roam shelter and foster home, where more critical cases were housed and cared for.

My role with the organization was providing socialization to adoptable cats, assisting with treatments of foster care cats via medicating, inserting microchips, vaccinating and observation, performing sterilizations on feral cats, and assisting with the release of feral cats to their respective colonies.

I benefited greatly from this internship because I gained crucial hands-on learning and improved my communication skills by bridging the language barrier between veterinarians and clients—I enjoyed teaching the veterinarians I worked with as much as I enjoyed learning from them.

These skills will be crucial to my future career goals of becoming a feline-only practitioner and eventually obtaining my feline medicine board certification. Not only did I see primarily feline patients on this rotation, but I also had the opportunity to think outside the box and work with very limited resources and finances, which is critical in primary care, where many clients will struggle with these limitations as well.

I also see how I may utilize my interest in feline medicine to improve the lives of feral cat populations, which is yet another way to assist people in a more indirect, one-health mindset that is just as important as owned pets.

This rotation was truly a wonderful learning experience since it gave me a unique opportunity to compare veterinary medicine in Greece to the United States. In some ways, we were very different, yet in other ways, we were very similar. Being a part of this organization has given me perspective on what is truly important when it comes to patient care: addressing client needs, finding solutions for feral populations, and caring for shelter animals.

Care for animals and the people who interact with them is a universal creed. We are all doing our best with what we have and what is realistic for the patient and client alike. I believe other veterinary students and professionals would benefit from this experience similarly, seeing that veterinary medicine is not an all-or-nothing service. Challenging yourself to work with limitations of budget, equipment, feral patients, and a language barrier will only make you a better and more well-rounded veterinarian in your own career.

I loved the opportunity to teach, learn, and exchange veterinary knowledge with others who shared my similar passions. I will cherish this experience forever and hope to continue making a difference in the lives of animals and people alike, both here and globally.

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AAFP Student Stories shares and celebrates the successes of student members who are passionate about feline care.