Georgia 4-H students visit UGA Vet Lab

Photo L-R: Miller Hayes, Rachel Hayes, Taylor Barber, Brannon Parker

By Clint Thompson
University of Georgia, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences

The University of Georgia Cooperative Extension’s Southwest District 4-H program collaborated with the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine to host 4-H Veterinary Science Career Exploration Day in Tifton, Georgia on Thursday, March 15.

Decatur County 4-H’ers Miller Hayes, Taylor Barber, Brannon Parker and Rachel Hayes along with thirty-two 4-H members from 13 counties participated in the event at the UGA Tifton Veterinary Diagnostic and Investigational Laboratory. Students were introduced to various topics related to veterinarian medicine, including how to examine viruses and the proper way to deliver a baby calf using a calving simulator.

“It was a great experience. I was amazed at the different types of jobs that use a vet degree; many that most people wouldn’t even consider.” said Decatur County 4-H senior Miller Hayes.

Melinda Miller, the Southwest District 4-H Program Development Coordinator, worked with county extension agents and program assistants in the Southwest District who have active animal programs in their 4-H clubs. The agents and staff recruited students, like Stephens, who have a strong interest in pursuing a career in veterinary medicine or working in animal sciences in some way.

“The 4-H agents and program assistants worked with 4-H club members in their counties to identify those who would be ideal for this real-world lab experience,” Miller said. “We as 4-H youth development professionals are always innovating to build career exploration in our programs. Providing our students with hands-on experiences like this helps youth make better decisions regarding their path when considering college and career choices. There is great need for food animal veterinarians in our state. The opportunities for careers in agriculture are virtually limitless. We are grateful for the opportunity to partner with the UGA Tifton Vet Lab to host this inaugural event.”

Middle school and high school students attended the event, including Taylor Barber, a 4-H member from Decatur County. Some of the Decatur County 4-H’ers hadn’t thought of veterinary medicine as a career option prior to learning at the UGA Vet Lab in Tifton, the experience was eye opening.

“Listening to the speakers and getting to interact and talk with students who are in vet school helped me make the final decision of what I want to do. It helped me see vet school in a different perspective,” Barber said.

Barber’s favorite part of the day was helping birth a calf using a calving simulator. Under the guidance of Lee Jones, DVM and associate professor in the Food Animal Health and Management Program of the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine in Tifton, 4-H students practiced delivering a calf from its mother. Jones and staff of the UGA Tifton Vet Lab provided instructional labs for the students in virology, bacteria, pathology, DNA, blood and fecal matter and zoonotic diseases.

“I’d always thought of a vet as being someone who took care of animals, but after hearing all the speakers, I now know that a vet can be more than someone who does something with animals. A vet can be someone who does something in food sciences or research, also.” Barber said.

Additionally, 4-H members heard presentations from Dr. Janemarie Hennebell, Dr. Wendy Cuevas, veterinarians with the Georgia Department of Agriculture; Dr. Scott Brown, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs UGA College of Veterinary Medicine, current students enrolled in vet medicine at UGA and Ms. Breanna Coursey, Director of Student and Employer Engagement from UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

For more information about Georgia’s 4-H program, please visit

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