Britt Carlson, a 1999 graduate of Washington High School in Cherokee, returned home just after graduating from veterinary school at Iowa State University this past May. She completed her Doctor of Veterinarian Medicine degree in seven years rather than the usual eight because she was able to complete her undergraduate work in three years.
She took many of the basic required undergraduate course work at Western Iowa Tech in Cherokee while she was still a high school student. Those courses transferred and put her on a fast track to her goal.
She joins her dad, Dr. Mark Carlson, DVM at the clinic and credits her growing up around the clinic for her decision to return to Cherokee after graduation. She knew the staff at Valley Vet would be great to work with and that they practice good medicine, which is an important aspect to Carlson.
Another part of her decision had to do with family. Being away she was missing out on family events and watching her younger brother and cousins grow up. She said as graduation got closer it felt more right to return home. Even though things have changed in Cherokee since Carlson has been gone she said there a lot of good things going on in town.
She has been busy reestablishing her roots, having purchased a house where she lives with her dog, Ole. She laughs because Ole goes to "daycare" at her parent's farm and plays with their dog Ellie while she goes to work. She says Ole loves the wide open spaces.
She has also been enjoying getting reacquainted with family, friends, and those clients she grew up with when going along with her dad on veterinarian calls. After all, she went on her first call with her dad when she was just two years old. Carlson grew up loving to be outside and working with animals.
Carlson is currently working mainly with the large animal veterinarians that include her dad, Mark Carlson, along with Dr. Jack Creel and Dr. Steve Sonka. She has been pleasantly surprised at how accepting, supportive, and patient the staff and clients have been with her as she puts all her education into practice.
She has primarily been involved in vaccinating, castrating, breeding, and treating cattle. She also recently got her calf jack dirty as she pulled her first calf by herself, adding to many other firsts she has experienced since beginning in May. Working with her dad has been incredible. She says he is a great mentor, teacher, and her best friend. The first day was sort of nerve racking trying to put all her education and knowledge together. Having her dad there was very reassuring.
Instead saying "so far so good" about working at Valley Vet, Carlson prefers to say "so far, so great". She has loved every day of her work and it has been fun working with the staff and clients.
Veterinary school at Iowa State University involves three years of classroom work and the final year is spent in rotations. Some of the rotations took place at the university and others at area veterinary clinics and schools across the United States. These rotations were the hands on portion of Carlson's education. Some lasted two weeks and others such as the intensive care unit took four weeks. The radiology and anesthetics rotation took six weeks. She even had two swine classes under, Dr. Alex Ramirez, a former veterinarian at Valley Veterinary Center.
Carlson brings with her a new specialty to Valley Veterinary Center. For about a year now the clinic has offered ultrasound to feedlot producers. This is a tool used to evaluate an animal for carcass merit. In other words, ultrasound images are evaluated to measure backfat and intramuscular fat (the good stuff) and help cattlemen predict the yield and quality grades of their cattle when they go to market. It helps cattlemen to evaluate the best time and market on which to sell their cattle in order to maximize profits. This type of ultra sounding is beneficial for feedlot producers.
There is another type of ultra sounding that is beneficial for seedstock producers too. This is where Carlson is able to bring in her expertise. She is currently the only staff member at Valley Vet certified to ultrasound seedstock.
Ultrasounding seedstock involves sending the images to the Centralized Ultrasound Processing (CUP) Lab. There they evaluate and make measurements and send the data to breed associations. The associations use the data to calculate expected progeny differences (EPDs). These EPDs can then be used by producers as a selection tool in their breeding programs to improve the quality of beef their animals produce. Carlson spent time working at the CUP Lab while she was in college and is certified to interpret the images. It is yet another tool to help cattlemen.
Carlson also looks forward to adding bovine embryo transfer technology to the procedures available at Valley Veterinary Center. Currently the practice is set up to implant previously frozen embryos, but plans to be able to flush cows in the future.
As Carlson gets more settled into her new role she will also be able to work with small animals. She says she loves all aspects of veterinarian medicine and is looking forward to working with Dr. Steve Benson, the small animal veterinarian as well.
Eventually Carlson plans to get involved in the community. She will be at the Cherokee County Fair this year busy writing health papers for the 4-H animals. She plans to work with 4-H and judging teams after she becomes reacquainted and readjusted to the community. She wants to get 4-H and community youth more involved and excited about their animals. Another goal she has is to help educate area youth about caring for their pets at home.
Her ultimate goal is to become a cattlewoman herself, buying her own cattle and raising them with her dad's, but that is a way down the road yet.