An Insider’s Look into VCA Valley Animal Hospital and Emergency Center

Nov. 17, 2023

Clinical sites like VCA Valley Animal Hospital and Emergency Center in Tucson play a pivotal role in shaping our students’ veterinary careers.

Exterior of VCA Valley Animal Hospital and Emergency Center

During the final year of our Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program, students hone their clinical and professional skills at various clinical sites nationwide rather than in a centralized teaching hospital. Clinical sites like VCA Valley Animal Hospital and Emergency Center in Tucson play a pivotal role in shaping our students’ veterinary careers. We spoke to Trent Frier, Communications Manager, and Dr. Christopher Coverdill, Assistant Medical Director, to explore why VCA Valley is an excellent destination for veterinary students seeking to develop General Practice, Specialty, or Emergency skills. 

Dental Suite at VCA Valley Animal Hospital

Dental Suite at VCA Valley Animal Hospital

A Vibrant Learning Environment 

At VCA Valley, growth opportunities abound. VCA Valley treats avians, cats, dogs, pocket pets, rabbits, reptiles, and other exotic animals, offering a unique and varied caseload for students who complete a rotation here. With around 180 staff members, it might seem like a large operation, but the cohesive culture sets it apart. 

One of the site’s primary goals is to nurture students’ ambitions and provide them with hands-on experience they can carry into their futures. Of the site’s commitment to supporting students, Trent shared, 

“I try to check in at least every other day and see how things are going. What did they do? What's the coolest thing they saw? Did they feel comfortable doing that? Did the doctor feel comfortable providing them with an experience that they have not gotten elsewhere? We always try to figure out a way to leave a lasting impression with the students. It's nice to have that opportunity there for those students. We enjoy just being a part of that learning experience and building this next generation of vets.” 

VCA Valley ensures that students receive individualized experiences, with the chance to gain exposure to areas of particular interest, such as emergency, internal medicine, general practice, and more. 

Opportunities Abound at VCA Valley Animal Hospital 

Right-side image of a new CT scanner.

Dr. Christopher Coverdill offered deeper insights into the student experience at VCA Valley. As an approved preceptor and Assistant Medical Director, Dr. Coverdill is responsible for supervising VetCats who complete clinical rotations here. He expressed the joy and satisfaction he finds in meeting and mentoring students, sharing, 

“My favorite [trait] to see in students is always just enthusiasm. I really like seeing the students that are enthusiastic and obviously care about their education and building the foundations that they're going to use the rest of their career. I'm also a big fan of proactive students. I like that because it shows not only the enthusiasm, but the kind of attitude that I think you need to succeed as a veterinarian. You can't be afraid to do things and make mistakes and all that. You just have to jump in and go at it.” 

Dr. Coverdill stressed the importance of students jumping in, being willing to learn and make mistakes, and subsequently growing as professionals. 

Dr. Coverdill also works with recently graduated students completing a yearlong internship at VCA Valley. VetCats interested in completing an internship can apply to be matched with VCA Valley, allowing them greater opportunities to develop their skills in a professional setting. The small animal rotating internship program provides a year of intensive training across multiple areas, including General Practice, Emergency, Internal Medicine, and Surgery. Interns also gain experience at Reid Park Zoo and the Hermitage Cat Shelter, ensuring a well-rounded view of the veterinary profession. 

Having completed the internship program himself in 2015, Dr. Coverdill is uniquely equipped to guide and mentor students and graduates professionally. Many former interns return as Associates, a testament to the program’s success in preparing veterinarians for their careers. 

A veterinary student examines a Shiba Inu dog.

VCA Valley’s Values in Action 

Beyond clinical education, VCA Valley places a strong emphasis on its values. Trent highlights the clinic’s dedication to mental health, noting that they strive to create a supportive environment where students feel safe and secure. Melissa Citro, Hospital Manager, shared, 

“The core values that also extend to the students are quality, freedom, efficiency and responsibility. Here at VCA Valley Animal Hospital, we value our ability to provide world class medicine while providing the feeling of hometown care.” 

This dedication to care is evident in everything from VCA Valley’s role in our students’ clinical education to their commitment to providing excellent medical care to a diverse range of species and needs. 

A Bright Future for Veterinary Students 

In a profession where dedication, enthusiasm, and hands-on experiences are essential, VCA Valley Animal Hospital and Emergency Center models these qualities and seeks ways to provide students helpful learning opportunities. With a commitment to nurturing future veterinarians through diverse clinical experiences and a supportive culture, VCA Valley provides third-year students with a place to learn and thrive. As the demand for veterinarians continues to grow, sites like VCA Valley play a vital role in shaping the next generation of veterinarians.