VetCat Graduation Stories: Casandra Fiehtner

June 17, 2024

Celebrating our VetCat Journeys: Where They Are Going

A woman wears black and gray doctoral regalia and smiles.

VetCats at the University of Arizona College of Veterinary Medicine are finishing up their third year and preparing to take all their learning into their communities. As August approaches, our graduating doctoral students are looking toward the future and firming up career plans. Graduating student Casandra Fiehtner discovered her passion for emergency medicine during a clinical rotation at Route 66 Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Center in Albuquerque, NM, and has secured a position there, which she will begin after graduation. Casandra discovered new ambitions during her time at Arizona and found encouragement from the faculty throughout her studies. We asked her to share her insights about her journey.

A woman dressed in doctoral regalia walks up the steps to Old Main, with her back to the camera.

On the Road to Route 66

What do you plan to do after graduation?

CF: I will be completing a 6-month ER focused mentorship program at a small animal ER and Critical Care Center in Albuquerque, NM.

Do you know where you will be working after graduation? 

CF: I'm thrilled to share that I'll be joining the team at Route 66 Veterinary Emergency & Critical Care Center. During my rotation there, I was captivated by the environment and the wealth of knowledge I gained in just four short weeks. My experience was truly unforgettable, and I'm eager to continue learning and contributing to such a remarkable hospital (P.S. future 3rd years, come visit me - we love teaching!).

How did your educational experiences influence your career path?

CF: Throughout my time at UA, I never encountered a professor who discouraged my ambitions. Instead, I consistently felt encouraged to pursue my interests. UA's program fosters an environment where you have the freedom to become an exceptional and capable practitioner. It's not a program for the faint-hearted; it requires self-drive and determination. However, what's truly remarkable is that this drive can propel you to any destination you choose. For me that looks like pursuing emergency medicine.

What aspect of your future opportunities excites you the most? 

CF: I'm thrilled about the opportunity to further develop my surgical skills in the ER. While I've long considered specializing in surgery, I'm aware of the intense competition for residency spots in that field. Ultimately, I've come to realize that specializing may not align with my life plan. However, this doesn't mean I can't perform more specialized procedures with the right mentorship and training.

Clinical Year Confidence

Casandra gained greater confidence in her surgery skills as she navigated her clinical year. Her experiences showed her where her strengths lie, enabling her to pursue a surgical internship. Her clinical experiences at Route 66 Veterinary Emergency & Critical Care Center allowed her to get to know her future internship's environment and doctors, setting her up for a seamless transition after graduation.

Can you share how your clinical year experiences have equipped you for your veterinary career?

CF: I had the privilege of rotating through several hospitals where I was granted autonomy to truly hone my skills as a doctor. The trust bestowed upon me by experienced physicians allowed me to develop not only confidence in my medical knowledge but also in my surgical abilities.

Black and white image of a woman in doctoral regalia standing in front of foliage and smiling.

If you secured a position where you completed a clinical rotation, how did your clinical experience at this location prepare you to work there?

CF: My mentors were pleasantly surprised by my ability to work through cases independently as only a 3rd-year student. I received regular compliments on my surgical skills and clinical case knowledge, which were further strengthened during this rotation. I was offered an intern position during my time at this hospital, but initially turned it down because I had already accepted an internship at another hospital in Arizona. However, after my rotation ended, I couldn't shake the feeling that this hospital was exactly what I was looking for. I quickly contacted them to see if the offer still stood, and I haven't looked back since. When you know, you know!

Wisdom from Casandra

After three years of veterinary school, Casandra has useful insights to share with future students. 

What advice would you give to a first-year student? 

CF: Some of the most invaluable hands-on learning experiences I encountered came from participating in club-hosted events outside of class. Seize every opportunity available to you, but remember to prioritize self-care and avoid burning out.