Greg Lewbart ’81 always knew that he wanted to be a veterinarian. It wasn’t until he took a Gettysburg College course on marine biology and learned about invertebrates, though, that his path really became clear for him.
“Dr. Robert Barnes was my faculty advisor, and he really had the single most impact on my professional career, even to this day,” Lewbart said.
“He opened my eyes to a part of the animal kingdom that I hadn’t thought a lot about – invertebrates. That’s what I did my research on in grad school, and that defined my path in vet school. Because of some of the decisions I made with my background, I was able to piece together the kind of a career that allowed me to be a vet for dolphins, fish, turtles, all kinds of aquatic wildlife.”
As an alumnus now teaching aquatic animal medicine at the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine, he feels that it is his turn to facilitate the types of defining experiences for other Gettysburg students that Dr. Barnes was able to facilitate for him. He does this by hosting externships with the Turtle Rescue Team, a sort of emergency hospital and rehabilitation center for turtles, reptiles, and amphibians.
Externships are week-long experiences for students to get immersed into the working world. According to Tiffany Kurzawa, assistant director of the Center for Career Development, “Externships are valuable career learning experiences in that they provide the opportunity for students to see first-hand what the day-to-day work activities and responsibilities are in various professions and industries.”
When Lewbart heard of the externship program, he felt that it would fit nicely into the atmosphere of the Turtle Rescue Team.
“We have this ongoing hospital for turtles, and the vet students who run it have the time to mentor these undergrads in a way that I might not always be able to guarantee, and they really need the extra help. This was the first time we had an organized program from another college work with our hospital, and the Gettysburg students really rallied to the cause.”
During this past summer, Lewbart hosted experiences for a few Gettysburg College students. While aquatic animal medicine might not be their end goal, two of the students agreed that it was a formative experience and has definitely impacted their prospective career paths.
Mary Pearce ’16 is a biology and music double major and a member of the Pre-Vet Club, where she first heard of the externship opportunity. Wanting to explore exotic animal medicine as a possible career choice, she contacted the Center for Career Development and applied for the program.
She worked at a veterinary clinic that summer in addition to her externship experience, and really enjoyed the combination. “I was working in a vet clinic, but I wasn’t able to practice a lot of the things that I was able to in my externship. It was all hands-on, they treated me as a member of the team right away. When I went back to my internship, I was really able to broaden my capabilities because of the experience I had during my externship.”
She recalls one moment that really defined her experience and cemented her interest in animal rescue. A severely dehydrated iguana had been brought into the hospital. “I was amazed by the process. We took the iguana in, figured out what was wrong and had to very quickly determine how to save it. Seeing the team bring an animal back to life, it really was amazing.”
This hands-on experience not only gave her the opportunity to take on more work in her internship, but it also made her realize her interest in the rescue aspect of animal medicine.
Marisa Hadley ’16 is an environmental studies major with a concentration in marine biology. Applying to the externship program was a spur of the moment decision for her after she had heard about it from a friend.
“I always had a passion for wildlife, but I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do with it. When I heard that I got the externship experience, I was really excited because I was given the opportunity to explore that passion.”
For her, this was a great experience in that it opened her eyes to opportunities that she didn’t know had existed before. While she feels that veterinary school is not her path, it did solidify her interest in marine biology and show her ways to combine her passion for wildlife into a career path.
One of Hadley’s most vivid memories of her experience was the moment a snapping turtle was brought in to the hospital. It had been hit by a car and needed immediate attention. “The team gave me the anesthetics and said, ‘Okay, go!’ And so I was responsible for keeping the turtle breathing for the next hour as they operated on it.”
She also had the opportunity to perform pre-release examinations on injured sea turtles. The turtles were housed in a facility along the North Carolina coast until they were properly rehabilitated. Having never seen a sea turtle before, she said that working so closely with them was an exciting experience.
As for Lewbart, he is looking forward to hosting this experience again next year. “The students were all enthusiastic; it made for a textbook experience. This is the kind of program that has huge potential – with the right environment, the right mentor, and the right students, it can be really great.”
Parents and alumni looking to get involved should consider participating in the College's Career Connector Challenge. To date, alumni and parents have been responsible for providing over 3,000 career opportunities and work-related experiences for exploration since 2010. The Center for Career Development is hoping to add 2,000 more opportunities by 2015. Hosting an externship is just one aspect of this challenge. If you are looking to host an externship or participate in other forms of volunteer opportunities, contact the Center for Career Development at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Students interested in the externship program can look for advertisements beginning in January. Applications are due in February 2014.
Posted: Mon, 2 Dec 2013