Love of Veterinary Science “Stemmed” from Science Class

Dr. Katie Lang gets supplies out of her vet truck.

Dr. Katie Lang gets supplies out of her vet truck.

From the time she was 10 years old, Dr. Katie Lang dreamed of becoming a veterinarian.

Katie grew up in the city limits of Rock Island, Illinois. A love of animals was fostered by her family’s pets (parakeets, guinea pigs, hamsters, betas, and dogs); trips to the zoo; visits to her cousins’ farm; and a stay at Girl Scout Horse Camp.

“Science has always come easy to me and was my favorite subject,” says Katie. “I still remember how fascinating I found learning about basic eye color genetics in my seventh grade science class.”

A fascination for genetics stemmed into studying animal genetics. Katie’s parents encouraged her to pursue her dreams of becoming a veterinarian. Her mom recommended that Katie attend an agriculture-based community college to get more hands-on experience with horses and livestock.

Katie attended Black Hawk College East Campus in Galva, Illinois. In an animal science, she castrated a bull for the first time. She transferred to Illinois State where she earned a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Biology. She then went to vet school at Iowa State University where she decided during her fourth year of studies to focus on large animal medicine.

It’s not uncommon for Dr. Katie Lang’s daughter, Emma, to go along on vet calls. Emma loves animals as much as her mother.

It’s not uncommon for Dr. Katie Lang’s daughter, Emma, to go along on vet calls. Emma loves animals as much as her mother.

As an associate veterinarian in a mixed animal practice in Brooklyn, Iowa, Dr. Lang sees dogs, cats, horses, cattle, sheep and goats during a typical day.

“I really prefer the diversity of working with both large and small animals,” she explains. “I might treat cats and dogs inside during the morning, and then spend my afternoon outside vaccinating cattle, delivering calves or doing pregnancy checks on cows.”

“Being a working mom is a balancing act,” explains Dr. Lang. “My daughter has been going on farm calls with me since she was 6 months old. Now we call them family farm calls. My husband sits in the front seat of the truck, and my daughter sits in the back seat when we go out to make after-hours calls to treat sick animals or deliver calves, lambs or kid.”

Katie is glad her seven-year-old daughter, Emma, is being raised on her husband’s family’s farm. She says her husband, Cade, is the hardest working man she knows. He has a cow-calf operation and a heifer replacement program to raise replacement heifers for his family dairy. Cade works seven days a week at the family dairy plus raises row crops with his dad and brother.

With role models like Dr. Lang and Cade, it’s no wonder that Emma enjoys caring for animals. She has a horse named Ebony, a 19-year-old Quarter Horse that was her mom’s first horse; four dogs named Estrella, Huck, Herschel and Lexi; two goats named Hugs and Loves; and two cats named Herbie and Ninja Kitty.

“Watching Emma interact with the animals is one of my favorite things,” says Katie. “I had to learn animal handling techniques as an adult, but these techniques come naturally to kids raised on farms.”

Replacement dairy heifers that Dr. Lang raises at her house

Replacement dairy heifers that Dr. Lang raises at her house

Dr. Lang is proof positive that good teachers and mentors can help you lead a successful career in agriculture, even if you don’t have agriculture in your background.

“I would tell any girl interested in ag – no matter what her background is – that she can achieve anything if she works hard. Find good teachers and learn from them. If you want to become a vet, start shadowing one as early as possible.”

Job shadows allow students to get an insider’s look at a specific career. Another way to encourage students to pursue careers in agriculture, as well as other careers that involve science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) are programs often offered through 4-H and Extension, as well as through some local schools.

“STEM programs are great because they give young minds an opportunity to see science in action,” says Dr. Lang. “Another great way to foster a kid’s love for science is by visiting museums. We also search kids’ science experiments online and try them at home.”

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