Dr. Chris Carpenter was 11 years old when he decided that he wanted to become a veterinarian. “I was simply drawn to the profession by a love of animals and the desire to find a way that I could spend my life being around them and helping them,” says Carpenter. “What I remember most was how serious I was about this goal. I was going to become a veterinarian no matter what.”
Today, 20 years into his career as a vet, Dr. Carpenter has more than met his goal. Not only does he hold a bachelor’s degree in microbiology as well as a master’s degree in business, he is also a doctor of veterinary medicine who is licensed to practice in multiple states, as well as the director of the Companion Animal Parasitic Council, an organization that works to keep both animals and humans safe from parasitic diseases.
He is also a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association and the National Science Teachers Association. Basically, if it relates to animals, medicine, and science, there is a good change that Dr. Carpenter has had his hands in it. Although he has a very long resume, what is most impressive about him is his drive to not only succeed in his own career but also to help tweens realize their dreams of becoming veterinarians.
“The love of animals is a very powerful and motivating passion that germinates early in future veterinarians,” Dr. Carpenter explains. “With 65 percent of today’s current veterinarians having decided before the age of 13 that it was the career path they wanted to take, we need to take these tweens seriously. Veterinary medicine is a calling, and it is our job to provide our kids with the tools necessary to follow their dream.”
“But today’s tweens today face a quandary,” Dr. Carpenter goes on. “They know that they want to become a veterinarian, but at best the advice they get is to ‘study science and get animal experience.’ But how? How do they do that? Because of liability reasons, many veterinary clinics and even humane societies won’t let someone shadow or volunteer until they are at least 16 years old. So how can our aspiring vet tweens gain animal experience if they don’t have an outlet to be working with vets or animals?”
Dr. Carpenter was lucky to grow up in a family that encouraged his dream. “The believed in me and encouraged me,” he says. “I wanted to create something that would embody what they did for me, and encourage today’s aspiring veterinarians.”
And so he recently launched the site Vet Set Go and released a companion book by the same name, in an effort to give today’s tweens what he didn’t have when he was younger: a window into the world of veterinary medicine.
As Dr. Carpenter explains his journey, he is brought back to a time six years ago when he noticed how much his daughter and her generation explored their world via the Internet, specifically YouTube.
“With iPads being used in school and her ever-growing proficiency in navigating the Internet, I got an idea,” he says. “I started to think back to when I was a tween and so badly wanted to see exactly what veterinarians did as they practiced medicine, and it dawned on me that I could tape real vets practicing veterinary medicine and make the content available online for aspiring vets to view.”
“In hindsight, it was a crazy idea,” he admits. “While I was pretty sure that I could put together an informed story, I had never videotaped or edited film before.” But he didn’t let that stop him. “With my own money and on my own time, I went out and videotaped my colleagues.”
In doing so, Dr. Carpenter may be the very first person to bring what a vet really does to the kids who want to figure it all out.
“These future veterinarians are bottles of passion,” he says. “They just want to be around animals and talk to vets. I never would have spent my time on this if I thought that aspiring veterinarians already had the resources that they needed, but unfortunately the resources just aren’t there. These kids are making a decision based upon their passion and love for animals, and they are determined! They just needed someone to encourage them and show them how to get started.”
And that just what he did. Today, Vet Set Go is thriving, with tens of thousands of visitors and the Mom’s Choice Awards naming it as one of the best in family-friendly media. Dr. Carpenter couldn’t be happier, and it’s easy to see why. With features such as “The Community Section,” where vets and aspiring vets can share their photos and stories with each other, to “The Activities Section,” where tweens can search for volunteer opportunities and animal-related summer camps in their area, Dr. Carpenter has created a network of passionate people and a directory to further that passion.
As you continue through the site, you can stop to “Meet The Vets,” where tweens can watch the videos of vets, veterinary camps, and zoos that started it all for Dr. Carpenter. And a favorite of many site visitors is “The Science of Veterinary Medicine,” in which tweens are given an unfiltered view into what goes on behind the scenes in specific cases.
“These have surprised me in how popular they are,” says Dr. Carpenter. “These are the cases that I happened to see when I was filming the veterinarians, and I give the viewer a sort of virtual shadowing experience.”
Whether it’s the backstage access to a specific case drawing them in or the fact that they can literally hear all the background noises that are common in clinics across the country, kids are loving the site.
And as Dr. Carpenter has come to learn, so do their parents. “I learned something though this project,” he explains. “Parents and grandparents who are really invested in furthering the dreams of their aspiring vets want to give their tweens something that they can physically hold onto.”
And that is a neat sort of message, when you think about it — here is your dream, hold onto it. With that realization, Vet Set Go was released in hardcover this past January and is already a big hit.
With its colorful graphics and easy-to-follow layout, your eye is immediately drawn to the pages. The book gives tweens a roadmap on where to begin their journey to becoming a veterinarian. In chapters that detail everything from how to write a professional-looking letter to the vet they would like to shadow (and what they can expect if they get the opportunity), a step-by-step guide on fostering animals, and even a checklist for what they should look for in an animal-based summer camp, tweens learn how to take the first steps in turning their dreams into reality.
So, what’s next for Dr. Carpenter? Well, first off is loving on his Labradoodle Jackson, and second is to continue growing his network of matching practicing veterinarians with today’s aspiring veterinarians. “I would love to see them connect in ‘The Community Section,’” says Dr. Carpenter, “because the more dialog we have between the two, the better we can assist in the dreams of the younger generation. I never had a vet mentor while I was growing up, and it would be great if I could help today’s future vets have the one thing that I didn’t.”
One thing is for sure: The work that Dr. Carpenter is doing for today’s tweens are opening doors that have never been opened before.
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About the author: Eden Strong is a quirky young woman with a love for most animals with fur. Read her blog, It Is Not My Shame to Bear.