The University of Georgia
Vargas, Julie, Velchoff

UGA's Amazing Students

Julie Velchoff Vargas

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December 13, 2009

Julie Velchoff Vargas knows horses. From treating them as an emergency surgery technician in the large animal teaching hospital of the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine, to researching the anti-parasitic effect of feeding certain grasses, to riding them as part of the UGA Equestrian Team, Julie really knows horses. In addition to presenting an abstract in Washington D.C. for the American Association of Veterinary Parasitologists, Julie has traveled to outer Mongolia to train veterinarians. She worked as a student lab assistant in Dr. Ray Kaplan’s parasitology lab in the College of Veterinary Medicine. After graduating in spring, she will complete a year long equine internship rotating through medicine and surgery at Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital of Lexington, Ky., the official equine hospital and veterinary partner of the 2010 World Equestrian Games.

Expected graduation:

Spring 2009

Degree objective:

Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine

University highlights, achievements and awards:

During my senior year of clinical rotations, I spent four weeks in outer Mongolia working with programs. The concept of the program was to train veterinarians in the remote areas of Mongolia and stock their clinics with necessary drugs and supplies. In Mongolia, horses are far more than a luxury. They serve as transportation, food, wealth, and diversion. The experience was profound and I hope to continue to use my knowledge of veterinary medicine for the greater good here in the United States and abroad. 

I was chosen as freshman student of the year in 2003 by the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and went on to receive several other scholarships for outstanding presence as a junior in the department of animal and dairy sciences, service to the community, leadership, and GPA. I received a research travel grant awarded by American Association of Veterinary Parasitologists in 2007.

While a part of the UGA Equestrian Team, I received the Equestrian Academic Athletic Scholarship based on academic achievement and commitment to the Equestrian Team and the 2004 Roundtable Athlete Award for top academics.

Hometown:

Macon, Ga

High School:

Westside High School

Current Employment:

For the first three years if veterinary school, I worked as a student lab assistant in Dr. Ray Kaplan’s parasitology lab in the College of Veterinary Medicine. I was an administrative assistant for the US FAMACHA program, a widely used method for worm control in sheep and goats. I have helped conduct local workshops to educate Athens area producers about the detrimental effects of excessive dewormer use.

I have also worked with Dr. Kaplan on several research projects. Anti-parasitic drug resistance is a serious concern faced by the equine industry with few solutions available. My first project with Dr. Kaplan explored the advantages of using combined drugs to combat internal parasite infestation and resistance. In 2007, I had the pleasure of presenting an abstract in Washington D.C. for the American Association of Veterinary Parasitologists. The abstract was for a pilot study investigating the anti-parasitic effect of feeding sericea lespedeza hay (a grass readily grown in the infertile soil of the southeast) to horses.

During net school, I would moonlight as an emergency surgery technician in the large animal teaching hospital of the vet school.

I chose to attend UGA because...

...as a Georgia resident and grateful HOPE scholarship recipient who was looking for the fast track to veterinary school, the Animal Science Department at the University of Georgia was my ticket. I was coming to undergrad with a comprehensive list of experiences with small animals and horses. I needed experience with swine, poultry, cattle, goats and sheep. Classes such as introduction to animal science, animal nutrition, and animal practicum offered husbandry, science, and experience all neatly wrapped up in a single major.

My favorite things to do on campus are...

... to wander the Tate Student Center’s outdoor common area between classes. Every interest group, political club, religious and anti-religious sector, rioters and petitioners converge here, the geographic center of campus and home to a most fantastic scene any day of the week.

When I have free time, I like...

...to take pottery classes at Good Dirt located downtown. My life revolves around animals and so often it is refreshing to get involved in something totally different. I’ve enjoyed classes varying from wheel thrown pottery to glazing techniques, sourdough bread making workshops to extruded clay.

The craziest thing I've done is...

The semester before veterinary school, I found an ad on the Internet for a nanny position in Madrid, Spain. I boarded a plane on New Year’s Eve and took a leap of faith that I was not falling into the hands of an Internet scam. By the grace of God, the family turned out to be amazing, fun-loving people and my experience was life changing. I wouldn’t recommend my method for attaining a job overseas but I would urge every college grad to travel at some point in his or her life.

My favorite place to study is...

... Cups, a coffee shop off of Barnett Shoals. I’ll order a slice of Cecilia’s caramel cake and rekindle the art of how to study…the right way.

My favorite professor is...

Dr. Ray Kaplan, parasitologist and assistant professor at the veterinary school has been my mentor/employer since the days of undergraduate work. He has offered unwavering support in each and every one of my academic endeavors. He has assisted me in attaining research funds and travel grants, and entrusted me with great responsibility. One particular research project required that I use Dr. Kaplan’s truck to transport a 1000 lb. round bale of hay. Upon return from the trip, I had to report somber news that the hay had severely damaged the truck’s bed cover. To my surprise he lightly retorted, “No problem, it can be fixed.”

If I knew I could not fail, I would...

...devote my career to developing ergonomic and affordable limb prostheses for horses.

After graduation, I plan to...

... complete a year-long equine internship at Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital of Lexington, Ky. At Rood & Riddle, I will rotate through medicine and surgery. Not to mention that Rood and Riddle will be the official equine hospital and veterinary partner of the 2010 World Equestrian Games. With that experience, I hope to make a decision as to the pursuit of future specialization in surgery, medicine, or even sports medicine.

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be...

...Herschel Walker, former UGA football running back, riding Jack, one of our equestrian team horses. For such a powerful man he appeared a bit apprehensive about the whole riding experience.