A Message From Nathanael Oster, VMD (V’12), MBA
Chair Penn Vet Alumni Board
Since joining the veterinary industry in 2015, many students (and basically all of my friends) have asked what I do. The fact is, what I do, and particularly how I do it, has changed markedly over the past two years, and has provided me an opportunity to reflect on what (and how) we do things as alumni of Penn Vet.
As an industry veterinarian — my official position is Senior Professional Services Veterinarian at Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health USA Inc. — one of my responsibilities is to attend — or “work” — various conferences across the country. You will have seen many like me answering questions alongside sales representatives in the exhibitor hall, moderating continuing education classes, or speaking on topics in my area of expertise.
I particularly enjoy the opportunity these conferences provide to catch up with friends, students, and alumni — and, of course, to make new and engaging acquaintances. For example, it was at a conference several years ago that I first met Dr. Liz Bales, V’00, who now serves with me on the Alumni Board, and who thoughtfully penned the Alumni Board message in the spring/summer 2021 Bellwether issue. On further recollection, it was also at a conference when I was a student over ten years ago that I met one of my future bosses, who also became my sponsor (advisor vs. mentor vs. sponsor), and is now a great friend. And as the mental list continues, I realize one could argue that conferences have worked for me as much as I have worked at them.
Early this September, for the first time in almost 18 months, I attended a conference in person when I flew to Las Vegas to work the Western Veterinary Conference. This time around, I was thrilled when I met a wonderful Penn Vet alumna, who now has a beautiful practice — and to my delight — a growing interest in Penn Vet alumni activities. Returning from that engaging experience, I find myself thinking a lot about how we veterinarians and Penn Vet alumni stay connected currently.
To be sure, it was wonderful to be together in person. But there is a silver lining with the pandemic: we have learned to stay connected from afar. We no longer rely solely on in-person get-togethers. Through virtual alumni events alone — 33, in fact — the alumni board has connected with 512 individual alumni and 136 students.
Although many of us are feeling “virtual fatigue” in our lives and work, and sensing that something is indeed lost in an online setting, alumni have nevertheless become even more connected through these events, not only across the United States, but also across the world, from England and Switzerland, to Australia, and beyond. This would not have been possible with face-to-face meetings alone. As Dr. Bales did in the spring, I too encourage you to follow us (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn), join us, and become involved in alumni events as we continue to plan more virtual events this year — and begin to move into a more hybrid environment in the future.