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HomeNewsMontana NewsMSU veterinary student eyes goal of serving her home state

MSU veterinary student eyes goal of serving her home state

By Reagan Cotton, MSU News Service

BOZEMAN – Morgan Radtke thought she wanted to be a doctor who treated humans, but the COVID-19 pandemic reduced the number of spaces for clinical shadowing in hospitals, leading her instead to intern in a veterinary clinic. The experience changed her life, reorienting her career ambitions, and now Radtke is a first-year student in the WIMU Regional Program in Veterinary Medicine at Montana State University.

Radtke was working toward a bachelor’s degree in exercise science at the University of Montana, where she also competed on the track and field team, when the pandemic began in 2020. Without an opportunity for hospital experience, she found herself back home in Drummond, working and learning in a veterinarian’s office.

“I really loved it. The practitioners there were super welcoming to me and made it a good experience. I realized I could see myself doing this,” said Radtke. “So, I applied to seven vet schools and was lucky enough to get into the WIMU program.”

Radtke completed her exercise science degree and began a master’s in business administration in the years that followed, all while taking advantage of an additional year of athletic eligibility awarded by the NCAA to make up for seasons canceled by COVID. This fall, she formally began her veterinary studies at MSU.

WIMU, housed in MSU’s College of Agriculture, gets its acronym from the four states it serves: Washington, Idaho, Montana and Utah. The cooperative program accepts students from each state every year – including a guaranteed 10 from Montana. The students complete their first year of studies in their respective states before completing their following three years of veterinary school together at Washington State University in Pullman.

Established in 2014, the WIMU program is relatively new but is already showing critical impact for its member states, said director Mark Quinn.

“This program provides a unique opportunity to train Montana students like Morgan in their first year of veterinary school, and is helping to address the need for rural veterinarians,” said Quinn. “Many of these students return to practice in Montana after earning their DVM degrees and, in some cases, specialty training.”

Radtke grew up on a cattle ranch in Drummond and has spent much of her life around livestock. When she arrived at MSU to begin her veterinary studies, she became involved in many ways beyond her course work. She is a member of MSU’s student chapter of the American Veterinary Medicine Association and in January earned a prestigious scholarship to attend that association’s Veterinary Leadership Conference in Chicago. Outside of her studies, she continues to apply her athletic prowess, having taken up trail running in Bozeman.

“There’s a lot of pride associated with this program. It’s really special to be a Montana student and get to stay and do a year of vet school in my home state,” Radtke said. “A lot of us want to return to Montana, too, so making it a full circle is a really special experience that not a lot of people get.”

Radtke said the conference she attended in January taught her about topics that aren’t traditionally thought of in a veterinary medicine context. Sessions highlighted topics such as emotional intelligence, leading effective meetings, legislative involvement and policy implementation. She said the leadership training is something she hopes to pass on to the other members of her WIMU cohort. One of the most striking things she noticed was the importance of being an effective communicator as a veterinary practitioner.

“Being more confident in my leadership abilities and what that can look like, even as a student, was a big takeaway for me,” she said.

From Alan Goldhahn’s point of view, Radtke is well on her way already. Goldhahn teaches first-year WIMU students at MSU, something he calls particularly rewarding due to the small and tight-knit student cohort.

“She’s really impressive academically, but her presence and maturity go beyond that,” he said. “You know that when she speaks, it’s usually something to listen to.”

The year WIMU students spend at MSU means they will carry a built-in community with them when they transition to Pullman. Though they’ll end up in different places and careers, Radtke said going through the program together creates an important bond.

She hopes to apply her business knowledge someday in owning her own practice, which she foresees as a mixed large-animal operation. Many rural communities are in deep need of local veterinarians, and she wants to be a part of filling that need. A breadth of skills will help, she said.

“I think the role of the veterinarian is changing, in the rural space especially,” she said. “Recognizing how a rural veterinarian can add value to people’s operations and even the relationships people have with their animals is something that’s exciting.”

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