Mikayla McCormick

Future Veterinarian

September, 1st 2023


Article credits

University of Idaho

By Amy Calabretta

A desire to gain more experience working with large animals led Mikayla McCormick on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. McCormick spent two weeks during summer 2023 shadowing veterinarians in Florence, Italy, immersing herself in Italian culture while working at animal rescues and rehabilitation centers.


A routine email from the University of Idaho’s Pre-Veterinary Club alerted McCormick to the Doctors in Italy Fellowship program and she decided to take a chance. McCormick, a senior from Windsor, California studying animal and veterinary science: pre-veterinary option, selected the Florence option because of its focus on livestock animals.

Mikayla and her shadowing companions getting up close and personal with these majestic horses in the Tusan hills.

“I wanted more hands-on experience with large animals,” she said. “I wanted to gain more experience around equine because I don’t have any substantial experience. It was a good opportunity to get my foot in there and get some experience.”


McCormick spent five hours each day observing six different veterinarians as they provided care to a variety of animal species at LIPU Animal Clinic, Rifugio Ohana and the Italian Horse Protection center. Although the program is marketed as a shadowing experience, she was thrilled at the hands-on opportunities that the students were allowed to participate in.

Mikayla completed the Pre-Vet Program

Florence, Italy

  • 20+ shadowing hours per week
  • Learn about 20+ species
  • Discover 2 animal rescues
  • 24-hour on-site support

“I went in with the mindset that it was going to be just watching, which I was fine with, but we did vaccines, blood draws, there was a dental specialist that came in to do the donkey’s dental work and we got to feel what she was feeling inside their mouth,” she said. “It was a truly amazing hands-on experience.”


Four students participated in the Florence program which allowed for more personal interaction with the veterinarians and the managers of the animal facilities. McCormick took advantage of the intimate setting, asking questions and volunteering to help where needed. While she was able to gain new knowledge and work with animals she hadn’t in the past, the biggest takeaway for McCormick was seeing how the veterinarians interacted with the animals and their caregivers.

Mikayla examines the condition of a horse's teeth while guided by an equine dentist.

“I was changed emotionally through the experience. Some of the animals at the sanctuaries came from abusive homes,” she said. “Where we were at was non-profit and strictly donation and the vets were so selfless with the way they provided care. That selflessness was something I gained, and I want to apply that to becoming a vet, to really care for animals and their owners as well.”


The program fee of $5,000 was money well spent in McCormick’s opinion.


“It wasn’t cheap, but at the same time you were getting experiences that you don’t get in the U.S. It was worth every penny,” she said.

All in a day's work! Preparing fecal counts on donkey feces.

Have questions? Connect with our fellows!

Send a question directed to our alumni and you’ll hear back from them.


In the spotlight

Get to know the Doctors in Italy Fellowship Alumni

Eliana Diaz-Aceituno future doctor from James Madison University shadowed doctors in Italy

Eliana Diaz-Aceituno

James Madison University

"In Italy, the doctor and patient have more of a personal relationship than here in the U.S."

Gillian Gaynor Future Doctor from University of Notre Dame Shadowing Doctors in Genoa, Italy

Gillian Gaynor

University of Notre Dame

When I was at Oxford, I also volunteered at a hospital in England, I wanted to get another perspective on a different healthcare system.

Nthabeleng MacDonald Future Doctor From Gallaudet University Shadowing Doctors in Rome, Italy

Nthabeleng MacDonald

Gallaudet University

"There are not many deaf doctors in the world right now, and I want to fill that gap"