Back to School: Cornell Vet School Focus of Nat Geo WILD’s New Reality TV Series

Nat Geo WILD channel has a new series for us. We’ll go behind the scenes at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine in Ithaca, New York this fall and see how vet students learn, from the day they arrive on campus for the first time. It’s reality tv, vet school style. In fact, the show is named Vet School.

Nat Geo WILD loves veterinarians. And sometimes, it loves horses, too. We’ve had The Barefoot Vet, a.k.a. Aloha Vet, the late Dr. Scott Sims from Hawaii, who sadly died last month, and “The Yukon Vet”. And of course there’s The Incredible Dr. Pol

The new show about Cornell has lots of horses, but you’ll miss many interesting cats and dogs and cows and sheep if horses are the only thing that interest you. And the show makes it seem like the students spend all their time in clinics, when in reality, vet students are in the classroom for a great part of their day, especially in the early years. But the clinics are very friendly for the cameras.

The new first-year students will both entertain and educate us as they learn the basic skills of animal handling and veterinary procedures, like tipping a ewe to draw blood. Hint: with all that wool, you have to know where to aim the needle, because you can’t even see the skin.

So you want to be a vet? For some first-year students, vet school meant their first up-close experience with horses and cows. Other students had to learn to give equal time to all species. Lecturer Carolyn McDaniel VMD was their clinical instructor in several units featured on the first episodes of Vet School. (National Geographic photo)

Will this cream-of-the-crop crew crack under the pressure of first injections, squirmy patients and animals they’ve never seen before? 

Each week, viewers will witness the blood, sweat and tears that students shed over their patients. Viewers will have a front row seat for tasks including restraining animals, repairing a bone fracture in a horse’s leg, inserting a pacemaker into a dog and removing an abscess from a pet turkey. All in a day’s work for a Cornell vet student.

As with all reality shows, a few characters will be picked out from the crowd. In Vet School, the focus will be on three first-year students and three fourth-year students. A special guest star is Dr Carolyn McDaniel, lecturer at Cornell, who coaches the students through many of their clinical blocks and basic skills, such as handwashing, with humor and charm. 

Hannah Brodlie, Cristina Bustamante and Dan Cimino are first-year students who love animals and learning, but they are negotiating a steep learning curve on the road to becoming veterinarians. Hannah has worked in vet offices for years and wants nothing more than to be around animals all the time. Cristina is an international student from Colombia who looks forward to working with dogs, day in and day out. Dan hopes to specialize in surgery. 

Singen Elliott, Aziza Glass, and Aria Hill are fourth-year students who are about to begin their professional careers. Aziza still struggles with her emotional investment in patients, Aria continues to work harder than ever before, and Singen dreams of becoming a large-animal surgeon.

In the premiere episode on Saturday September 19 (10 pm Eastern, 9 pm Central), first-year student Dan Cimino gets an in-depth introduction to the chaos of the small-animal ER. The evening begins slowly, but before long there are two serious emergencies that require his participation.

Fourth-year student Aria Hill is rewarded with some hands-on work during surgery to remove 10 teeth from a cat. Fourth-year student Singen Elliott, meanwhile, is coached by an orthopedic surgeon who reminds him to treat the patient like the tiny kitten he is, not one of Singen’s beloved equine patients.

Cornell vet students (left to right) Cristina Bustamante, Aziza Glass, Hannah Brodlie, and Dan Cimino are headed toward careers in veterinary medicine. These four are featured prominently in the show, along with fourth year students Aria Hill and Singen Elliott, who is now an equine-specialist vet with Littleton Equine Medical Center (formerly Littleton Large Animal) in Colorado. Did the show help him get the position? Will their future clients recognize the students from the show?

Welcome to the world of Vet School, where students celebrate finishing an exam by sleeping for an hour before studying for the next one!

Dr. McDaniels shows the students a diagram of the horse’s airways as part of teaching them to auscult the patient. 

Vet School premieres Saturday, September 19, at 10/9c on Nat Geo WILD, which is a cable-only station. For more information on the show, visit

All still photos by National Geographic Channels/Lisa Tanzer

Vet School is produced by Thinkfactory Media for Nat Geo WILD. Thinkfactory Media executive vice president is Adam Reed, creative director is Adam Freeman and executive producer is Lisa Tanzer. For Nat Geo WILD, executive producer is Jenny Apostol, senior vice president of development and production is Janet Han Vissering, and executive vice president and general manager is Geoff Daniels.




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