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Credit: Julio Sosa

The final year of veterinary school can be stressful enough, especially at a high-pressure school like Penn — but imagine doing it all under the watchful eye of a camera. 

In February, Animal Planet announced that it is producing “Penn Vet,” a new documentary series that will focus on the final year of veterinary school for six Penn Vet students. The show will follow the students throughout their training and classes, and stay with them up until graduation as they transition towards working as a veterinarian in the real world.

“Senior students are learning in a safe, teaching environment how to become doctors. They’re months away from being licensed veterinarians,” Joan Hendricks, the dean of the Vet School said. “They’re at the point of their education where we’re taking the training wheels off the bicycle and standing back as worried parents watching them do it on their own. So that’s really what the company wanted to catch — that process.”

Last year, a pilot of a show following the same premise was filmed at Penn Vet, but wasn't pursued further. Hendricks said this has happened quite often since she has become dean.

“We fairly ritually have people who want to put together a pilot for one thing or another and they usually think it’s going to be a series,” Hendricks said. “At least four or five times in the ten years I’ve been dean we’ve had a company that wants to film us.”

Soon after filming the pilot, the school was told that Animal Planet was interested in picking it up. All the students in the pilot had already graduated, so the show was recast.  To find the six students to focus on, the network hosted auditions.

“They wanted people that can talk with poise about their feelings, I presume, and that’s not everybody,” Hendricks said.

Hendricks added that she is hoping that this show will change the how the public views veterinarians.

“I think generally, while the public has a positive impression of veterinarians, it’s a source of constant anguish to veterinarians that people think we’re just nice," Hendricks said. “Students will routinely say they just can’t believe people don’t even realize veterinary medicine is [a] graduate doctoral degree; they think it’s a short course you take online or something. As a dean, I really want us to get our story out.”

The show started filming on Feb. 22. The release date has not yet been announced, but will likely be some time this fall.

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