Internship FAQs

Thank you for your interest in an internship at Veterinary Specialty Center! Below is a list of the most common questions we get about our rotating internship.

Why choose a Veterinary Specialty Center small animal rotating internship?

If you are looking for a well-rounded internship that will prepare you for almost everything you’ll encounter throughout your career, then Veterinary Specialty Center is for you! Founded in 1984 and with over 25 years of hosting interns, we will provide you with everything you need to move onto specialty internships, residencies, successful emergency and general practice careers. How? By investing in our team and facility. We utilize the latest technology and equipment and have the highest ratio of doctors to technicians anywhere so that you can focus on practicing the best medicine possible and learning everything you can.

One of the great aspects of our hospital, because we are privately owned, is the freedom it allows us to apply to our internship program.  We do not have to adhere to corporate policy or academic regulations.  We can be flexible in our approach to each intern.  There is not an official, set time-line for interns to meet.  Also, our program is built around, and for, the interns.  It is completely supplemental to our staff doctors. We do not use our interns as stand-alone ER doctors, and they are never left alone in the hospital (even on the overnights).

Why is the internship important to Veterinary Specialty Center?

Our internship program allows VSC the opportunity to give back (core value) to the industry, by helping to shape new veterinarians and give them a solid foundation to build on toward a successful career. Our culture is extremely collaborative and is the perfect environment for fostering learning. All of our doctors work at VSC because they love practicing cutting-edge medicine and sharing their knowledge. We strive to prepare our interns to be ready for anything and full of confidence when they leave our hospital.

Can I set up an in-person interview after I apply for the internship?

While we usually encourage applicants to visit VSC, we will not be having visitors during COVID. Under normal circumstances, however, we give all applicants the option to either interview by phone, virtually or in-person.

Since we cannot have visitors due to COVID-19 protocols, we have uploaded some pictures of our hospital.


Are candidates required to have a GoToMeeting interview? What if a candidate does not have access to GoToMeeting?

All intern candidates that wish to be considered for ranking and are selected for interview, must participate in an interview with us during January (unless special circumstances exist and other arrangements are made). Even if you have previously visited VSC, externed, or even worked here as a team member, this time is required for consideration. We prefer GoToMeeting. However, we can also use another video chat service such as FaceTime, Zoom, etc, should you not have access to GoToMeeting.

What if a candidate is not available during the times that interviews are being conducted?

Interviews will be conducted during designated weeks in January with availability on weekdays and weekends. A Calendly invitation with the available times to interview will be first come, first served. If you are completely unable to be available during these times and are invited to interview, you should respond to the invite to let the internship committee know. We will do our best to find a time before ranks are due to set up a GoToMeeting interview with you and at least two members of the selection committee. This should only be done if it is impossible to set up an interview during the preset times.

Who will attend my interview from the VSC team?

We typically have three to four members of the VSC team at each interview, which consists of specialists and members of our admin and management teams. Each VSC team member in your interview will have reviewed your application packet in advance.

What will the format of the GoToMeeting interview be?

The first part will consist of introductions and a brief overview of our internship program.

The second part will consist basic interview questions to determine your fit at VSC. We will go through some questions to see how well you can integrate into the VSC team. This is vitally important as we believe teamwork is as important as practicing high-quality medicine.

The final portion of the interview will be a chance for you to ask any questions you have about VSC and/or the internship.

When will interview invitations be sent out?

As applications will be evaluated against our interview selection criteria. We will send interview invitations out using Calendly on a rolling basis. However, because applications need to be complete or near-complete, do not be discouraged if you do not immediately receive an invitation. Often, we are waiting on transcripts or recommendations to make decisions to send out the invites. Candidates will be able to schedule their interview at any time using Calendly after receiving the interview request, but they will be first come, first served. However, all interviews will be held during the month of January.

Is there an advantage to applying early within the application window in order to secure an interview spot?

During the application window, applications are reviewed as they are submitted. We attempt to extend interviews to as many candidates as possible. We believe that a strong fit for our internship cannot be determined on paper.

All applicants that meet our minimum criteria will automatically receive an interview invitation. If your application does not meet this threshold, it will be further reviewed to determine eligibility for an interview. Once the application window closes, all applications that have not already received an interview request will be reviewed. At this time, depending on the total applicant pool, our criteria may be tightened or loosened for interviews. We will also take a second look at any prior applications that have not yet been sent an interview request based on the final criteria given the interview slots still available.

Therefore, there is likely a very slight advantage to applying early to secure an interview spot as the criteria may tighten based on the final pool of candidates. Also, if you apply early and are selected, you will have the advantage of having more options available for interview time slots. However, we will open more interview spots if we have a large pool of late applicants.

I am a foreign student. Will VSC sponsor visas?

Unfortunately, we are unable to consider candidates that would require any type of visa sponsorship. Candidates must be able to obtain a valid Illinois state license and must submit verification of their legal right to work in the United States before the start of the internship.

Does VSC see exotics?

VSC will see/stabilize exotic patients through our urgent care service and then refer them to local exotics practitioners. We do not routinely perform wellness care for exotic pets.

Where do interns typically live during their internship? Isn’t Chicago expensive?

Chicago can certainly be a bit more expensive than some other places in the country, however, our interns are able to find great housing options throughout the Lake County and Cook County areas. Some interns will find apartments very close to the clinic, while others will live in any of the neighboring suburbs. Many affordable communities are located in and around Buffalo Grove, Illinois.

While many interns find housing close by to the hospital, some choose to live a little further away due to family housing or other reasons. The interns schedule and on-call requirements are described below. However, as long as the intern can make it into the hospital within 45-60 minutes when on call, they will not have a problem with their housing choice.

What is orientation like for new interns?

Structured orientation for the interns consists of about one and a half weeks in June. During this time, the interns will go through basic new team orientation/human resources functions and get information about how the hospital works– meeting with various team members, learning the computer system, and other important information. This typically takes a few days. Once the formal orientation is complete, the new interns will spend approximately two weeks shadowing various departments and the outgoing class, when possible, to better grasp workflow.

Do interns get assigned a mentor during their internship? How is that determined? What is the structure of that mentorship relationship?

Yes! We have a variety of mentorships for our interns.  Our main mentor, that all of the interns share, is our clinical pathologist, Dr. Ashlee Urbasic.  Dr. Urbasic is an experienced clinician and specialist for whom the interns can receive advice, direction, counseling, and support.  She is “outside” the admin and supervisor aspect of the program.  However, if we know an intern has particular career goals, we will also pair them with a mentor in their chosen specialty. We also have an in-house licensed professional counselor that meets with the interns on a regular basis and, of course as the program director, Dr. Herring is always available and also regularly meets with the interns. Additionally, in each rotation, interns are being directly mentored by specialists, emergency doctors and general practitioners in order to strengthen their clinical skills.

Mentors/Mentees meet regularly to help guide them through the year. Preparation for specialty internship/residency match (if applicable), as well as other skills and knowledge development will be enhanced through this relationship. Our mentors are keen to help our interns succeed both during their internship and beyond.

Do interns have primary case responsibility?

Yes! Interns have primary case responsibility on their overnight emergency receiving blocks (with a staff doctor for guidance). On emergency/critical care blocks, interns have the opportunity to have primary case responsibility on in-hospital cases and outpatient receiving (with the guidance of Criticalists and staff emergency doctors). Interns also have varying amounts of case responsibility on each of the specialties.

Do interns get any surgical experience?

In addition to receiving a tremendous amount of tissue handling experience performing laceration repairs while on emergency blocks, VSC offers a unique Shelter Animal Surgical Service (SASS). SASS offers interns the opportunity to develop their case management, anesthesia, and surgical skills. We offer free surgical services to over 200 Chicagoland rescue organizations. Some of the common surgeries our interns perform include- sterilization, FHO, amputation, enucleation, cherry eye correction, entropion correction, cystotomy, mass removal, mastectomy, and more. Interns will also have a plethora of opportunities to scrub into specialty and emergency surgeries to assist the specialty or staff surgeons.

How does the schedule work?

The schedule is broken down into 14 four week blocks that flow in a specific order. Each intern starts on a different block and will follow the same schedule rotation from whichever point they started the year. There are some services that have a full blocks and some that have split blocks. The schedule may have some adjustments before being finalized, but is likely to be two blocks each of internal medicine (including dialysis), critical care/emergency, overnight emergency receiving, and elective time, 1 block each of neurology, specialty surgery, cardiology, oncology, primary care (including general surgery and dentistry), there is one split block of ophthalmology and dermatology. Please note, when on-call, you are only on-call for certain days of the block– a total of 28 throughout the year, only 8 of which are days you are not scheduled to work at the hospital.

Below you will see an example schedule. Each intern would start at a different point within the schedule and follow it from there. Each block is 4 weeks long. There may be slight changes as we finalize the year:


How does the schedule work?

**Is there any time when interns are scheduled outside of the hospital?
There is elective time that can be spent either inside or outside the hospital, but no

core rotations are outside the hospital.

**Do interns have elective time? What can interns do with that time?
Yes! Interns receive eight weeks of elective time during the year. This time can be used to spend additional time in the hospital in areas of specific interest or to go out to gain experiences not available within the hospital. Interns have used elective time for additional time on in-hospital rotations or outside of the hospital for behavior, shelter medicine, exotics, research, radiation oncology, and other areas of interest. We maintain strong relationships with the local humane society, the National Zoo, and the few specialties we

do not house within VSC and can help arrange the elective time.

**How many days per week are interns scheduled? Are my days off really off or do I still need to come in to SOAP patients, etc?
All blocks except overnights have five day work weeks with two days off per week. Overnights are alternating 3 or 4 day work weeks with 3 or 4 days off. With the exception of the times you are on-call, days

off are days off and interns have no responsibilities at the hospital. On-call is detailed below.

**Are interns on-call? Do interns need to live close to the hospital?
Interns are not on-call for most blocks. However, on a few blocks, interns will be called in to assist in emergency surgeries.

We split on-call between several blocks so that interns will not have to be on-call without a break during a block. The on-call is set at the beginning of the year and interns are permitted to trade on-call days. Each intern will be on call 28 days for the year. Most on-call days are days they are already scheduled to work, there are just 8 days of on-call that would normally be days off throughout the year.

Interns do not need to live very close to the hospital in order to meet their on-call responsibilities. While many interns can find affordable housing fairly close to the hospital, as long as an intern can make

it into work within 45-60 minutes, their housing choices should not be limited based on on-call responsibilities.

Do interns get any paid time off during the internship? Are there restrictions for when this time can be used?
Interns have ten days of paid time off throughout the year. These days can be used for vacation, sick time or other personal reasons. Time off cannot be used during emergency receiving or overnight

shifts, though interns have switched shifts amongst themselves in emergency situations.

Are interns typically scheduled to be alone in the hospital receiving cases?
No! During the day-time Critical Care/Emergency receiving rotations, interns are working directly with the Criticalists with inpatients or are receiving cases under the guidance of our emergency

doctors. On overnights, interns are working with a staff emergency doctor every night of the week.

**Do interns get evaluations during the program? How often? What are the goals of the internship?
Yes! Interns receive a performance evaluation and feedback after each block as well as direct feedback while on rotations. VSC also seeks anonymous input from interns about the program regularly throughout the year in order to strengthen it both during the current year and in subsequent years.

Each block, the intern is evaluated on the following criteria (each have subcategories for assessment):

Skills and Integrative Knowledge
Patient Care
While each intern enters the program with different goals in mind and VSC customizes mentorship to help reach those goals, we believe that every intern should complete the year as a much stronger veterinarian with a well-rounded foundation to launch their career. VSC strives to maintain best practice in all that we do. While we are a private practice, VSC used the AAVMC’s guidelines for internships at academic institutions to establish a list of Entrustable Professional Activities that we expect all interns will display competency in by the end of their year with us.

The Entrustable Professional Activities that we believe each intern will possess at the end of their year with VSC, regardless of career path, match those recommended to academic internships, and include but are not limited to the following:

1. Performs an accurate, comprehensive assessment of a new patient

2. Creates an initial diagnostic and treatment plan for an ill patient with an unknown condition

3. Communicates complex or potentially upsetting information about a patient to a client

4. Amends treatment plans of a hospitalized patient based on patient information and best practice

5. Prioritizes treatment and diagnostic plans based on client resources and/or patient status

6. Maintains accurate, timely medical records

7. Communicates effectively and professionally with medical team members, clients, and referral community

8. Manages minor wounds and lacerations

**Are there opportunities for research or publishing?
VSC encourages interested interns to consider research projects and publication. However, we want interns to be realistic about what can be accomplished prior to December (residency application deadlines), particularly in a busy private practice. VSC has had searchable electronic medical records for quite some time, so a retrospective study is a possibility. Case reports or imaging/pathology reports (e.g. What is your diagnosis? reports in JAVMA) would likely be the easiest type of manuscript to prepare in that timeframe.

VSC is currently participating in or scheduled to launch several clinical trials and other

studies which the interns can participate in.

**If I match for a specialty or residency can I leave the internship early?
In the event that you match for a residency or specialty internship that has a start date prior to the end of the internship, you will be able to leave early in order to start your next position. We

will work with you to determine an appropriate end date after match results.

**What is the schedule for rounds?
VSC believes that didactic teaching, in addition to our high caseload, is an important part of building the foundation for interns. The following is a fairly comprehensive list of all rounds and journal clubs. Some are mandatory and interns are marked off of clinical duties for them. Some are dependent upon the rotation that the intern is currently assigned.

Hospital-wide grand rounds:

Hospital-wide grand rounds are held every day at 8:00am. Brief rounds for inpatient transfer to swing shift and overnight doctors are held at approximately 12:00pm, 6:00pm, 10:00pm, and midnight. Specialists are present for morning and afternoon rounds.

Didactic rounds:

Didactic rounds specifically for the interns with specialists are held on average six times per month (Currently Wednesday and every other Tuesday morning). These rounds are required for all interns unless they are on out-rotations during an elective block or have requested an excused absence.

Hospital-wide M&M rounds are typically held once quarterly


All interns are required to make one presentation during the year (generally scheduled November thru January).

Journal clubs:

Surgery once weekly

Oncology once weekly

Internal Medicine once weekly

Surgical Oncology once monthly

In total, there are currently about 22 didactic rounds or journal club sessions per

month in addition to cageside/clinical rounds.

I want to do a residency or specialty internship. What is VSC’s match rate? Does VSC have relationships with institutions that have residencies to help make connections?
In recent years, VSC has had a 83%+ match rate directly to residencies, comparable with the reported match rate in the VIRMP with academic institutions (71.01% average reported for the 2019-2020 VIRMP across academic institutions). There are times that factors like specific location/geographic preferences have impacted the ability to match. Some folks who don’t match to a single program do not pursue multiple options or look for placement outside the match. Generally speaking, a well-qualified candidate in our program should be able to move on to a residency or specialty internship in their field after a rotating internship at VSC.

VSC staff doctors maintain close relationships with their colleagues in academia and at large, high-quality private practices. We are happy to connect well-qualified candidates with these institutions.

Average number of interns who started this program per year for the past 5 years:  3

Average number of interns who completed this program per year for the past 5 years:  3

Number of interns from this program who applied for a residency in the past 5 years:  6

Number of interns from this program who accepted a residency in the past 5 years:  5

**I want to do a residency or specialty internship. Is it possible for an intern to get letters of recommendation from specialists at VSC before it is time to apply?
Yes! After we match and survey about their interests, we will attempt to set up the schedule in such a way that an intern looking to specialize in a particular area will rotate through appropriate services so that they may ask for letters of recommendation from the board-certified specialists to

strengthen their application.

**Is there the ability to take time off for residency interviews or job interviews if deciding to go into private practice after the internship?
VSC can typically accommodate interns using their paid time off for residency interviews or job interviews. Interns will also sometimes switch shifts amongst themselves in order to use days to do this.

VSC’s specialists, staff doctors, and management will help interns interested in

applying for residencies with their application preparation.

**For those interested in pursuing general practice primary care or emergency positions, does VSC do anything to help interns with the job placement and evaluation of job offers?
VSC management meets with the intern class during a rounds session usually in late January or early February to discuss how to evaluate a potential clinic for employment; how to read job offers and how to negotiate for pay and benefits. VSC will provide current information about the state of the industry and help with job placement. VSC management is happy to assist interns in evaluating job offers as they receive them.

VSC maintains strong relationships with hospitals and clinics locally as well as across

the United States to help make connections for job placement.

Is VSC hiring any other specialists than those currently on staff?
VSC has been expanding rapidly over the last several years. We are currently looking to expand by adding an additional Cardiologist, Radiologist, and Criticalist. There are a few other current specialties we are evaluating and may add. While we are hopeful to fill these positions, we take our time to find

the best fit. Therefore, a ranking decision should not be made based on these openings.

**After completing an internship at VSC, how have interns progressed in their careers?
VSC is proud to have had a small animal rotating internship since 1995 that has grown throughout the years. We have had over 170 interns complete the program and go on to a variety of careers– diverse paths such as specialty, general practice, emergency medicine, practice ownership, government and corporate services are all represented among our internship alumni!

Specialties represented by our intern alumni are as follows:



Clinical Pathology


Emergency and Critical Care

Internal Medicine






Shelter Medicine


Zoo medicine

What veterinary schools do interns come from?
In recent years, VSC’s applicants have come from every AVMA-accredited school in the United States

and many from throughout the world. VSC’s former interns represent 30 different AVMA accredited schools.

What are the Mission, Vision and Core Values of VSC?

Our Mission:

Veterinary Specialty Center is guided by the belief that companion animals deserve state-of-the-art medical care in a kind and comforting environment. The courage of our patients, the loyalty of their human families, and the devotion of our referral veterinarians inspire our vision. It is sustained by the contributions of our compassionate, knowledgeable and dedicated staff and built upon a tradition of providing unsurpassed healthcare for animals.

The enormous impact of the care that we provide compels us to expand our mission into the areas of service, social/environmental and economic missions:

Service Mission

Veterinary Specialty Center (VSC) will use our expertise to work collaboratively with our regional primary care, specialty and emergency practitioners to improve the quality of life of our patients and the families that care for them.

Social and Environmental Mission

VSC’s mission of care, kindness, and comfort extend from our professional services to the way we view our social and environmental responsibility.

We will:

  • Use the resources of VSC to raise the standard of living in our community
  • Create local jobs
  • Support local businesses
  • Prioritize selection of companies that share our values
  • Provide a living wage for our staff
  • Demonstrate the value of the respect and trust we have for our staff through support of their personal and professional goals
  • Donate our time and resources to community organizations, local charities, rescue organizations, and animal shelters
  • Have a positive impact on the environment
  • Emphasize a culture of diversity and inclusion (Inclusion, Diversity, Equality, Access, Social Justice)
  • Provide continuing education to share our experience and knowledge with practicing veterinarians, support staff and the public
  • Provide support services to families that are faced with difficult decisions or are grieving the loss of a pet
Economic Mission

VSC will build a revenue base that provides for investment in the people, facilities, and equipment that will make us a sustainable, locally and independently owned practice.

We will:

  • Build value in our company to sustain this mission for the next generation of owners.
  • VSC will charge fees that are commensurate with the level of care and service we provide. We understand the financial and emotional burden that this level of care can bring and we will try to find creative means to make this care available to as many families as possible.
  • VSC staff participates in our economic mission through financial training, open book management, and Ownership Thinking.

Our Vision:

We love what we do, and it shows
Our patients remain at the heart of everything we do – it’s what makes our practice so innovative and compassionate. To ensure we are always delivering the highest level of service, our owners engage in every aspect of the business, from implementing new technology to the treatment of patients, face-to-face communication with families, and providing resources and education to the communities we serve.

Innovation drives us
As dedicated entrepreneurs, we think long-term by investing in innovation and research to deliver the best quality care. Each day, as owners make their rounds, they’re listening to the critical needs of both patients and staff and asking: What can we do to be better today and tomorrow?

We invest in the success of our staff
Our team includes some of the brightest talents in the veterinary field and are motivated by collaboration and lifelong learning. As Veterinary Specialty Center grows, we provide opportunities for development among our staff, fostering a shared sense of pride and ownership in our practice.

Our Core Values:

  • Be Amazing
    When we talk about being amazing, it means more than the medicine that we practice at VSC. It is bringing our “A” game each day when we assist our clients, patients, and our coworkers. It is also about passionately pursuing our best performance and truly enjoying what we do.
  • Work Together
    When we work together, we communicate, support, and nurture the bond with others on our team. Part of working together is assuming the best intentions of others and fostering harmony on our team.
  • Create Opportunity
    At VSC we create opportunity by stretching our horizons, paying it forward, and believing in ourselves. Every day we have the opportunity to teach, learn and grow. At VSC, we encourage staff to grow. Throughout the hospital, assistants, coordinators, technicians, and doctors have taken the extra steps to move into more challenging roles.
  • Common Sense
    At VSC we encourage everyone on our team to think and act like owners and we strive to deal sensibly and realistically with our coworkers instead of taking the easy way out. We are finding that excellence and perfection are not the same thing and that accepting feedback and asking more questions brings us all to a higher level. That often means thinking through a few extra steps when you’re helping someone out and always standing by our corporate core values.
  • Give Back
    We recognize that participating in activities that support our community enriches the lives of our staff. While giving back is important for many reasons, we find that it saves resources for our community, meets critical, local needs, and translates into better physical and mental health for those who give their time, energy, and support.
  • Love
    We show love by being patient and having self-control while being kind and showing encouragement and enthusiasm. We are trusting and place confidence in our team while thinking less of ourselves. We are honest and forgiving while being dedicated and sticking to our values.

Can I come for an in person visit before applications or ranks are due?
Currently, due to COVID, we are not accepting internship visits. We will reevaluate as things progress.

**Can I contact a member of the current intern class?
Yes! We encourage you to reach out to one or more of our current rotating interns to discuss the program. Though the program is reviewed annually and changes are made from year to year, the current intern class can give you a good idea about the workings of the program, learning opportunities, the support provided, and the culture of the hospital. The current intern class can be contacted by emailing

This is likely the quickest way to get an answer, as the first intern available will respond.

What characteristics is VSC looking for in an intern?
In addition to your complete VIRMP packet including the personal statement, transcripts, and letters of recommendation, VSC relies on our interview process to determine the right fit for our internship class. We are looking for individuals who are interested in collaborating, working hard, who will be able to integrate into our culture as a hospital. VSC interns develop lifelong relationships with VSC team members.

Will VSC reveal their rankings once finalized?
Once interviews are complete, the internship selection group will meet to discuss and finalize our ranking decisions. We will not disclose those rankings to applicants. This does not mean you are not ranked highly (or even number 1). We will not ask you to disclose your rankings at any time.

Does the internship committee have any general advice for me?
Be honest, be yourself. During the interview, you will have an opportunity to truly express yourself. Take this opportunity to show us your personality along with any additional information that you feel is important for us to know outside of your application. Come prepared with several questions as we pride ourselves on complete transparency. It’s impossible to be too engaged in this process and we look forward to meeting with you.

Remember, no matter where you match, you get out of it what you put in! You have decided to take this year to invest in yourself. Make the most of it! Work hard. Establish methods to organize your time. Learn a lot. Find mentors. Have Fun! Relax.


Starting Monday, April 8th through the end of September, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) will begin their road resurfacing project along Waukegan Road from Lake Cook Road to Half Day Road (IL 22). Please allow additional travel time to our hospital during the construction. Learn More: Waukegan Road Resurfacing Project