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2012 MHS grad extends his veterinarian studies at Cornell University

Patty Hullett / For the Mirror

Hunter Enderle’s lifelong ambition, from a very young age, has always been to become an animal veterinarian.  This dedicated and brilliant young man continues to expand his knowledge in the field of veterinary medicine – and after eight years of post-high school education, Enderle is still hard at work in fulfilling his destiny.

Enderle of Ovilla is a proud Class of 2012 graduate from Midlothian High School.  He was an honor student as a Panther and played all four years on the varsity tennis team.  His parents are Dwayne and Donna Enderle, and his sister is Lacy (Enderle) Hale.  

Enderle earned his Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Science at Texas A&M University (2012-15).  Next, he completed his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree – also from Texas A&M from 2016 to May of 2020, when his ceremony became a “virtual graduation” due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Dr. Enderle, as he is now officially called, shares, “I obviously still have a long way to go until I am a boarded veterinary cardiologist (which is my preferred specialty in the future), but I am very happy where I am at right now.  I’m so thankful to have had so many people supporting me along the way, and I can’t praise Texas A&M enough for giving me such an incredible education and for allowing me the opportunity to build lasting relationships with so many incredible veterinarians along my way.”

Veterinarian choices after medical school 

According to Enderle, after graduation from vet school, new grad veterinarians can choose from a wealth of different jobs – anything from research, industry and government to general practice, emergency practice, or pursue specialty practice.  The veterinarian most people think of is one who works in general practice, whom people see for their animals’ routine check-ups, vaccines, spay/neuter, common issues/ailments, etc.  However, some graduates choose to pursue additional training to specialize in a particular field of medicine, such as surgery, internal medicine, cardiology or dermatology. 

Enderle explains, “Think of human medicine, and you would probably see a family medicine doctor on a regular basis.  But if you have an issue that needs further work-up, additional diagnostics, or intervention, then they would probably refer you to a specialist in a particular area of medicine.  These days, people have that service available in veterinary medicine.”

According to Enderle, to become a specialist, the first step is to complete a rotating internship, typically at large teaching university hospitals or large veterinary hospitals with several specialists.  In rotating internships, there is a lot of emphasis on furthering your education as a practicing doctor.  It’s like a 1-year crash course.  This means, in one year, the hope is to have seen and treated as many sick animals as a general practitioner would have seen in maybe three to five years of practice.

Enderle relays, “I am now a practicing doctor with the support and guidance of specialists, some of whom write the textbooks in their respective fields, and are doing research to further our knowledge. By “rotating”, I mean two-week rotating, alternating between some of the hospital services: ER (day shift), Internal Medicine, ER (swing shift), Elective (cardio, neuro, anesthesia, exotics, or whatever I choose), ER (overnight), Surgery (soft tissue), Surgery (orthopedic surgery).” 

After that internship, for the second step, Enderle says you “have to complete a residency program in your particular field of interest (mine would be cardiology).  These residency programs range from 3-4 years, and during this time you are only seeing cases in your field of interest and basically learning from the best, to become the best. These positions are typically at large teaching universities.” At the end of a residency program, the third step is to pass your board exams.  “These exams are made and proctored by the experts in their particular field of interest.  It is the exam of all exams to assess your knowledge before you can become a specialist yourself,” he added.  

How Enderle found his way to Cornell University

Similar to human medicine, veterinarians have to “match” to a program for internship and residencies. Each applicant uses VIRMP (veterinary internship residency match program). The applicants for internships and residencies put together an application including their CV (equivalent to resume), reference letters, and a personal statement letter. 

“Last year”, says Enderle, “I applied and ranked my preference to several rotating internship programs, including University of Florida, University of Georgia, Ohio, Colorado State, Cornell, VCA West LA animal hospital, and a few others. These programs then rank their applicants. And then you go where you match highest. It’s a very stressful process because you have no idea where you will end up, or IF you even match to a program.  Gratefully, I ended up ‘matching’ to Cornell University College of Veterinarian Medicine at the Cornell University Hospital for Animals (CUHA) in Ithaca, New York.  So, I am one of their seven ‘Small Animal Rotating Interns’ this year. But it’s not an internship like you typically think of for most other industries – doing mundane work, filling-out paperwork, getting coffee, etc.  It’s more of a steppingstone to becoming a true specialist – seeing and treating difficult cases, teaching students, learning advanced medicine, learning various procedures, getting heavily involved in research.” 

“Unfortunately, I will have to go through this same nerve-racking process again after this year, but this time I will be applying for cardiology specific residences. These are very competitive, because there are probably less than 20 positions in the entire country.”

Enderle’s new life in Ithaca, New York

“I arrived in Ithaca, New York in mid-June. It’s a “gorge”ous college town in the central part of New York State,” he said. “The saying here is ‘Ithaca is Gorges.’ The city is known for several of its spectacular gorges and waterfalls. They truly are stunning to see in person.” Enderle says there are a lot of interesting things to do in Ithaca, from all the restaurants and boutique shops to the hiking/gorge trails and state parks, or just exploring the Cornell campus itself.  “The weather has been wonderful during the four months I’ve been here, and fall is just perfect,” he added. “All the many hills and trees make this season phenomenal, with the breathtaking way the leaves are changing colors right now.  Between the Cornell campus and picturesque fall views, it’s like something out of a movie.”

Enderle adds, “Now, on the other-hand, Ithaca apparently gets very cold, wet, and snowy during the winter and spring months ...  I have yet to prepare myself, as I still need a very heavy winter coat, boots, gloves, and snow tires.  This Texas boy has never lived through a New York winter ... so I hope I survive.”

Entertainment wise, Enderle enjoys trying new restaurants, bars, and breweries in his area.  He recently went apple-picking for the first time ever, and he admits that it was a blast.  While he was there, he tried apple fritters, an apple cider float, and an apple fritter sundae, and, he says, “Yes, I ate all of that by myself.  I also enjoy checking out the local waterfalls and gorges. I haven’t made a trip to New York City yet, but apparently it’s about three to four hours away, and to be honest, I don’t get a lot of time off to travel.” He says if he’s not working, he’s probably eating or sleeping, most of the time.  

Enderle has found some new friends in Ithaca as well: “There are six other interns in my program, and they are all amazing individuals. Some days they put me to shame with how smart and competent they are. Two of the seven of us want to be surgeons, one wants to be an internal medicine specialist, one wants to specialize in exotic animals, one wants to be a neurologist, and two of us (including me) want to be cardiologists. It’s like the seven of us have a built-in friend group. We are all in the same boat, learning to be the best veterinarians we can be, so we all are relying on each other to make it through this year. At the end of a rough day, these six buddies are always there to let me vent, keep me encouraged, or vice-versa. And it’s good to know that I always have someone to go out for a beer and to get some fresh air with.  All of us experience some very stressful days, so I’m happy I have a buddy-system to fall back on.”

Absence makes the heart grow fonder

Enderle admits that it is difficult being so far away from his family: “It’s tough seeing my family doing things together on FaceBook or visiting with them on FaceTime. And I really hate seeing my nieces grow up without me being there in person.” So far, he hasn’t been able to go back home to visit and doesn’t anticipate being able to do so anytime soon. “With COVID restrictions, I can’t travel without quarantining when I get back, and I don’t get that much time off.”

The toughest thing Enderle says he’s had to face since leaving home is his deep love for animals.  But not just any animal - his animal. He explains, “This heartbreaking event just happened recently, as I had to make a tough decision about my German Shepherd Sam, back at home.  He was getting old, was having a lot of difficulty walking (secondary to neurological/spinal cord disease, but that’s another topic), and one night my family had to take him to an ER ... With all of his current issues, recovery was going to be miserable, so my family and I elected for euthanasia.  I had to say goodbye to my handsome boy from 1,500 miles away via FaceTime.  It was one of the toughest things I’ve had to live through – but I think it will help me in my future years as a veterinarian.”

He continues, “Primarily, now that I am an ER doctor at work, it is not uncommon that I am having these similar conversations with owners regarding severe illness, hospitalization, or euthanasia.  It’s always an extremely hard conversation to have, but that night I was on the other side of the conversation having to make a heartbreaking decision myself.  With our COVID restrictions now in place, we are not able to have clients in the hospital present for euthanasia.  I now know, from my own personal experience, just how hard it is for owners to make a tough decision over the phone and how unbearable it is not being able to be with their loved one (their animal) as they pass peacefully.”

Enderle hopes to get through the internship and find a match for a cardiology residency. After that, his long-term goal is to be able to come back home to Texas to practice cardiology in the Dallas area. Beyond that, he says, “I would like to change the way veterinarians practice medicine in regard to cardiovascular diseases - whether it's in helping develop a novel medication for treatment or change how veterinarians diagnose cardiovascular diseases.” Maybe he’ll even write a chapter or two on cardiovascular diseases in a veterinary textbook some day, he adds. 

In a few more years – maybe around  2023 or 2024, Enderle will be finishing up almost 12 additional years of education, just to be able to do what his heart is set on: helping, saving and finding new ways to treat the animals he so greatly loves.