Laci, Class of 2022
When did you decide to pursue veterinary medicine?
For as long as I can remember I wanted to be a veterinarian. In fact, most of my childhood memories involve me hogging the remote control from my brother so that I could watch the Discovery Channel, Animal Planet or BBC Television. I watched hours and hours of Emergency Vets, The Crocodile Hunter, Animal Cops and Big Cat Diary. When I wasn’t watching TV, I would borrow my mother’s sewing instruments and practice what I learned on my stuffed animals. Of all the television series, my favorite was Big Cat Diary. The series depicted the intricate relationships between wildlife species and emphasized the impact of biodiversity on species sustainability. While the show fostered my interest in wildlife conservation, my experience on the operating table sparked my interest in medicine. When I was 12 years old, I was diagnosed with malrotation of my small intestine. Following surgery, I began to think critically about the role of medicine in conservation. Having always been fascinated by the vital role that all species have in sustaining the planet, I further became interested in the intersection of human and animal medicine. This led me to my dream of making a global impact as a wildlife veterinarian, promoting biodiversity through rehabilitation and conservation –fields that serve as pathways for understanding many pertinent issues in today’s society from the transmission of zoonotic diseases that affect public health, to restoring endangered species.
What did you do to prepare for veterinary school?
My path to veterinary school was not a straight shot. While I always knew I wanted to be a veterinarian, the concept of college was foreign to my family. Neither of my parents went to college so when it came time for me to apply to undergraduate programs, I didn’t have much to go on beyond finding schools with well-developed animal science programs. I look back and laugh at this all the time, but the plan that I stuck to was googling universities with animal science programs and applying to the first ten that popped up. That’s how I stumbled upon Cornell, where I went for undergrad. While at Cornell I participated in the Pre-vet Society, Dean’s Advisory Council, Class Councils, ALANA Intercultural Board and many other student organizations to better develop my leadership, communication and organizational skills. During my breaks, I shadowed at small animal clinics in my hometown and made it my goal to travel internationally during the summer to learn about international veterinary medicine. Two of the international programs that I participated in were the Pre-Vet Summer Program at the Royal Veterinary College and an internship at the Black Jaguar White Tiger Foundation in Mexico City. As a non-traditional student who took several gap years, I also spent my time finding mentors in my field of interest who provided me with a lot of career insight and advice on applying to veterinary school. Preparing for veterinary school can seem daunting at first, but if you take your time and plan, it can be done!
What advice do you have for high school or college students who are interested in becoming a veterinarian?
My advice to pre-vet students is to be open-minded and try as many different experiences as possible. It is great to have an idea about the types of animals you might want to work with, but stepping out of your comfort zone can be equally as powerful. I came to veterinary college interested in international, wildlife and aquatic veterinary medicine. While each of these areas of veterinary medicine is still a passion area of mine, some of my most enjoyable moments have sprung from my work outside of my interests. Although I don’t have an interest in Equine Medicine, right before I came to veterinary college, I shadowed an equine vet. During my shadowing experience, I learned about equine anatomy, hoof care and maintenance, and common diseases that affect the species. This experience prepared me for the required hands on work that I was required to do during my first year of veterinary school. Since starting the veterinary curriculum, I’ve found myself spending a lot of my extra time with cows learning about bovine stockmanship, dairy cattle nutrition and milking. Both experiences have allowed me to gain clinical skills applicable to all species while broadening my view of the many fields within veterinary medicine.