Zoe, Class of 2021
When did you decide to pursue veterinary medicine?
When my mother gave my twin brother and me two miniature dachshunds when we were six, I immediately fell in love with dogs. And so, my initial idea of veterinary medicine was idealistic: I focused on the good things veterinarians do for animals and the unconditional love animals give to humans. This perspective began to change when I was eight; my two-year-old dachshund, Trixie, had her leg casted after breaking it. When her cast was removed, the veterinarian realized the cast had cut off circulation from Trixie’s leg, causing it to become septic. We brought Trixie to the Animal Medical Center in Manhattan, where her leg was amputated and where my interest in veterinary medicine began. From this experience, I learned that being a veterinarian is not as idealistic as I had thought; there are devastating events every day. It is not about saving every animal, but about giving them the best chance to live quality lives; it’s about doing your best, often under difficult circumstances.
What did you do to prepare for veterinary school?
To prepare for veterinary school, I tried to get as much experience as possible, in as many capacities as possible. I have been at the Animal Medical Center for the past six summers and breaks, volunteering and completing their Pre-Veterinary program before working as a veterinary assistant. I have also volunteered at the PennVet Working Dog Center and shadowed at PennVet New Bolton Center. I also got experience conducting research through my high school’s science research program. In high school, I volunteered in a lab at the NYU Hospital for Joint Diseases, and in college, I worked in a DNA nanotechnology lab. As an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania, I majored in biology and minored in the biological basis of behavior (neuroscience). Aside from the required Pre-Veterinary courses, I tried to take as many interesting courses as I could, such as sleep and chronobiology, neuroendocrinology, mouse models of neuropsychiatric disorders, and the history of jazz music. I also found what works best for me in terms of stress-relieving activities. I am a classically-trained soprano vocalist, and throughout college I sang as part of the Penn University Choir. I also enjoy stadium cycling, so I attended Flywheel classes twice a week. You never know what past experiences you may one day draw from when making groundbreaking discoveries!
What advice to you have for high school or college students who are interested in becoming a veterinarian?
As a high school or college student, you should take the time to find what your passions are outside of veterinary medicine. The road to veterinary school is sometimes a stressful and arduous one, but having side hobbies or passions to escape to will make your life a lot easier and will ensure your happiness even in times of stress. If you like another subject other than the general sciences, perhaps take classes in that subject and even minor in it. If you are into sports or music, or exploring new food in your area, you should make the time to do those things. I promise, these little adjustments will make you an altogether happier pre-veterinary and veterinary student! I would also encourage you to go out and get as much experience as you possibly can in the world of veterinary medicine. This will not only make you a more competitive veterinary school applicant, but will give you a greater appreciation for the breadth of our field.