Hery, Class of 2024
When did you decide to pursue veterinary medicine?
I was the kid that knew what he wanted to do for the rest of his life from a very, very young age. Well, sort of. It just so happens that I wanted to be a marine biologist for the longest time. Growing up on an island definitely influenced that decision; sharing the coast and other ecosystems with fishes, sea turtles, and other critters piqued my interest ten-fold. However, various conversations made me realize that there was something that marine biology couldn’t provide: a clinical perspective. The realization that I could aid conservation efforts while using clinical techniques (i.e. medicine, surgery, physical exams) was what I needed to confidently decide that a career in veterinary medicine with a focus in aquatic animal medicine was right for me.
What did you do to prepare for veterinary school?
I started early! After deciding what I wanted to do with my future, I created a long-term plan that included 3 things: a good education that was geared toward veterinary medicine, the opportunity to do research, and the provision of hands-on, clinical work. After doing some research, I found that the undergraduate institution I attended offered all 3, which led to the beginning of my bachelor’s in Animal Science. During my time there, I made sure to study hard and do my very best in each of my classes, no matter how easy or difficult they were. I also made sure to be present and proactive: I joined student associations, networked, and connected with peers and professors who I can count on for advice and recommendations, even today. Finally, I made sure to obtain at least one internship opportunity that was abroad. I believe that it is super important to be able to work in new places, especially ones that contain cultures that are different than your own. Perspective is key to viewing the world in new and surprising ways, and that is super important if you wish to become a well-rounded professional.
What advice do you have for high school or college students who are interested in becoming a veterinarian?
I have 3 pieces of advice for you. First, and I physically cannot stress this enough, take care of yourself! Yes, getting into vet school is harder and more competitive than it should be (it’s a huge problem). BUT, you will never be able to achieve anything efficiently in vet school if you don’t sleep, eat well, and exercise. Every single professor and faculty who I’ve talked to has said the same thing. As such, I recommend that you begin to establish healthy goals right this instant. Make a sleep schedule and stick to it, meal prep, and run or do yoga, or anything! My second piece of advice is this: just do it. Take that art class, join that theater group, climb that mountain, or start learning that language now because you’re more than likely not going to be able to once you start vet school. Vet school is no place for regrets, and time is not on your side when it comes to this! My final piece of advice would be to take your time. Taking a year off before coming to vet school in order to prepare is nothing to be ashamed off. Even taking a bit longer to finish your undergraduate degree is okay! The important thing is that you use that time wisely; always think of how your experience can be used to make you a better candidate for vet school and beyond. One example I can give is customer service. Vet school admissions offices love people who’ve worked as servers and waitresses because they usually know how to manage people, a super important skill when it comes to being a veterinarian.
Why did you choose Cornell and what do you enjoy most about the veterinary program?
You might be thinking why someone who wants to work with aquatic animals would want to study in frigid Ithaca, of all places. The main reason I chose Cornell was because it houses a program called AQUAVET, a 3-part course that provides invaluable knowledge in all things aquatic animal medicine. And it worked! I was able to get into the AQUAVET program thanks to my choice of school (they reserve certain spaces for Cornell students) and by networking with faculty related to the program. Other than that, I was interested in the problem-based learning (PBL) teaching strategy that is used at the vet school. It hasn’t made things any easier (then again, all vet school programs are hard), but it has certainly made it way more interesting! PBL allows professors and classmates to be more accessible while providing the opportunity of constantly working as a team, a huge plus for us veterinarians. Remember: a good team can make or break a veterinary practice. In addition to all the things I have mentioned, Cornell offers the opportunity to choose elective courses based on your interests. That means you can take business, behavior, conservation, and even fish classes. And last but not least, one of the things I most enjoy about Cornell’s program is that we don’t track. While I love all things aquatic, I still want to be competent in other domestic animals like dogs and horses because I don’t know where I’ll be in 10 years.