I have always wanted to be a veterinarian. I think that holds true of many of my colleagues as well as many other people I meet. You just know that it is what you want to do. I think I was three when I really decided to be a bird doctor. I remember coloring a picture of a bird and deciding that this is what I should do. I am sure my sister has had some influence as well. She is four years older than me and I have always looked up to her. I am sure if she suggested that if I love animals I should be an animal doctor, then this is what I would strive for. She did remind me recently that when we were kids, she suggested I go to Cornell if I want to be a vet. So I have always had it in my head that I will go to Cornell and be a vet. I am very blessed that this is what happened. As a kid, I always loved school and science. I received my first microscope before the age of 10 and LOVED IT. I still have it but it turns out it is only good for looking at powers of 10 x and 40x. Still, I cannot bare to get rid of it. I would sooo love a real microscope at home but then my practical side kicks in and I realize there is just no room or reason for it. But I digress. Anyway, with my goal in mind, I tried to have pets as a kid and my parents humored me with rabbits, hamsters and budgies. We did not have cats or dogs but I still was able to enjoy myself with these “exotic” critters. I was fortunate to be a good student in high school and a fairly good test taker. I was very dissapointed when I applied to Cornell undergraduate and was guaranteed a transfer but did not get accepted as a freshman. Looking back, it all worked out for the best. I met my best friend at Binghamton University as a freshman and we are still best of friends all these years later. I received a solid education for two years before I transferred to Cornell. The year I transferred to Cornell, I met my future husband and started on a path of Animal Science. Two years Later I graduated and was ready to go into my first year of Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine. I did not take it for granted that I was realizing my dream as I knew many smart and wonderful students who were not accepted by the admittance board. That first year of school was the most difficult and emotionally draining time of my life. There was a lot of pressure to learn as much as possible and understand what is being asked of you. The tests are very challenging to put it mildly and if you fail, you are set back an entire year. After lots of tears and late nights, I made it through the first year and then was able to get into my groove. During the third year, I needed to start making some plans for life outside of vet school. I have always loved bird and avian medicine and I was able to take electives that taught about these species in school. I also had to plan on some externships. It was during vet school I was exposed to poultry medicine and really enjoyed combining bird medicine with flock and herd health. I went to Georgia for an externship in poultry medicine and really enjoyed the month barring the heat and humidity. I made a decision to follow a different path and applied for residencies in poultry medicine. At the time, The Ohio State University had a residency program combined with a Master’s degree in veterinary preventive medicine. I was fortunate enough to be accepted. So they day I graduated from vet school. My parents and I schlepped from upstate New York with my two cats and all of my belongings to Columbus, Ohio.
As an aside, one of my funniest memories is the trip to Ohio. We stopped somewhere in Pennsylvania for the night and checked into a hotel. My parents have no experience with cats and were not prepared for spending the night with them. Tigger 1 and Tigger 2 were adopted during my time in vet school. Really sweet cats but Tigger 2 likes to sleep on your pillow and purr really loudly. Once we settled for the night with my parents in the bed and me on a cot, the lights were off and we went to sleep. After 10 minutes I hear a shout from my parents bed, and I see a large ball fly across the room, over my cot and thud on the floor. Tigger 2 was no worse for wear, landing on his feet but a little surprised. Apparently, my dad was falling asleep when Tigger 2 decided to curl up with him. This was a shock to dad and his reflex was to grab whatever was near his head and throw it away from him. Tigger 2 was a big cat so my dad did pull his shoulder a bit. But no cats were hurt in this story.
Anyway, once a settled back into university life, I divided my time between classes, working on a research project for my Master’s and learning the ins and outs of poultry medicine. I had a gret experience, meeting down to earth people in the poultry industry, getting out into the field, learning about extension work in which I would go to backyard flocks (a few birds owned by a person who keeps the birds in the backyard) and help them with sick birds or flock problems. I was trained to speak at meetings, help set up large-scale industry related programs, teach fourth year veterinary students, speak at veterinary conferences, isolate bacteria and microbes, and help to run a university lab. I was also fortunate to meet a virologist that worked the state lab. He owned an avian veterinary practice and asked if I would be interested to work a few hours a week or as needed at his clinic. It was a great experience and allowed me to really learn more about companion bird medicine.
After 2.5 years of the program, I completed and defended my thesis, finished my curriculum and graduated with my degree. As I ws finishing my program, it was a difficult time to find an industry job and I was a bit ready to get out of the university setting. I found a wonderful job opportunity in Virginia that allowed me to practice avian medicine and exotics. Even though my exotic experience was limited to personal pets and vet school training, they were able to take me on. Now my boyfriend who had been working in Indiana at the time and was changing jobs as well helped me to transport all of my belongings and my two cats and my boyfriend’s two ferrets to Northern Viriginia.
I have spent eight wonderful years at this job learning and growing as a veterinarian and a person. I have met so many wonderful people and pets, dealt with challenging medical cases, unusual presentations of cases, and sometimes difficult situations. I now have two different cats, a budgie and a toddler along with my husband. After eight years, I am leaving my current position and will be taking on a new challenge. I will be working towards starting an exotic practice at a different clinic. Right now, things are undecided but I am very excited about starting another chapter in my life and trying to create a better balance between family and work life. So this autobiography is to be continued…