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by Rachel Griess
CSU's newest class of veterinary students includes diverse backgrounds, varied interests and unusual routes to vet school.
The College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences admitted 138 students to the Professional Veterinary Medicine Program at the start of the 2013-14 academic year – and it’s clear their backgrounds and interesting mix of experiences will help shape veterinary medicine into the future.
Here’s a snapshot of the newest class of aspiring veterinarians to join the No. 3 vet school in the nation.
Growing up as part of the Navajo Nation in New Mexico, Benally lived in a tight-knit community strongly connected to nature. Her passion for animals began as she grew up on a small farm and participated in 4-H from grade school until college showing steers, sheep, and horses. Yet Benally was troubled that people had to travel long distances with their animals for veterinary care, and sometimes travel was not possible. Benally, who earned a bachelor’s degree in animal science, wants to help solve the problem by becoming a veterinarian focused on livestock medicine. She aspires to practice in her home community and to encourage other young people to pursue their goals.
“Many young people in my community do not have the means or the opportunity to go to college, let alone a professional school,” Benally said. “I want to inspire these people that, despite where you come from or who you are, anything is possible. Everyone has the ability to make a difference.”
For the last six years, Caress has worked as a small-animal nurse at CSU’s James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital. She grew up in a rural town in Alaska and became interested in animal care helping a neighbor with horses used for hunting and guiding. Caress earned a bachelor’s degree in equine science at CSU, worked a short time as a riding instructor, then was certified as a veterinary technician. After several years working as a vet tech at the hospital, Caress is taking the next step – to become a veterinarian herself.
“I enjoy seeing a new side of the faculty,” she said, referring to her switch from coworker to student. “It is different to be in a classroom learning about vet medicine from them. I have some clinical experience, and I know what to expect from certain procedures. But I look forward to understanding the background, what's happening physiologically, and really absorbing a different aspect of the clinical setting.”
A visit to Calder Race Course in Miami Gardens, Fla., as a freshman in college set Czamanski on a course to become an equine veterinarian. Czamanski, who had moved from Venezuela to Florida for high school, talked to veterinarians at the race track and soon submerged himself in the horse industry. As he studied equine science at CSU, he volunteered and worked at respected equine veterinary practices in Florida and Kentucky. His interest in horses helped him become Student of the Year for two years running in the CSU Equine Science Program before graduating and entering vet school.
“In undergrad, my internships, and now vet school, I have been so fortunate to come across exceptional instructors and veterinarians. If there’s anything above exceptional, that’s where these people stand,” Czamanski said. “We are so lucky to have these people teaching us. Knowledge is power, and I cannot wait to be as knowledgeable, to speak the same language as the veterinarians who have mentored me, and to be not a good veterinarian, but an exceptional one.”
Growing up, Dewing enjoyed hearing stories of his Uncle Ed working with large-animal veterinarians. His interest in becoming a veterinarian was reinforced each time he opened a novel by James Herriot, a veterinary surgeon turned writer. At age 16, Dewing knew he wanted to combine his love for medicine and sciences. He pursued his dream by enrolling in animal sciences at CSU, and returning each summer to intern with large-animal veterinarians back home in northeastern Pennsylvania. Following his undergraduate studies, Dewing completed his master's degree in agriculture. Now he's taking his next step fulfilling his childhood dream.
"I am looking to increase my knowledge base, develop relationships with my instructors, and prepare myself to help people and patients," Dewing said. "It is a lot of work. It is not impossible or impassable, but time management is essential to succeed."
After losing one of her favorite dairy goats to kidding complications, Larson decided at age 14 to become a veterinarian to heal and prevent illness in animals. She entered CSU’s undergrad program in animal science and quickly realized she’d need to adapt to life on campus. That’s because Larson was homeschooled in Windsor, Colo., before entering college. Even so, she soon thrived in her new environment of full classrooms and strict deadlines – even being picked to join the CSU Presidential Ambassadors, a select group of student leaders who work with the President’s Office to help promote the university.
“It’s the people who make the difference,” Larson said of life at CSU. “I’m looking forward to all the connections I will make over the next four years. I hope that one day I will be able to work in a career with production livestock along with a connection to academia, allowing me to give back to the profession by mentoring aspiring veterinarians.”
MacMillan is working to become a second-generation veterinarian, following in her mother’s footsteps. With one big difference: MacMillan comes to vet school by way of public health and infectious disease. She earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., followed by a master’s degree in public health at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. She worked for three and a half years as an infectious disease researcher for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Then MacMillan realized the new frontier of public health is at the intersection of human and animal health – and she soon entered CSU’s Professional Veterinary Medicine Program.
“I’m in awe of the level of knowledge our faculty has, and I’m looking forward to interacting with each of them and learning their diverse backgrounds,” MacMillan said. “Every day I learn something new, and it allows me to keep my options open when thinking about what I could do with my degree. Vet school has been challenging yet exciting. It’s a lot of work, but I know it will all be worth it.”
As a 2-year-old, Janasia Rapp knew she would become an “animal doctor.” But she was nearly thrown off course when she was rushed into surgery for appendicitis during her senior year of biology at CSU. The procedure turned into a complicated, four-hour surgery that forced her to miss nearly a month of school and to use a wheelchair. Rapp was determined, and her father came from Colorado Springs, Colo., to offer support by pushing her from classroom to classroom.
“I thank God, my parents, family, and church for helping me through a challenging time. It took tremendous sacrifice and perseverance, but I was determined to fulfill my dreams of finishing my degree and going to vet school,” Rapp said. “I had to put in extra time and effort to make up for all the classes I had missed. But it was worth it all to be able to walk across the stage at graduation and be accepted into CSU’s vet school. Everything feels right. This is where I’m supposed to be.”
Like many vet students, Sedam has always wanted to be a veterinarian, and he has immersed himself in studies and extra-curricular activities to get here. While attending the University of New Mexico in biology, Sedam was vice president of the leadership fraternity Alpha Tau Omega. He was active in the university’s Biology Undergraduate Society, Pre-Vet Society and Golden Key International Honour Society. He studied for a semester in Australia and graduated summa cum laude in May 2013. Sedam fostered his interest in veterinary medicine by working at a kennel and as a veterinary technician throughout high school and college. He became interested in exotic species, and focused his undergraduate honors thesis on parasites of anthropods.
“I am very impressed with the program at CSU,” Sedam said. “The classes are all challenging, but the teachers and students are excellent motivators for me to succeed. I look forward to building on the knowledge I’ve gained so far to become an effective clinician in my junior and senior rotations and one day own and operate my own veterinary clinic.”
You might say Timmons is well-rounded. She plays guitar and piano, taught herself Japanese and studied in Japan to immerse herself in an entirely different culture. That’s on top of a CSU undergraduate research focus on immune mediated hemolytic anemia and chronic kidney disease in cats. Timmons decided as a grade-schooler to become a veterinarian. Now she has her sights set on a career in veterinary research.
“In undergrad, vet school is kind of this magical land that you kind of know the basics of, but you really have no idea what you’re getting into. You just know there are these mysterious emanations coming from the Anatomy Building,” Timmons said, referring to the location of many first-year veterinary facilities. “It’s a lot of work, but every day is one day closer to becoming a veterinarian, and that makes it totally worth it.”
A circuitous route brought Walker to vet school at CSU. She earned a bachelor’s degree in business finance at Texas A&M University, then earned a Master of Business Administration. For nearly a decade, Walker worked in commercial real estate in Las Vegas, Nev. A turning point came when she was diagnosed with melanoma and began re-evaluating her life and her career.
“I was given one life, so I need to live it fully – by doing something I love,” Walker said. “I finally followed my childhood dreams, and I’m so happy I did. Vet school is unbelievable. We’ve crammed so much into this semester that I can’t even imagine how much I will learn and experience by the end of four years.”