My Wacky Road to Veterinary School

Guess what, gang?  I did not want to be a veterinarian since I was a little kid.  Shocking?  Well, I am quite confident that I would not be where I am today, a successful small animal veterinarian, by not following the path I did.  So in this first article I want to share with you my unorthodox story of how I made it to vet school.

Before college my passion was music.  I have been playing drums and classical percussion since a young child.  I knew I wanted to continue my music studies in college but also knew that being a professional performer was not in the deck of cards I was dealt.  As I started college my goal was to go to medical school but double major in music.  I grew up in a family of pharmacists and pharmacy owners and really did like healthcare.  There were only a handful of colleges that would allow a student to double major in music and something outside the music school, and I was lucky to land at my top choice college: University of Miami (no, not in Ohio… in Florida!).

After a semester of taking my pre-med and music courses, I was already burnt out and felt I didn’t have that burning passion or drive to make it medical school.   So one day I walked over to the career counseling center to seek some guidance on what the heck I wanted to do with my life.  When I walked out of the building we determined that I had passions for three things: music (duh), business, and science.  Luckily Miami had a great program that would combine two of those three areas, and better yet, a few of my close friends were already in the program: music business and entertainment industries.  This would allow me to get a business degree but with an entertainment industry focus and allow me to continue studying classical percussion.

Fast forward three years later and I graduate with my bachelors and head back home to St. Louis to start my career.  I was lucky to find a great opportunity with a small event production company where I would eventually become the event producer for their concerts and leadership conferences.   It was a great line of work and most importantly a great place to build my skills in organization, working with people, and time management.  Here is where I truly developed my work ethic.  Four years later I knew I was hitting a ceiling on my growth in the company and was starting to think about my next step in my professional career.  I recognized I didn’t wake up every day thrilled to go to work and I knew there was something out there that would give me that feeling.

I remember the moment I decided to apply to vet school so clearly.  My girlfriend, Becca, who would eventually become my wife, and I were sitting on a dock brainstorming what I could do.  I still had a spark of interest for the medical field and I knew that I wanted to have a business of my own one day.  Becca pointed out that I always had a special connection to animals, and to be honest, I hadn’t ever appreciated that connection.  And like a massive lightbulb being turned on, I realized that I could have a career that would allow me to practice medicine, own a business, and work with animals and their owners: a veterinarian.  I was 25 years old at the time.

So a few weeks later I gave notice, and at the start of the next Fall semester I enrolled in the local university to complete (and retake) the prerequisites.  It would take me about a year and half to complete the coursework and acquire hundreds of shadowing hours for my vet school applications.  I was incredibly fortunate to have been accepted to multiple veterinary schools, and I inevitably chose my in-state school, University of Missouri.

Do I wish I had figured out my love for this career earlier?  You bet.  Do I feel out of place that I joined the game so late?  Sometimes.  But the million-dollar-question is: have I ever looked back?  The answer to that is no.  I can strongly, honestly say that every day of vet school I feel I’m in the right place.  Even when the days are awful, stressful, and punishing, I know I’ve chosen the right career.  I also know that had I entered vet school right after undergrad, my work ethic would not have been at the level it needed to be for a successful time in vet school.

Here’s what I wish for you to take away from this story: that’s it’s never too late to follow your dreams.  Everything happens for a reason, I’m sure.  And everything happens on its own time.

Don’t rush life.  Have fun.  Believe in yourself.   Make sure you wake up every morning looking forward to the day ahead.

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