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.
Dr. Seth is a recent graduate of the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine. He is a small animal primary care practitioner in St. Louis, MO. He created the Vet School Unleashed podcast in his second year of veterinary school to provide a platform to have conversations about life in vet school.