Three questions for … Tennessee’s Sierra Slautterback (2021)

The academic year may be winding down, but we’re still featuring veterinary students from around the country. The latest, chosen by Nationwide field veterinarian Dr. Tonya Sparks, is Sierra Slautterback (2021) from the University of Tennessee’s College of Veterinary Medicine. As always, this veterinary student has some interesting things to say!

Will you please share something unexpected you discovered or learned on your path into veterinary medicine?

Veterinary medicine is such a unique and diverse field, full of opportunities for you to grow as an individual. I know I am not alone when I say that I have learned so much about myself since beginning veterinary school. I began school with an idea of what I would like to do upon graduation and within the first year that path changed and took a 180.

I shocked myself (and my classmates) with my discovery of a deep passion and love for the poultry industry! Something I had so little experience in prior to veterinary school has now become the main focus of all of my future career goals and aspirations, and I am so much happier for it. I feel as if I have found my passion within veterinary medicine, and never imagined it would involve the poultry production industry.

Now I look forward to spending my upcoming summer and externships getting as much experience and knowledge in this amazing field. I urge all my fellow veterinary students to follow their passions and try any new interests. You might surprise yourself!

SierraTennSomething unexpected to me was how much my classmates would feel like my family. I was expecting another stressful few years of yet another competitive atmosphere, but instead I have this support system with all my classmates where we really rely on one another. I have grown so much personally from being surrounded by such an amazing, talented, diverse group of people. While we all have different plans for our lives, we are all connected by our the love for veterinary medicine. That love allows us to share with each other in a very unique way, which is truly one of my favorite parts of veterinary school.

What is your vision for the future of veterinary medicine and how does it influence the way you’re preparing?

Before my time in veterinary school, I worked in a small animal private practice. This was my first introduction to the business aspects of veterinary medicine, and I really enjoyed it. In the time I have spent preparing for veterinary school, the economics of the veterinary industry have been questioned. It is no secret that the salaries can be slim and job satisfaction low at times. Debt loads are rising, and many are convinced that veterinary medicine is a doomed profession.

With these changes looming over mine and my classmates’ careers, we need to make ourselves more prepared to take on these potential challenges. When we graduate, we will be very educated about all these different species and aspects of veterinary medicine but can lack in other important areas, such as financial planning, interpersonal communication techniques, and leadership skills. Having an introduction and the opportunity to better ourselves with these skills is a crucial part of making ourselves well-rounded veterinarians.

Knowing the challenges that face veterinary medicine today, I have tried to be a passionate advocate for increasing business literacy among veterinarians. I took the opportunity to serve as the president of our VBMA chapter to help my fellow students with these challenges. As president, I have tried to schedule programs centered around career readiness to help prepare us for what is to come in our professional lives. I strongly believe developing these skills in veterinary school eases the transition between school and “real life,” which we all know can be a tough time for new veterinarians.

Can you tell us one thing about yourself that would surprise your veterinary colleagues?

On top of my love for baking (but burning almost everything I cook), I am a certified scuba diver. Tropical oceans are my favorite places to dive. You see the most amazing sights 100 feet under the water. I have been fortunate enough to have been to stunning places like Grand Cayman, Bon Air and the Turks and Caicos. My favorite dives are the ones where I see majestic Moray Eels or make friends with a Nurse Shark begging for some lionfish. I look forward to many more scuba trips once my time in veterinary school is over!


Thank you, Sierra and Dr. Sparks!