We’re heading towards the end of the year, and that means our final features for fall on veterinary students.First up: Taylor Messex of the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine, class of 2023. She was chosen by Dr. Tonya Sparks, one of our Nationwide field veterinarians.
Will you please share something unexpected you learned on your path into to veterinary medicine?
After three years of finishing my undergraduate degree, taking the GRE, and working at a small animal veterinary clinic in Macon, GA, it was finally time to apply to vet school. I was so confident that I was going to get in the first shot. I did all the leg work that it takes to get in. I got the experience, volunteered at many different places and totally immersed myself in the world of veterinary medicine. The admissions board even called my references to talk to them about my competency for the job. I kept thinking to myself, “I’ve got this in the bag 100%.” Then, I received the decision letter in March in an e-mail. I ran outside to read it, my heart pounding in my chest, and to my disbelief, I had been selected as an alternate to the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine. My heart sank into my stomach, and I couldn’t help thinking that my life was over. A little dramatic, I know, but when your dream that you have had for 20 years is crushed in one sentence, it is extremely overwhelming.
So, over the next month I kept trying to figure out a back-up plan for my life until the final decisions were made in April. Sure, I could apply again next year, but what am I supposed to do right now? I had to make a lot of decisions that were not nearly as fun as accomplishing my dream of going to vet school, and it really brought my self-esteem and motivation down quite a bit. As time went by, the hurt seemed to lessen a little each day, and I seriously started considering the rest of my life.
Then I received a call from admissions telling me that I was the first person on the alternate list, and they would like to offer me a seat in the Class of 2023. Needless to say, I cried and felt such a relief wash over me that it was like the pain of the entire month before would never matter again.
The reason I share this story is because I was denied a seat in the class at first, which was completely unexpected. It did cause me quite a bit of sadness, but when I look back at that time, I can see how that experience reminded me to always stay humble. No matter how good you are at something, there is always more to learn from experiences, colleagues, friends and family, and the universe. If I had let that awful experience get the best of me, I wouldn’t have had the motivation to keep up the work I was doing in veterinary medicine and keep striving for what I knew I was capable of. Most importantly, humbling myself is going to help me in my future career by listening to my clients and colleagues in order to provide the best care for their animals.
What is your vision for the future of veterinary medicine and how does it influence the way you’re preparing?
I’m focused on the role of food animals, and I envision a world in which there is not a shortage of these large animals veterinarians. I also would love to see an improvement in the quality of our food sold in supermarkets and the conditions in which livestock are kept in the country. I am currently in the mixed animal area of emphasis because this is the way I want to practice in the future, but I am hoping to make a big impact on my local community and economy by working for cattle farms in Georgia. Additionally, I plan to get more involved in legislative decisions in order to improve livestock welfare while advocating for better U.S. Department of Agriculture organic food policies, such as distinguishing between labels claiming antibiotic-free, natural, and/or grass-fed. With the help of better organic food policies and the ever-growing awareness and demand from the public, I believe that prices for organic products will eventually decrease, making these higher quality products more available for the general population. Also, the nation will become more knowledgeable about what these labels mean and how it may impact them and their families. I am preparing to become a veterinarian as well as an educator to help people make informed choices.
Looking for a ilver lining, what is one positive thing that you think our profession can take from the COVID-19 pandemic so far?
Veterinary professionals have been considered essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. Our country realized that our profession is a significant factor in maintaining the health and wellness of the family unit. This is something that everybody should be genuinely proud of. Providing excellent care and being there in case of emergencies for pets, livestock, clients, and businesses throughout a pandemic has brought many challenges, but veterinarians are the image of adaptability. Considering veterinary professionals have thought of inventive techniques to care for their patients for decades, I believe our profession as a whole has once again transitioned smoothly through difficult times in this nation’s history. I hear about colleagues being creative with certain tools in practice and modifying them to what they need because there are many things that are just not made specifically for animals. It is these traits that are going to help our profession in the long run have a positive outlook when disaster strikes.
Thank you, Taylor and Dr. Sparks!