Three questions for … Cornell’s Xanth El-Sayed (2022) and Edna Seymour (2021)

Now and then, one of our field veterinarians will have such a difficult time choosing just one veterinary student to feature following a school visit. In those circumstances, I just let them choose two.

Such was the case recently for our Dr. Kristi Yee, whose visit to the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine has produced two students willing to answer our questions. Thank you, Dr. Yee, and we agree: Both students are pretty special! First, let’s hear from Xanth (Instagram: @vetting_by):

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

I have learned that sometimes flexibility and “flying by the seat of your pants”can pay off. I will start this response by (begrudgingly) admitting that I’m “type-A,” especially when it comes to planning. I’m most comfortable when there’s a plan to execute and get anxiety when there’s not. This was no different when it came to graduating college. My plan was to either get a job in my life-long career field or go straight to graduate school so I could eventually get that job. Taking a gap year (or three) was out of the question.

XanthCornellHowever, by the time graduation came, and I didn’t know what career I wanted or if I wanted to go to graduate school, taking time off to figure out what I wanted was my only option. While I had major anxiety about not having a specific plan, I just tried to be flexible and see where life took me. And it paid off: The flexibility allowed me to take advantage of different opportunities.

I held positions in various careers (business, education, and animal health) and at different types of organizations (non-profits, for-profits, start-ups). I figured out which aspects of these positions I enjoyed and which I did not. I also found mentors who helped me see that veterinary medicine enveloped all the aspects I loved from my various positions. I would not be where I am today without having had these experiences. Despite my “type-A personality” and desire to execute plans, my gap years taught me the value of flexibility. I look forward to seeing where this new skill takes me.

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

My love for the ocean and marine life rivals my love for veterinary medicine. As a child, I would drag my family to the beach just so I could roll around in the waves for hours. And unlike most of my peers, who have wanted to be veterinarians since they can remember, I used to dream of being a world-renown marine biologist who was the CEO of a company focused on oceanic conservation.

After graduating from the University of California, Santa Barbara (where I received my bachelor’s in Aquatic Biology), I started to work with animals and fell in love with the world of veterinary medicine. I worked with marine mammal rescues, the local zoo, and as a technician in a small animal hospital. While my dream has shifted, I am confident I will somehow combine these two passions — whether by becoming an aquatic veterinarian or by owning a practice by the beach. But until then, I will be studying away in Ithaca.

And now … Edna:

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

I’m optimistic about the growth of innovation and entrepreneurship in the veterinary field. There has been an obvious increase in the number of veterinary students interested in acquiring business skills.

I worked in the animal health industry for a start-up biotech company (Cresilon) prior to vet school. Especially after attending many of the major veterinary conferences and networking with some of the most influential leaders in the field, I learned that there are many career paths involving business and entrepreneurial skills that we can take advantage of. I’m really excited to work for the Veterinary Entrepreneurship Academy this summer because they’ve done a lot to help introduce vet students to these kinds of career paths.

In preparation to become doctors, it’s important for us to stay open-minded about the variety of potential career opportunities available.

I’m also excited about the increasing focus on technological advancements, especially the use of telemedicine to help communicate with our clients better and to make hospital workflow more efficient. As we prepare to become doctors, it’s important for us to stay adaptable, because there are many ways in which the veterinary profession might change over the next few years. Even if it’s the “way it’s always been done,” we need to be willing to transition into new and innovative ways of doing things.

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

A few years ago, I read Dale Carnegie’s famous book, “How To Win Friends and Influence People,” and it had a huge impact on my life. My former CEO is a TEDTalk Fellow and has given speeches all over the world. This book and this role model sparked my interest in learning how I can improve my public-speaking skills. I took the 8-week introduction course on public speaking and communication at Dale Carnegie headquarters in NYC. Every week we practiced giving a speech related to one of his core principles, including:

  • Don’t criticize, condemn, or complain
  • Give honest, sincere appreciation
  • Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language

After taking the course, I was honored to be asked to return as a coach. I loved the opportunity to help people break out of their shell and to advocate for things that they’re passionate about. This experience has transformed my ability to speak publicly, to network, and to build meaningful relationships.

Traveling is my favorite hobby, and I’ve been to more then 30 countries. My interest in international veterinary medicine began after spending three months in Nicaragua working as a clinical intern and social coordinator for World Vets. For three months prior to vet school, I traveled to more than 16 countries with my boyfriend, Matt. He is the CEO of BarkBox, so in sharing a mutual passion for helping animals, we spent a lot of time volunteering with numerous rescues in these countries. I learned a lot from this experience and will spend a lot of my veterinary career striving to have a positive impact on a global scale.


Thank you, Dr. Yee, Edna and Xanth!