As I always do, I’m enjoying reading about the veterinary students our field veterinarians choose for the “Three questions for …” treatment. This time, Dr. Tonya Sparks chose Stephanie Crawford (2021) of the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine.
Will you please share something unexpected you discovered on your path to veterinary medicine?
One of the most pleasant surprises has been my amazing classmates. I had always heard that veterinary school was challenging and competitive, along with being mentally and emotionally draining. Veterinarians would tell me that it was one of their biggest challenges, but also some of the best times of their lives. Part of me thought my classmates would be competitive, have different interests outside of school, or simply not have time to make friends.
I’ve found the exact opposite is true. Vet school has brought some of my closest friends into my life, and I am so grateful for them. Instead of our differences pulling us apart, they have brought us together. We’ve been to salsa dances, horse races, road trips to conferences, fundraisers, school dances, and so many other events to support each other’s interests.
Vet school can be full of difficult and unique challenges. It has been great to have a support system to face challenges with and to remind each other to have fun!
What is your vision for the future of veterinary medicine and how does it influence the way you’re preparing?
It’s an exciting time for women in veterinary medicine. I’m seeing more women taking leadership roles, opening their own businesses, and going into fields of expertise that were previously male-dominated. I think this shift in our profession brings opportunities for women to empower each other.
I currently serve as president of the student chapter of the Veterinary Business Management Assoc. at Virginia-Maryland, and I strive to equip my fellow classmates with the skills they will need to own a business, build client relationships, pay off student debt, and become successful leaders in our field. I often hear graduates say they wish they had learned more about the business side of veterinary medicine in school, and I have taken that knowledge and tried my best to share it with my classmates. I want to give my colleagues the confidence and skills they need to be successful and to be their own advocate.
In the future, I see myself incorporating mentorship into my veterinary practice. I’ve been lucky to have several very positive and influential mentors in my career, and I look forward to passing down the skills I learned from them to other young women entering this profession.
Would you tell us one thing about yourself that would surprise your veterinary colleagues?
I consider veterinary school my second career. When I finished my undergraduate degree, I stayed at Virginia Tech to complete a Master’s in Public Health. After graduate school I worked in public health epidemiology doing infectious disease surveillance. Part of my job involved traveling across the state to educate health departments, campers, and other epidemiologists about preventing tick bites and the spread of Lyme disease. Watching their shocked faces when they discovered the microscopic size of nymphal stage ticks fueled my passion to educate others and share science to prevent disease.
My career in epidemiology taught me the importance of health education and showed me the vital role of veterinarians at the community level. While I was communicating science to the public, I missed making an impact on individuals’ lives. I decided to go back to school to pursue my childhood dream of becoming a veterinarian so I could work with animals, while simultaneously pursuing my passion to educate and engage people. Now I find that my interests in public health and veterinary medicine serve as motivation to encourage owners to promote healthy behaviors for their pets. It’s a fun combination to be passionate about the big picture of population health, while also appreciating that healthy behaviors start with one individual.
Thank you, Stephanie and Dr. Sparks!