I remember the first time I doubted that I would become a Veterinarian. The last year of college arrived, and I was so excited! Graduation from Xavier University of New Orleans was around the corner, and I was preparing to apply for veterinary school. I was getting ready to take the GRE, the exam needed to get into many of the schools. At the same time, I was pledging (shout out to the beautiful ladies of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated!), and just trying to pass my classes. The first time I took the test was that fall. I studied, but didn’t do so well. I was so sick; I think I had the flu. I repeated it in the spring and did slightly better, but still not the best. Standardized tests are definitely not my jam!
Surprised to Say the Least
Despite my low scores, I still landed an interview at LSU. Now before my Tuskegee classmates get on me…I applied to LSU because I was a resident of Louisiana. I thought it might be easier getting in. Well, that was definitely not the case! I also knew very little about Tuskegee’s vet school at the time. But that would soon change.
The interview process was brutal. This was the late 1990s. Mad Cow Disease was in the news. And what did they ask me about? Mad Cow Disease! I had no idea what to expect, so I didn’t really know how to prepare. I wasn’t up on current events because I was focused on graduating.
I didn’t get into LSU or any vet school that year. Even though most applicants don’t get in the first time around, I was still devastated. I felt like a complete failure. I started to question whether I was cut out for this profession. I even began thinking I might have a learning disability and had myself tested. I was reassured that I didn’t. I hadn’t really thought about Plan B if I didn’t get in. But I knew I needed to figure it out quickly.
I decided that I needed to get experience, working in a veterinary hospital. I knew this would strengthen my application and boost my confidence. I applied to several. But because I didn’t have experience (aside from volunteering), they wouldn’t take a chance. One day, while applying at yet another hospital, I was surprised to see a friend from Xavier working as a veterinary technician. She put in a good word. I interviewed and was offered a position, as a veterinary assistant. I was willing to do whatever necessary to gain experience. I eventually got accepted into Tuskegee University College of Veterinary Medicine. But I wasn’t prepared for the long road ahead.
I Just Started!
The first week in my new position, I was eager to learn the ropes. This was a small animal hospital with five doctors. I was just trying to get acquainted with my new responsibilities. At the end of the week, one of the owners, we’ll call him Dr. S, asked me to come to his office. I thought I was about to get more direction, or maybe some encouragement. Instead, he told me that I crossed my arms a lot. For me this was a comforting position. But in a work environment maybe it wasn’t appropriate. He also told me if I didn’t step it up, they would have to let me go. It was a fast-paced practice, so I guess he felt I might not be able to keep up. Whaaaat??? I felt like I had just been kicked in the stomach. I had only been there for a week. What did they want from me?!
I shared with my friend and the practice manager what happened. I cried, cried, and cried some more. I wasn’t sure how to process the news that had just been delivered by Dr. S. I felt like I failed even before I started. Could I make it as a Veterinarian if I couldn’t even get this right? Dr. S went out of town for a few days. During that time, I worked my butt off to learn what I could before he returned. I wasn’t about to let him deter me from my goal…to get as much experience as I could in a practice setting.
When Dr. S came back, I guess he was impressed, because I kept my job. He actually became one of my biggest supporters. I stayed there until I was accepted into Tuskegee’s vet school, class of 2002, one year later. He put the fire under me. I didn’t realize it then, but it pushed me to step up and go for what I wanted. I learned so much at that practice. I’m so glad I didn’t give up…But I was close!