An excerpt from Corrina's winning essay:
Ideally, most people want happiness, success, service, and achievement, but these are more than one-dimensional conditions. Veterinary medicine appeals to me because it requires a variety of scientific and humanistic expertise. Chemistry, physics, and biology are just the foundation. In a hospital setting, this translates into not only finding a fitting cure or solution to any given symptom but also understanding the significance of the work and how it relates to the benefit of humanity. Animals can play a key role in human communication, happiness, and service because they provide an awareness of our basic instinctive needs and nurturing qualities. These are essential tools in working together on a global level. Dogs and cats don't always play a companion role in our lives. Police dogs, rescue dogs, and seeing-eye dogs help people in a much more tangible sense. Many harmful human viruses have been identified first by veterinarians in animals. Some current research has even been using canines as a low cost, un-invasive means of successfully diagnosing cancer in humans. These pets, police assistants, and therapy dogs are just some of the reasons that I feel becoming a veterinarian will bring me a sense of happiness, success and achievement.
The path to veterinary school has not been a straight shot for me, but the twists and turns I have taken have given me a more in-depth perspective on both medicine and animals. I was on a totally different track for most of my life (wanting to become a professional ballet dancer), so for a long time I took all of my other interests and hobbies in life for granted. Ballet dancing doesn't seem like it would have a direct connection to veterinary medicine, but it has shaped who I am and therefore is a part of how I came to be driven by veterinary medicine. Dancing gave me a love of hands-on learning and the discipline to stick with things when they are exceedingly challenging. It also helped me develop an expertise, in my youth, on the health and nutrition of the body and its close relationship to mental and physical performance. The hours I spent making small adjustments to my style and critiquing my peers and learning from their mistakes gave me a sense of appreciation for details. Striving to become a dancer gave me the courage I need to succeed in an equally challenging field such as veterinary medicine.
If I had to pick one defining moment in which I got serious about veterinary medicine as a career it would be my senior year in high school, because that is when I realized that professional dancing was not my ultimate goal and thus started to consider other hobbies and interests as possible career options. I wrote a paper during this time for a religion class on why animals are incapable of committing truly evil acts. The paper assumed that for an act to be truly evil the offender must have the conscious intent to cause pain and suffering. The focus of the paper was on proving that animals are not capable of consciously understanding the mental and physical pain and suffering that may follow their actions (attacking another animal or human for food or safety). Although I still believe that animals are incapable of evil, much of the resources I examined gave me a profound insight into the many other mental capabilities that animals do possess that relate back to humans. Researching animal behavior sparked a surprisingly deep interest in me. Even after the paper was done, I found myself seeking further information on the topic. This ongoing pursuit of information would develop into a passionate interest over the next few years. Just as my dancing career had turned into a passionate hobby, in the same way my hobby and interest in animal science and behavior developed into my career goals.
There are many different directions to go in when you want to work with animals. I have spent my time in college discovering these different fields of animal care, but ultimately the healing of animals, either behaviorally or physically through medicine, has been the most gratifying and captivating for me. I enjoy the structure and discipline of medicine. I like the challenge of applying a general knowledge of science and using it to discover a cure for the individual pets brought into a hospital. The one-on-one client interaction with owners is a reminder of why we breed pets and why many of us need animals in our lives to bring us back to what's important, like caring for one another and loving each other unconditionally.
The summer after my freshman year in college I worked as a kennel staff member in a small animal hospital in Brookline, MA. This was my first chance to see animal medicine and surgery up close. All of my initial hesitations about the gory procedures were immediately negated. Observing live surgery was remarkably more exciting than the dissections we had been doing in class. This was the real thing. I had to prove my capabilities to the doctors in the hospital through various tasks and tests involving the transport of lab materials and animal care before I was allowed to gain hands on experience. Once I had earned this trust, the doctors at the Brookline Animal Hospital were more than willing to answer all of my questions about what I was looking at and why they used each technique they did during the surgeries. Occasionally they would compose diagrams for me or sketch out notes so that I fully understood. In return I assisted the doctors by checking vital signs during surgeries and helping them recover animals that had undergone anesthesia. I enjoyed my time in the hospital so much I found myself stealing off to the hospital wing every chance I had and watching episodes of Emergency Vet in my free time at home. I was so fascinated with veterinary medicine that I went back to the Brookline Animal Hospital during my winter break and spring break to intern full-time. My experiences at the hospital solidified my interest in becoming a small animal veterinarian and encouraged me to increase my knowledge of science and medicine back at college.
My experience with small animals and pets at the Brookline Animal Hospital not only confirmed my interest in medicine, it also gave me an appreciation for how much I enjoy being around animals. It fueled my drive to learn more about animal science and medicine. During my sophomore year in college I took a class on emergency medical care, and interned with local paramedics at the Laurence and Memorial Hospital in Connecticut. Immediate care for the heart attacks, strokes, asthma attacks, and various physical injuries I worked with all required a systematic evaluation of the patient. The general rule was to treat symptoms before moving on, checking vital signs first and then working towards more specialized conditions. In the ambulance we would ask patients to evaluate their pain on a scale of 1-10 so that the doctors back at the hospital would have a basis with which to determine if the patient was getting better or worse. Even though the emergency patients at the Brookline Animal Hospital could not verbally tell the doctors where they were in pain the way humans can, they had other ways of communicating that were just as good if not more reliable. Although animals have very different ways of communicating than humans, clearly there is a similar pattern of signs and signals between animals that stems from centuries of evolution.
The fall of my junior year I decided to go abroad to Kenya: one of the last places on earth where large mammals can be viewed in their natural habitat. I had the chance to witness the intricate web of signaling that passes between families of animals and across species. Living in the desert of Kenya and watching elephants, lions, and many other species interact with each other gave me new insight into animal behavior and the role we play as humans in animal preservation. While I was there I observed the techniques that local farmers used to heal their animals and saw first-hand the disadvantages that come from overpopulating and neglecting domestic animals. Humans have a profound effect on animal populations; likewise animals have an equally strong but less appreciated impact on the human condition. While abroad I met and talked with government officials and farmers on the condition of their wildlife. I had the chance to make an impact on the outcome of the future of wild animals in Kenya and throughout this planet. As a result of my experience in Kenya, I returned to America with a better knowledge of how to interact with animals, as well as a better understanding of the issues that surround animal medicine and the impact they have on a global level.
I continued to pursue my interest in animal behavior and medicine during this past summer when I worked at the Tufts veterinary hospital interning with an animal behaviorist. Behavioral "disorders" are one of the top leading causes of euthanasia in domestic pets. As a veterinarian, I hope to provide my clients with medical advice on both physical and behavioral problems to try and maximize the companionship between clients and their pets. The large majority of the disorders we saw in behavioral appointments could have either been significantly improved or completely avoided with knowledgeable advice to the owner early on in the life span of the animal. With the help and advice of my supervisor and mentor, Dr. Moon-Fanelli, I composed PetFax reports for clients outlining suggested behavioral techniques and pharmacological recommendations. The reports also included a background on the behavioral disorder that gave me the opportunity to review a fuller body of research materials which were available in the animal behavior clinic at Tufts and not at my college. There were many times in clinic appointments when a pet would come in that had specific needs requiring a brainstorm of innovative ideas which could benefit each individual patient. The spontaneous improvisation of treatment reminded me of the emergency cases I had seen at the Brookline Animal Hospital.
The experiences I have sought on the route to becoming a veterinarian have taken me into the emergency rooms of small animal veterinary hospitals where I witnessed the beginning of life and the inevitability of death. While abroad I witnessed the strikingly similar interactions between coyotes and lions which are closely related to the ancestors of domestic cats and dogs. To say that every step of the way has been an eye opening joy would be both unbelievable and untruthful. I have paid my dues cleaning out soiled cages and hiking through elephant dung and the three-inch thorns that cover Acacia trees. There were days in the hospitals when no surgeries were performed and the majority of my time was spent cleaning instruments and helping to fill out paperwork. I have been disappointed at hearing doctors vent about unethical and business-driven medical practices but inspired by their efforts to change things and adhere to their Hippocratic Oath. I have held a kitten while it took its first breath thanks to an emergency surgery and mouth to nose procedures. I have slept feet away from lions in the middle of the Serengeti. I am ready to take the next step and go to veterinary school to gain the knowledge necessary for me to continue my experiences with animals and make my contribution to the ever-increasing field of animal medicine.