Have you ever had a mentor in your life that you can truly attest to having shaped the course of your time on Earth? If you do, you are lucky. Finding a true mentor that takes time to know you and your goals is no small feat. It is something to be treasured and nurtured with great care. If you do find one of these rare gems in your travels, hold on to them with trust and a grateful attitude that is sure to foster a positive relationship.
A mentor that I met during my undergraduate years in Vermont fits this narrative. I met her during my first year as an undergraduate, back when I was a lost puppy in a rigorous academic world that I needed to adjust to. She was a veterinarian and one of my professors. She had done a lot of conservation work and also maintained involvement in primary care, both of which are activities that I want to maintain throughout my career. She was a great teacher, had a killer sense of humor, brimmed with the confidence of an inspiring leader, yet maintained an aura of modesty. For me, she embodied many qualities that I wanted to have as a veterinarian in order to someday effectively mentor the next generation. She helped me navigate my academic struggles and did not yield to my complaints or days when every part of my mind was looking for a way to make school easier and escape what I knew I had to do to get into vet school. She pushed me. She did not let me settle for getting Bs in my classes; she pushed me to get As and act like there was no other way to go through school. It was not a mean way of teaching, and she was not pushing me into unrealistic places. She knew I could do it and was simply asking me to ask more of myself, be happy, and enjoy my studies while simultaneously enjoying life outside of school.
Fast forward to my third year of veterinary school, on the eve of starting our clinical rotations, and I know that she was right all along. I am so glad that I did not compromise just because I was having difficult times in school. I am so thankful that she did not allow me seriously consider changing my academic path away from a pre-professional curriculum. Trust me, there were some dark days during General Chemistry when I really wanted to!
We have an upcoming ceremony when third-year students are presented with their white coats before we enter our clinical rotations. Each student gets to pick who presents them with their coat. Of course, my number one choice was my advisor from undergraduate days. I was a little worried that she may not be able to fit in the drive to Cornell with her busy schedule, but she happily obliged and will make the trip to her alma mater. I cannot think of a better way to symbolize leaving my years of traditional academic study behind and moving on to the future of clinical study.