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Class of 2020 Story: A Sustainable Path

Class of 2020 Maura Wade
The Class of 2020's Maura Wade takes in the Grand Canyon.

Class of 2020 Stories The following by Maura Wade is the sixth in a series of Class of 2020 stories running up to the CVM’s oath and hooding ceremony on May 8.

Read all of the stories here:

There are seemingly endless memorable experiences throughout the journey of veterinary school. However, the most impactful moment for me happened when classes weren’t in session, when I was 1,100 miles from campus.

Due to a flood in my home, I went through five or six temporary living situations during the summer between second and third year. At the moment in question, I had traveled to visit family, and one night around midnight (the inevitable time of revelations), I was suddenly overwhelmed by how my temporary living situations had made the majority of the everyday things in my life disposable.

I had always been conscious of my environmental impact, but suddenly I felt like I needed to do something. This feeling did not go away the next morning, and it stayed with me for weeks to follow.

When the fall semester came around, I decided to act on that feeling and created the NC State CVM Sustainability Committee.

I’m not sure whether it was fate or foresight that led me to start the Sustainability Committee, but as third year marched on I found that everything I was doing to build the committee was giving me a much needed new purpose in vet school. If you have talked to an NC State vet student, they have probably told you that second year is the most difficult. Academically, I agree with that. However, in my opinion, third year is the most emotionally difficult — the year of burnout.

Feelings of burnout hit me hard in the fall semester of third year, but my work for the Sustainability Committee motivated me to keep going every day. 

I can’t count the number of times I have gotten completely absorbed in reading articles or watching videos online related to sustainability. Do I regret not spending those countless hours studying instead? Not really. If anything, having that outlet made it so that I could focus better once I was studying.

Probably the biggest thing I have gained from leading the Sustainability Committee is a greater sense of community within the NC State CVM.

I, perhaps annoyingly, sent emails to all the email lists because, in my mind, everyone at the CVM could and should participate in these sustainable initiatives. Opening up my circle that way brought me to interact with some phenomenal people that I would not have necessarily encountered just going about the usual routine of a DVM student. 

I have had some really great conversations with Greer Arthur, a researcher and global health program specialist at the CVM who is also passionate about sustainability. I have also gotten to know people in the Terry Center, in the laboratory animal division and in administration because of their shared interest in sustainability. I have been able to connect with several professors on another level outside coursework.

Class of 2020 Maura Wade
Maura Wade during a recent CVM Open House.

I wish I had started the Sustainability Committee sooner during my time in vet school, not only so I could have seen more projects to fruition but also so I would have had more time to further develop relationships with people in all areas of the CVM.

While my work with the Sustainability Committee hasn’t changed my immediate post-graduation plans, it definitely has me questioning what I might be doing 10 or 20 years from now. Will I continue to be doggedly persistent — pun intended — about sustainable initiatives as a clinical veterinarian? Will I leave a clinical job to pursue work more directly connected to One Health? Will I go into higher education and teach about sustainability like Jay Levine, a veterinarian and a professor in the NC State Climate Change and Society program

I’m not sure, but considering my application essay for getting into vet school was about all the different fields that are open to someone with a DVM degree, I’m happy to find that my future is not confined to just one option.

Maura Wade is from Plano, Texas. After graduation, she will be working in small and exotic animal medicine at a clinic in Alexandria, Va.