Skip to main content

Class of 2020 Story: An NC State Adventure, 13 years and counting

Class of 2020 Mandy Womble
The Class of 2020's Mandy Womble at work with the CVM's Turtle Rescue Team.

Class of 2020 Stories The following by Mandy Womble is the seventh 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:

My educational journey at NC State University has spanned over a decade.

In August 2005, I moved on campus from my hometown of Clemmons, N.C., as a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed college freshman majoring in zoology.

Throughout my time at NC State — 13 years in total (about the same amount of time it takes to go from kindergarten to 12th grade) — I have experienced tremendous professional and personal growth that has prepared me, in so many ways, to reach for and obtain all of my career aspirations and life goals.

I received amazing mentorship throughout my educational career, both as an undergraduate and as a combined DVM/Ph.D. student with a focus in zoological medicine, that shaped my experiences at NC State.

Although my path has been meandering, through many educational interests, endeavors and experiences, I feel that I have found a rewarding career path moving forward and am excited about what the future holds.

Like most endeavors in life, I feel that I was provided many stepping stones towards the ultimate prize of confidence and passion in my future career choices, through the amazing opportunities and guidance of many advisors along the way.

In undergrad, my adviser, Roger Powell, convinced me to follow my passions in the realm of wildlife biology and fostered my interests in evolutionary biology. I spent countless hours in his office or at Mitch’s Tavern, deep in philosophical conservations about evolutionary adaptations and the amazing diversity in the natural world.

My Ph.D. research advisor at the CVM, Nanette Nascone-Yoder, guided me in the discoveries of basic laboratory science and developmental biology through research on gastrointestinal tract and liver development using frogs as model species.

She also instilled in me the importance of a work-life balance and is an amazing example of a strong female scientist. The five years I spent completing my Ph.D. thesis taught me patience, perseverance, scientific writing and communication skills, as well as professional independence, not to mention providing cool dinner party stories about cannibalistic frogs and evolutionary gastrointestinal adaptations.

Mandy Womble Wedding
Mandy Womble (right) at her wedding officiated by the CVM professor Greg Lewbart (center). Credit: Chelsea Mehalek Photography

My veterinary school adviser, Greg Lewbart, has been an inspiration in the field of wildlife and zoological medicine, especially through my involvement at the CVM with the student run, nonprofit Turtle Rescue Team. I invested over 10 years as a member of TRT where I participated in the rescue and rehabilitation of wild, native North Carolina turtles as well as other reptiles and amphibians.

I held many administrative roles in this organization, including rehabilitation coordinator where I learned communication skills in regards to interacting with the general public. I also gained leadership and organizational skills during my time acting as vice president and co-president.

Dr. Lewbart has been instrumental in my development as a veterinarian and has become a close confidant and friend. He even officiated my wedding (dinosaur-themed) last December.

With all of my combined interests and amazing mentorship, one of the most challenging aspects of my educational experience has been determining an appropriate career path. During the summer of 2018, I was fortunate enough to be selected as a research intern at the Wildlife Conservation Society based at the Bronx Zoo.

I spent the summer under the guidance of Denise McAloose, the WCS’ zoological pathologist. My project consisted of researching morbidity and mortality of snow leopards across North American zoological institutions. This experience and Dr. McAloose’s mentorship focused my career aspirations into the world of anatomic pathology which combines all of my interests, including evolutionary biology, cell and developmental biology, wildlife conservation, comparative anatomy and veterinary medicine into one field.

After 13 years of dedicated mentorship, I have finally focused my career goals and passions and I am so excited to begin my residency in anatomic pathology in July at … NC State.

I mean, come on NC State, did you expect to get rid of me so soon?

“Each person holds so much power within themselves that needs to be let out. Sometimes they just need a little nudge, a little direction, a little support, and a little coaching, and the greatest things can happen.” – Pete Carroll