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Class of 2020 Story: Tasting the Flavors of Veterinary Medicine

Class of 2020
Madeline Zurowsky (second from left) sits with classmates (from left) Josh Zlotnick, Melanie Runkle and Shanna Wong during orientation in 2016. Photo by Nathan Latil/NC State Veterinary Medicine

Class of 2020 Stories The following by Madeline Zurowsky is the fifth 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:

Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, I smiled for the camera during the first week of CVM orientation with newly met classmates donned in our new house shirts. What started as general conversation — “Where’d ya go to undergrad? What pets do you have?” — was then memorialized in the Wolves’ Den, our cafeteria, as what our friends like to call the “family portrait.” It’s the photo above. 

We soon became as close as family. 

What I did know going into veterinary school is that I wanted to be a veterinarian before I could pronounce the word. I also knew that I had a mixed animal background in high school and college and wanted to explore a little bit of everything — James Herriot-style.

What I soon found out was that I would not only be exposed to all sorts of people with these amazing passions that could out-do Dr. Herriot in any novel, but also that, throughout my time at the CVM, I would taste the variety of all that veterinary medicine offers.

After my first 2 a.m. colic surgery clean up as an operating room tech and my less-than-stellar performance in equine classes, I realized that I preferred to explore small animal passions — probably a bit safer, anyway. 

But as many of my friends decided to pursue specialities, I hadn’t nailed down anything that I could commit my life (and sacrifice sleep) to yet. 

There was a future surgeon beside me, a radiologist in front of me, a theriogenologist across the room, but who was I?

That is when I realized the magic of small animal general practice. I could explore all aspects of veterinary medicine on a daily basis and continue the fun of learning new things throughout my career. I wasn’t tied down to any specialty but could become a great doctor for a lot of pets. 

And if I was stuck on a case or inside my own head with doubt? I had a great network of friends who could help me with their own specialities and passions. As I soon learned in working in organized veterinary medicine for the Student American Veterinary Medical Association, SAVMA, the veterinary profession was a smaller-knit family than I had expected and was full of people dedicated to making the profession even better. 

I jammed my selective and elective courses full of a variety of courses in addition to our core curriculum to soak up as much as I could before clinics. From a geriatric course to a theriogenology course, I was learning about newborn pups to ancient cats. My clinical rotations went even further as I packed on the electives to try to solve as many clinical practice questions as I could. 

Madeline Zurowsky
Madeline Zurowsky. Photo by John Joyner/NC State Veterinary Medicine

During every clinical rotation I fell in love with their specific type of medicine and procedures. I admired the rotating interns and residents, as only a year or two out they already seemed experts at their rotation. I soon found out it may have been their first day on the rotation, too.

I picked the brains of the clinicians and saw the cogs turn as they went about teaching us with compassion. And within each service, technicians and staff had their own unique personalities and passions in veterinary medicine that seemed to add on the never-ending list what the profession is all about. 

I started out on internal medicine wanting to leave as an internist, but quickly fell in love with theriogenology, behavior, nutrition, dentistry and rehabilitation all over again. From cleaning an otter’s teeth to collecting my first stallion through semen collection from a stud in Southern Pines, my clinical rotations gave me a wonderful taste of veterinary medicine.

While I now realize not everyone has to have a favorite flavor per se, I still admire each and every passion of my classmates and our instructors. And that’s what is special about NC State:  all different flavors of people and passions collaborate together to help make the lives of animals — and their humans—  better.  

When it comes to this NC State CVM family, I am proud to be a soon-to-be alumna. 

A native of Fayetteville, Madeline Zurowsky will join a small animal general practice after graduation.