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Class of 2021 Story: An Army of Support

Samuel Tucker
The class of 2021's Samuel Tucker at his U.S. Army promotion ceremony to captain on the CVM campus. From left, he's joined by his CVM mentors Julie Balko, Lysa Posner and Kate Bailey. Photo courtesy of Samuel Tucker.

Class of 2021 Stories Each year, we reach out to our graduating class to share first-person reflections of their time at the CVM. The following story, written by the Class of 2021’s Samuel Tucker, launches this year’s series, which will run daily through May 7, leading up to the May 10 oath and hooding ceremony.

Coming into veterinary school at NC State, I was certain of one thing: I wanted to be an Army veterinarian.

Military service is a deep-rooted tradition in my family, with our service dating back to the American Revolution. My mother works as a civilian supervisor for the Fort Bragg Blood Donor Center, originally oversaw the Biosafety Level 3 facility and set up an Ebola testing laboratory. My dad is a retired United States Marine who served as a Drill Instructor. 

I was thrilled when I discovered there was a way for veterinarians to serve in the military. So, I spent my entire first semester in veterinary school applying for the Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP) and was honored to be selected as a recipient.

Through the HPSP, I have been able to work with military working dogs, network with a diverse group of Army veterinarians, develop my leadership skills and even called in a helicopter via radio for one summer training exercise for a medical evacuation scenario. This program has provided me with the tools to become a veterinarian capable of critical thinking and managing complex and stressful situations, all while serving my country.

Tucker while serving with the U.S. Army.

Little did I know that I would find another passion during my second year of veterinary school while in my surgery lab. I was selected to be my group’s anesthetist for our first spay.

During the procedure, instead of nervousness I felt excitement while overseeing the anesthesia drug protocol for my patient, monitoring them throughout the spay and leading the intra-operative care and subsequent recovery. Following this experience, I began to connect with anesthesiologists at NC State over my remaining time in the classroom and in clinics.

At the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine, we have an incredibly supportive and compassionate anesthesia team, and many have served as amazing mentors to me.

Dr. Lysa Posner, professor of anesthesiology and director of anesthesia services, actively reviewed tests with me in her physiology course. She assisted me in crafting an advanced anesthesia clinical rotation, during which I obtained more experience with anesthetizing horses, attended rounds with the anesthesiologists and formed a journal club for discussing interesting papers. 

She has provided mentorship for research projects I developed with her and endless support for my future career as an Army veterinarian. 

Dr. Julie Balko, assistant professor of anesthesiology, showed me that anesthesiologists can care for a variety of animals, ranging from sea turtles to dogs and even insects. She has dedicated countless hours working with me to study anesthesia techniques in our projects on butterflies and cockroaches. Her knowledge, compassion for teaching and love of research has always been evident.

Dr. Kate Bailey, clinical associate professor of anesthesiology, meticulously worked with me to draft my clinical schedule, wrote letters of recommendation for scholarships and voiced support of all my endeavors throughout my time at NC State. Whether I needed to talk about school or life, her door was open.

Tucker helps anesthesize a lion at the CVM.

Dr. Ludovica Chiavaccini, clinical veterinarian in anesthesiology, sparked my interest in ultrasound-guided nerve blocks and was always ready to discuss techniques. Dr. Lynelle Graham, Dr. Kristen Messenger and Dr. Jon Congdon provided words of wisdom and great anesthesia discussions during my rotations. Dr. Lydia Love and Dr. Juan Carlos Pavez Phillips significantly impacted my knowledge of patient care, pharmacology and anesthesia techniques during my clinical year.

These individuals took what was a spark and ignited it into a flame.

I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity to work with them and find mentors supporting me in my aspirations. Following my military career, I hope to enter a residency in anesthesia and analgesia so that I can research anesthesia protocols and techniques across a variety of species. 

I want to give back through offering the same compassionate teaching and mentorship that I was so fortunate to receive at the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine. 

Samuel Tucker is from Sanford, N.C., and focused on zoological medicine with an interest in anesthesia while at the CVM. After graduation, he will begin his First Year Graduate Veterinary Education (FYGVE) at Fort Bragg, N.C, as a Captain in the U.S. Army Veterinary Corps.