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Student Experience

‘It’s the People Who Make It’ for the College of Veterinary Medicine’s Class of 2024

Despite their programs’ socially distant beginnings, members of the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine’s Class of 2024 formed enduring bonds with the people and places that make this campus home.

Two graduates lean into each other, hands clasped, at the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine's 2024 graduation.
DVM graduates Megan Gremling and Gabriela (Gaby) Gonzalez lean on each other at the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine's 2024 Oath and Hooding ceremony. (John Joyner/NC State College of Veterinary Medicine)

As fourth-year DVM student Gaby Gonzalez emerged from the Veterinary Hospital into the brilliant May sunlight on the College of Veterinary Medicine’s quad, she described her feelings on her final day of clinical rotations as if she were delivering spoken-word poetry.

“Growth, happiness, completion of a goal,” she said. “Inspired. Relationship-building. Friends for life. Internal joy.”

On Wednesday, Gonzalez and the nearly 100 other Doctor of Veterinary Medicine students in the Class of 2024 finished the final phase of NC State’s DVM curriculum and celebrated the end of their clinical year by gathering outside to exchange hugs, high-fives and happy tears. 

Wednesday’s festivities kicked off three days of celebrations leading up to Friday’s Oath and Hooding, the graduation ceremony at which North Carolina’s newest veterinarians took the Veterinarian’s Oath and received their doctoral hoods. 

Between the last day of clinics, the Comparative Biomedical Sciences graduation, Multicultural Graduation and Oath and Hooding, every graduate felt the appreciation and support of mentors, peers and families. 

These group celebrations felt far removed from the socially distant Zoom classrooms where the majority of the Class of 2024 started their programs. Over their years of North American Veterinary Licensing Examination study sessions in the William Rand Kenan Jr. Library of Veterinary Medicine, late nights at the lab bench in the Research Building and clinical skills evaluations in the Veterinary Hospital, these students say they have forged unbreakable bonds with their colleagues that will endure even as they send one another off into new careers.

“This is my group, this is my family, this is my crew,” said Megan Gremling, a DVM graduate heading to a large animal rotating internship at the University of Georgia this summer. “Leaving them is really tough. I don’t want to leave the life that we’ve built here, but we’re also really excited for what’s next. I can’t wait to see where all of them go and what they do.”

Members of the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine’s DVM Class of 2024 celebrate the end of their clinical year. (John Joyner/NC State College of Veterinary Medicine)
Fourth-year students take a selfie on the college’s front lawn after finishing their clinical year at the Veterinary Hospital. (John Joyner/NC State College of Veterinary Medicine)
Students say supportive colleagues helped them through the final year of their DVM program, and the friendships they’ve made will last a lifetime. (John Joyner/NC State College of Veterinary Medicine)

Clinical Commemorations and Ph.D. Praise

Fourth-year students began trickling onto the college’s front lawn and gathering in groups about noon Wednesday. As soon as the clock struck 12:30 p.m., marking the official end of clinics, stragglers sprinted to the lawn as it erupted in cheers.

At the Large Animal Hospital, equine and ruminant medicine faculty surprised students with confetti poppers, showering them with colorful paper and congratulations. For Gremling, supportive teams like these were the highlight of her last year of veterinary school.

“Rotations were great — especially once you get into the back half, where you know what you’re doing,” Gremling said. “You’re like, ‘Oh, maybe I actually am going to be a doctor!’ And honestly, the people make it everything. The animals are amazing, but it’s the people who make it.”

The celebrations continued into the evening, when Ph.D students from the Comparative Biomedical Sciences program gathered with their doctoral advisers, family members and friends to recognize the culmination of years of dedicated study and intensive research.

Dr. Santosh Mishra, an associate professor of neuroscience, joked that he would need hours to talk about the accomplishments of his mentee, Dr. Ankita Gupta. Gupta has made great strides in researching treatments for osteoarthritis-associated pain in rodents and dogs, setting the bar high for other graduate students, he said.

“My highlight in the CBS program has been the people,” said Gupta, a DVM/Ph.D. student who started her DVM clinical year that same day. “I’m grateful to all my mentors and the staff, technicians and others at NC State who have supported me. Completing a Ph.D. really takes a village, and I’m so glad I chose NC State for my program.”

Dr. Santosh Mishra, an associate professor of neuroscience, stands with his mentee, Dr. Ankita Gupta, Ph.D., at the Comparative Biomedical Sciences program graduation on Wednesday. (John Joyner/NC State College of Veterinary Medicine)

Many of the graduating students at the Multicultural Graduation the following day remembered growing up without seeing veterinarians who looked like them at their local clinics or on TV. But as they looked around the ceremony and saw colleagues and their families from similar racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, they felt represented and part of something bigger than themselves. 

Heading into their own careers, these new DVMs are on a mission to increase the visibility of veterinarians of color and become role models for future generations by paying forward the guidance they received from their mentors, families and friends.

“Building supportive communities is vital,” said Raisa Vélez-Contreras, a graduating DVM. “I am confident that I would not have gotten here without instrumental people in my life who have altered my path.”

Dr. Andrea Gentry-Apple, a member of the DVM Class of 2015, started her address to the graduates and their families by recognizing how much progress the College of Veterinary Medicine has made toward embracing inclusivity since she was a student. 

Now a coordinator of veterinary education at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, she encourages undergraduate pre-vet students at the historically Black university to pursue opportunities in veterinary medicine, including at NC State. 

On Thursday, she asked members of the Class of 2024 to continue leading efforts to make the profession more welcoming for people of all backgrounds.

“Take up space,” Gentry-Apple advised. “Be unapologetically you. Wear your hair the way you like, and let them guess how you got it that way. Share your life, and don’t hide it. If the space does not exist, create it. Diversity thrives in creativity, and creativity breeds inclusivity and belonging. Be a voice.”

Class of 2024 graduate Simone McCluney embraces Dr. Ashley Canty, director of diversity, equity and inclusion at Multicultural Graduation. (John Joyner/NC State College of Veterinary Medicine)

Grads at Last

While eagerly awaiting their turns to walk across the stage inside Reynolds Coliseum on Friday, students in the Class of 2024 tried to heed the opening words of Dr. Laura Nelson, associate dean and director of academic affairs: “Really drink in this moment. Take a breath. Look around.”

Misty-eyed graduates met their families’ gazes as Nelson asked them to applaud those who supported them through veterinary school.

“As you proceeded through your years here, you more than persevered,” Nelson said. “You supported one another, welcomed new members to your class and really hit your clinical year out of the ballpark. I am so proud of you. We are so proud of you.”

Dr. Joshua Stern, associate dean of research and graduate studies, introduced the Ph.D. graduates by recognizing their impressive accomplishments within their respective fields.

“The students receiving their Ph.D.s today have spent years working alongside world-leading faculty and clinicians conducting solution-driven research that defines the interconnections between animal and human health,” Stern said. “From cell biology, immunology, neurosciences and infectious diseases to pathology, pharmacology, cardiology and public health, we are proud to send our graduates into the world to solve today’s most pressing health challenges.”

The Ph.D. students were hooded by their faculty mentors, while the members of the DVM Class of 2024 received their hoods from professors they selected to do the honor: assistant clinical professor Dr. Karyn Harrell and associate clinical professor Dr. Devorah Marks Stowe.

To make their entry into the veterinary field official, Dr. Marguerite Gleason, president of the North Carolina Veterinary Medical Association, administered the Veterinarian’s Oath to the graduates. The new veterinarians pledged to use their teachings and skills to benefit society through advocating for animal health and welfare, promoting public health and advancing medical knowledge.

Graduates of the Class of 2024 brought the celebration from the ceremony onto the street outside NC State’s Reynolds Coliseum, where a Puerto Rican ensemble got the crowd moving. The Class of 2024’s Raisa Vélez-Contreras and Natalia Rosa-Padilla dance in the foreground. (John Joyner/NC State College of Veterinary Medicine)
The Class of 2024’s Sam Schopler gave the class speech at Oath and Hooding. (John Joyner/NC State College of Veterinary Medicine)
Graduate Annie Wang hugs a loved one after Oath and Hooding. (John Joyner/NC State College of Veterinary Medicine)

Graduating student Sam Schopler, who was chosen by his classmates to deliver the class message, encouraged his peers to seek collaboration, stay resilient and keep learning as they enter practice.

“Curiosity is innate, but it is also a choice,” he said. “I hope that we can all choose to be curious and ask ourselves, ‘Hmm?’ when we are met by the challenges that face our profession.”

College of Veterinary Medicine Dean Kate Meurs left graduates with the reminder that the relationships they formed with each other and the college will endure long into their careers.

“You’re one of less than 3,000 of some of the very best veterinarians in the world,” she said. “This is an elite group, but it is also a tight family. This family is here to help you — stay in touch with each other and with us. This was more than a four-year relationship. We are here for the lifetime.”