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How I knew I wanted to become a veterinarian

INSTAGRAM @fania_thevetstudent    TWITTER @fania383   
Maria Estefania Colon is a fourth-year veterinary student at Tuskegee University School of Veterinary Medicine. She was born and raised in Arecibo, Puerto Rico. At a young age, her family fostered her genuine interest for animal welfare and she became dedicated to take care of injured stray cats in her neighborhood. In her free time, she loves reading, writing, and telling her stories as a student blogger for Merck Manual Vet Stories blog. She also aspires to become a role model for low-income students and inspire them to pursue their dreams of becoming a vet.

For as long as I could remember, I’ve loved to play with animals. Especially Michelle, who was my first white cat and even stuffed toy ones. I always wanted to treat, protect, and save them.

I think I was six years old when I told my sister I wanted to be a veterinarian when I grew up. I know it may sound cliché, but the truth is that I knew I was made for veterinary medicine since I was a little girl. When I was twelve, I started helping my sister feed and take care of injured, stray cats in my neighborhood. She and my dad taught me how to handle them, clean their injuries, and bandage them. I was never afraid and did my best to find them a forever home. Little by little, those experiences fostered in me a genuine interest in their health and well-being. I was becoming a little vet nurse without even realizing it.

During my last summer of high school, I participated in a low-income free spay and neuter event back home in Puerto Rico. I grew up on a small island that was dealing with an increase in the overpopulation of pets. Many homeless dogs and cats were hungry, afraid, and vulnerable in the streets. Because of this, I developed a huge desire to help and have my first experiences in a veterinary setting. So, I caught three stray dogs and five cats from my neighborhood to be neutered and spayed at the event. There was one cat I had to leave because I could not catch him. He was a gray polydactyl cat with mange. After multiple attempts, I was finally able to grab him with a towel and put him in a kennel. I remember, he scratched my left hand and neck a little bit. It hurt, but I was determined to help him regardless. The next day, this cat and the other homeless pets were spayed and neutered. I was there observing and assisting in the surgeries. This was my first shadowing experience in veterinary surgery, which exposed me to a fascinating world. A place where patients cannot talk and doctors can treat many diseases for animals of all sizes. It made me realize I wanted to be part of it and work with animals, whether they were aggressive strays or cute friendly pets.

At the end of that day, I told my parents that I was sure that I wanted to become an animal doctor. And nine years later, that little girl achieved her long-life dream of becoming a veterinarian. Even more, I never imagined I would accomplish all of it in the middle of one of the most devastating pandemics in history.

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