The veterinary profession grew by 109 new members on May 17 as the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine graduated the Class of 2019. The CVM commencement was held in Jesse Hall on the MU campus.
Keynote speaker Elizabeth “Betsy” Charles, DVM, MA, executive director of the Veterinary Leadership Institute, told the graduates about lessons she and her late husband had learned from their dog, TAG, an acronym for Totally Awesome Golden. TAG quickly grew from a sweet puppy to a rambunctious adolescent dog who would race wildly around their house. All that changed one day when Charles’ husband threw a disc, which TAG immediately chased and caught. Chasing Frisbees became TAG’s purpose for the remaining 14 years of his life, Charles said. She said her own life changed when her husband asked her what she would do if she knew her purpose in life the same way their dog understood his.
She then asked the members of the audience to close their eyes and visualize what their life would look like if they were more TAG-like in their approach to living and brought that purpose to the table every day.
“The more we chase and jump after something, the more likely we are to catch it,” she said.
She advised that being able to tap into the true essence of who one is meant to be is the best way to silence the voices of self-doubt and external critics.
“Sometimes it seems like a never-ending chorus of, ‘You’re not good enough’,” she said. She urged the graduates not to give those voices too much power.
She also talked about the, “difficult and beautiful” two-and-a-half years between learning of her husband’s amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, ALS, diagnosis and his succumbing to the disease. She advised the graduates to remain hopeful and joyful in the midst of agonizing loss.
Charles told the class that she was proud of their effort, attitude and courage.
“You are enough. You are creative. You are powerful beyond your wildest dreams,” she said. “You can make a positive difference no matter what your job title. You were created to bring a unique perspective to veterinary medicine. You, University of Missouri Class of 2019, are exactly what our profession needs.
“Today is a day of triumph. Step once and forever into the freedom your education has prepared you for: Free to shine, free to learn, free to lead, free to love, free to be your whole and true self. Step into the waves of life with laughter and delight. Surrender with joy and peace into your purpose. Then stand firm and walk strong. Congratulations, Class of 2019,” Charles concluded.
CVM Dean Carolyn Henry, DVM, MS, served as the emcee for graduation.
“This graduating class is the first group of students that I welcomed to their clinical rotations as dean during their White Coat Ceremony, so I know this day will always have a special place in my heart,” Henry said. “We have collectively met considerable challenges in our journeys to this day and think we’ve done pretty well.”
Marlyn Whitney, DVM, PhD, a clinical professor at the CVM and a member of the Class of 1979, addressed the graduates on behalf of the CVM Alumni Association.
“You walked in here today as a student, but you’ll walk out as an alumnus and will forever be a colleague,” she said. She asked the graduates to seek out reunion opportunities and to become involved in their state medical associations.
Prior to the investiture ceremony, the college recognized graduate students who were completing master’s and PhD degrees. David Wilson, DVM, MS, Veterinary Health Center director, presented veterinarians completing internships and residencies at the CVM.
Angela Tennison, DVM, associate dean for student affairs, presented the class for graduation. Linda Berent, DVM, PhD, associate dean for academic affairs, conducted the investiture, assisted by Leon Tu, DVM, clinical instructor, and Christopher Baines, PhD, associate professor. Also assisting with the ceremony were Brian Frappier, DVM, PhD, associate clinical professor, and Cathleen Kovarik, DVM, PhD, associate teaching professor.
MU Chancellor Alexander Cartwright, PhD, conferred the doctor of veterinary medicine degree to the class members. Missouri Veterinary Medical Association President Carol Ryan, DVM, led the graduates in reciting the Veterinarian’s Oath.
Seth Williams, who created a podcast, “Vet School Unleashed” while a veterinary student, gave the response on behalf of Class of 2019.
“Doctor sure has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?” he began.
Williams asked the Class of 2019 to think about who they turned to in times of joy and times of stress during their four years of the veterinary curriculum.
“None of us new veterinarians would be here today without the love and support of our family and friends, especially our significant others, parents, grandparents and close friends. Let’s give them a big Dr. Evans, ‘woo’ and a round of applause for giving us the support when we needed it the most.”
He spoke of their journey to become veterinarians, for some a dream since childhood ─ fulfilling prerequisite courses, spending hundreds of hours shadowing veterinarians, their first year in the veterinary curriculum taking “basic” science courses that were in no way basic, and spending more time at the Veterinary Health Center than in their own homes at times. He urged his classmates to never stop learning, to stay curious and to keep looking for the next door to open.