Early in her professional career, Eleanor M. Green, DVM, owned a veterinary practice in rural Mississippi and was, by her recollection, “12 months pregnant,” when she received an urgent call from a client whose horse had colic. She met the owner and the horse alongside a remote country road where the horse was throwing itself violently on the ground and thrashing in pain.
Another car pulled up alongside the scene and the driver rolled down the window and called out, “What’s wrong with your horse?”
The client responded that the horse had colic. The driver of the passing vehicle then inquired, “Well, why don’t you call a veterinarian?”
“The driver of the car still has no idea that a woman could have been an equine veterinarian at that time, especially that pregnant woman,” Green recounted.
Green, whose distinguished career includes becoming a founding veterinary faculty member at Mississippi State University, an equine clinician at Mizzou, head of the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences and director of the large animal hospital at the University of Tennessee, chair of the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences and the chief of staff of the large animal hospital at the University of Florida, and the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M University, provided the keynote address for the MU College of Veterinary Medicine Class of 2022 commencement ceremonies May 13. She shared several anecdotes from her career and the lessons she learned from those experiences.
“Be yourself confidently,” she advised. “And don’t be easily offended. Be an influencer by not being deterred by the perceptions and opinions of other, but by shaping them.”
She continued, “Overcoming any form of doubt and discrimination is largely about furthering awareness. Caring and compassion, while being yourself, will shape many opinions of those around you. You are well prepared, even for what you have not yet experienced.”
The CVM graduation ceremony returned to Jesse Hall for the first time in three years and included recognition of house officers completing internships and residencies, 115 students receiving their doctor of veterinary medicine degree, and four students earning a bachelor’s degree in microbiology. It was the first spring graduation for the bachelor’s degree program, which started in 2019.
CVM Dean Carolyn Henry, DVM, MS, served as the master of ceremonies.
“Your diploma will inform prospective employers that you are driven by a work ethic that earned you a coveted spot in the Class of 2022 and possess a determination to push through during challenges and adversity,” Henry told the graduates. “Your diploma will tell the world that you made a commitment to serve mankind by helping to improve the health and welfare of animals and people. And your diploma will tell the world that you refused to let your dream be derailed by a worldwide pandemic. You simply do not know the word quit.”
Interim Associate Dean for Academic and Student Affairs, Leah Cohn, DVM, PhD, convened the graduation ceremony. Also addressing the audience were Joan Coates, DVM, MS, interim director of Veterinary Health Center, who spoke on behalf of the CVM and MU alumni associations, UM Curator Robin Wenneker, Jose Arce, DVM, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association, and UM President Mun Choi, PhD.
Choi commended the Class of 2022 and remarked upon some of their achievements. “Eighteen percent are graduating with honors,” he noted of the DVM class. “Twenty-eight graduates are first-generation graduates. Last but not least, two graduates are in the U.S. Army, and they will begin their careers as second lieutenants in the Veterinary Corps at Ft. Hood, Texas. Thank you for your service.”
“Some of you will pursue careers in academia or private practice, work in government or nonprofit organizations,” he said. “But no matter what you do, I know you’re going to make an important impact in your chosen field. I can’t wait to see what you accomplish in the future. Thank you for your many contributions, and don’t ever forget that you’re a Mizzou Tiger.”
Wenneker conferred the graduates’ degrees. Edward Migneco, DVM, president of the Missouri Veterinary Medical Association, led the new doctors of veterinary medicine in reciting the Veterinarian’s Oath.
“I’m a small animal practitioner in St. Louis,” Migneco said. “And I have to take this unexpected opportunity to thank Dr. Green for pulling me, kicking and screaming, through my equine rotation 36 years ago, otherwise I wouldn’t be here today.
“You’re going to take the Veterinarian’s Oath and I really hope that you will listen to every word as you say it and take it to heart,” Migneco said. “There’s a part in here that’s very important to me and that’s the part about ‘the promotion of public health’ that you’re going to say in a few minutes. And if you don’t think that’s important, think about what’s been going on in the world in the past couple of years. You may or may not know this, but the CEO of Pfizer, which obviously is one of the manufacturers of the three vaccines we have, is a veterinarian.”
Members of the DVM Class of 2022 chose Matthew Oerly, DVM, to deliver their response. Oerly’s father is a veterinarian who owns a mixed animal practice in California, Missouri.
“We’re about an hour from Columbia which means that we typically get several students that rotate through our clinic for large animal experience,” Oerly said. “I remember when I was working at the clinic in high school, my dad would always tell the students that rotated through the same piece of advice that has served him well during his 34 years of practice ─ don’t do the math on that, he is an old man,” he joked. “He would tell them, ‘It isn’t what you know, it is how you treat people.’ This is a public service profession. Many of us are going to be dealing with the public on a daily basis. You can be one of the smartest most qualified veterinarians out there, but if you’re a jerk, you’re going to end up in the poor house.”
Oerly reminded his classmates of the love people have for their animals and that it is their duty as veterinarians to make their clients feel heard and that their needs are being addressed.
Assisting in the graduation ceremony were Brenda Beerntsen, PhD, chair of the Department of Veterinary Pathobiology, John Dodam, DVM, PhD, chair of the Department of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery, Brian Frappier, DVM, PhD, associate teaching professor of biomedical sciences, Martha Scharf, DVM, assistant teaching professor of equine medicine, Kelly Varner, DVM, assistant teaching professor of veterinary anesthesiology, Colette Wagner-Mann, DVM, PhD, associate teaching professor of biomedical sciences.
A recording of the entire commencement ceremony can be found here.