Ashley Bourgeois, DVM, DACVD, a 2010 graduate of the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine, carries a number of titles: veterinary dermatologist, podcaster, wife and weightlifter. Last year she gained a title she never envisioned when her 3-year-old son was diagnosed with leukemia.
“Cancer mom. In the blink of an eye, I gained the title ‘cancer mom’, Bourgeois recalled. “After the initial shock of a cancer diagnosis wore off, once again I had to decide my next step. As many of the parents in this room can imagine, that is when mama bear came out. Nothing else mattered.”
Bourgeois addressed the CVM Class of 2023 during commencement exercises held May 14 in Jesse Auditorium. Bourgeois told the class she wanted them to think about tests and titles. She spoke of the tests that life has given her, of stepping away from her job to care for her son, and of the support she received from the veterinary community during his treatment.
“From my company to industry partners to classmates I haven’t seen for over a decade; we received so many messages, meals, and gifts for our family to get us through the tough times,” she said. “The veterinary community is so compassionate and caring, including when one of their own needs support.”
The CVM graduated 117 new doctors of veterinary medicine and awarded 14 bachelor’s degrees in microbiology during the ceremony. House officers completing internships and residencies, graduate students, and visiting scholars were also recognized.
Bourgeois encouraged the graduates to be open to adjusting their career paths.
“I didn’t know that I wanted to be a dermatologist when I committed to being a veterinarian at the age of 10. I certainly couldn’t have predicted having a podcast or social media presence because the internet barely existed when I was 10,” the Derm Vet podcaster said. “No career is perfect like we envision as a child. I have seen veterinarians frustrated with their clinic, clients or even want to leave the field. However, I promise that if you haven’t found the area of veterinary medicine you feel you belong, you will find it if you keep looking. There are so many amazing clinics, industry positions, government jobs, at-home careers and more.”
She also encouraged the graduates to find balance in their lives by embracing their other titles.
“Allow yourself to be a significant other, parent, sibling, friend, pianist, gardener, expert level flip cupper, without being a veterinarian at times,” she said.
Interim Associate Dean for Academic and Student Affairs, Leah Cohn, DVM, PhD, convened the graduation ceremony. CVM Dean Carolyn Henry, DVM, MS, served as the emcee.
Henry introduced MU Provost Latha Ramchand, who congratulated the graduates and asked them to live by Mizzou’s core values of respect, responsibility, discovery and excellence in everything they do.
Curator Michael Williams conferred the degrees. David Wilson, DVM, MS, DACVS, CVM professor emeritus and vice president of the Missouri Veterinary Medical Association, led the new doctors of veterinary medicine in reciting the Veterinarian’s Oath.
Henry then congratulated the graduates.
“You have been given your diploma, but you were not given an education. That was achieved. That was earned,” Henry said. “We believed in you, and we were right to do so. So always, believe in yourself. Your diploma will inform prospective employers that you are driven by a work ethic that earned you that coveted spot in the Class of 2023 and possess a determination to push through during challenges and adversity. Your diploma will tell the world that you made a commitment to serve humanity 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.”
Members of the DVM Class of 2023 chose Mark Wendell, DVM, to deliver a response on their behalf.
“We started this journey four years ago at VET where we tested out friendships by having to do the most random team building exercises while being drenched in sweat from the 100-degree weather,” he said. In addition to thanking his classmates for their friendship, Wendall praised faculty, technicians, family members and friends for their selfless support.
“As the class representative today, I want to thank you all for not only showing up today but also for being there for us these last four years of our life. I know it can be so difficult to be supportive when we were so limited to give anything back. I can personally attest to having to refuse plans to hang out with my friends over and over and over again because I had to study. …The support they gave us is simply incredible,” he said.
Additional photos from graduation can be found on our Facebook album.