First-generation graduate says childhood pet motivated her to pursue veterinary career

Arianna Adams

Arianna Adams

Courtesy of Arianna Adams

Arianna Adams was 5 years old when she began taking care of her pet Labrador retriever, Angel. By the time Adams was 8, she knew she wanted to become a veterinarian.

Her dog lived for 13 years, and Adams wanted to make sure Angel was always healthy.

"She had allergies when she was young, and anytime she had any new lesions, I just knew I wanted to help them go away," Adams said.

Adams will receive a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree during the University of Arizona College of Veterinary Medicine Commencement on Aug. 24. A first-generation college graduate, she is one of 106 students in the college's inaugural class. Launched in 2020, the college is unique in that it allows students to complete their education in three years instead of four, so they can enter the workforce a year earlier than graduates of most traditional veterinary medicine programs.

Education was important to Adams' family when she was growing up.

"This is a win for my parents as much as it is for me, and they're really excited that I have achieved this lifelong dream at the age of 25," Adams said.

Since she was in high school, Adams has jumped at any opportunity that would let her be in touch with animals.

"I did volunteer work for a vaccine clinic; I did volunteer work for wildlife rehabilitation. And I tried to learn about the field that way," Adams said.

Adams received her bachelor's degree in veterinary science from UArizona in 2019, and the College of Veterinary Medicine was on her radar since then. 

Adams' family wanted her to succeed in her educational goals without financial burden. So, they encouraged her to start a savings account before enrolling in vet school, said Adams, who worked two jobs before she started at the College of Veterinary Medicine.

"I established a huge savings account for going to school to lessen the burden of my school loans, and that's what I availed myself of all these three years," Adams said.

Practicing leadership

Adams said the College of Veterinary Medicine helped her discover the confidence and strengths necessary to be a great veterinarian.

"I always like to tell people that two of my strengths would be leadership and communication," Adams said. "The vet school was a platform where I could utilize those strengths."

Adams was the vice president of the college's chapter of the Student Society of Veterinary Surgery. The club hosts surgery-related events such as a surgery relay race, a team event that tests students' knowledge of surgical instruments and different suture patterns.  

She also was a class representative for the College of Veterinary Medicine student government for a year and has been a student ambassador for the college since the beginning of the program. The ambassadors host campus tours and panels for prospective students and their families and answer questions about the program.

Adams said she is one of seven Black students in the college's inaugural class.

"I really have used this as a platform to show that other Black students that want to join this field can do it, and that we do exist, especially in Arizona, where the Black population is not super high," Adams said.

Arianna Adams

Arianna Adams

Courtesy of Arianna Adams

Getting trained in a hands-on environment

The College of Veterinary Medicine curriculum is heavily team-based, collaborative and hands on, Adams said. For instance, it includes a program called "pet professors," in which students offer their pets to be practice animals for procedures like physical, eye and ultrasound examinations.

"We start doing that first semester, which is really exciting," Adams said.

Unlike most vet schools in the U.S., the UArizona College of Veterinary Medicine doesn't have a teaching hospital, Adams said. Instead, the school follows a distributive model in which students in their third year get an opportunity to rotate through different practices in different locations in and outside of Arizona.

"The distributive model really helped me determine what kind of doctor I want to be and what kind of environment I want to be in," Adams said.

Heading into the real world

Typically, after graduating from a veterinary medicine program, students who are interested in becoming clinicians either practice right after graduation or pursue a specialty in an internship or residency program, Adams said. She wanted an internship, which she thought would allow her to strengthen the technical skills and confidence she gained during her time at the College of Veterinary Medicine.

Adams landed a small animal internship at Gilbert Queen Creek Emergency Veterinarian & Pet Urgent Care, located in Phoenix's East Valley. During the one-year internship, Adams will rotate between various disciplines, including general practice, emergency, dentistry, medicine and advanced surgery.

"Those were all things that I wanted to be able to do as a general practitioner," Adams said.

Adams said the veterinary medicine program at UArizona laid solid foundations for her path to becoming a successful general practitioner.

"The program didn't just put me in the position to learn my strengths as a good doctor but also to learn my weaknesses and how I can make them better," Adams said.


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