Written by: Dr. Tierra Price
Original Date Posted: January 13, 2020
Name: Laci Taylor
Veterinary school: Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine ‘22
What inspired you to pursue veterinary medicine? Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to be a veterinarian. In fact, my earliest memory is being sprawled out on my grandmother’s living room couch watching a Big Cat Diary marathon. The series depicted the intricate relationships between wildlife species and emphasized the impact of biodiversity on species sustainability. While the show fostered my interest in wildlife conservation and international work, my own lived experience on the operating table sparked my interest in medicine. As a child, I was diagnosed with both malrotation of my small intestine and a head tumor. While the malrotation was quickly corrected, I underwent several surgeries to completely remove the tumor. Following the removal of my tumor, I gained an interest in clinical medicine.
What's your favorite part of your day (or subject, lab, etc.)? Tutor group is a neat component of Cornell’s curriculum and I enjoy it because I feel like I learn a lot during the session. Tutor group is made up of one faculty member and 6 to 8 students, all from different backgrounds with different veterinary knowledge. Students run tutor group entirely, while the faculty member keeps us on track and asks probing questions. The goal of tutor group is to work together to get through a case applying the knowledge we acquire in lecture and lab to finish the case. We come up with differentials, questions to ask the owner and even a diagnostic plan. We get to look at blood work, imaging, histology and a number of other helpful materials as we work to understand anatomy and disease processes. Tutor group helps me gauge what topics I know well and what topics I need to revisit or learn entirely. The non judgement-zone aspect of it all makes it a low-stress learning environment which is helpful to me when I’m tackling concepts I know very little about.
What are your interests in veterinary medicine (specialty, specific species, future career plans/paths, etc.) I’ve always said that I hope to use my DVM to make a global impact as a wildlife/public health veterinarian – participating in research and working with a range of different wildlife and aquatic species to promote biodiversity. Through rehabilitation and conservation, I hope to contribute to the understanding of many pertinent issues in today’s society from the transmission of zoonotic diseases which affect public health, to restoring endangered species. Working with wildlife is my passion area but since starting veterinary school, I’ve gained an appreciation for cows. I’ve never worked with them before veterinary school and I’m looking forward to spending more time with them during my large animal rotations. I’ve also become interested in dermatology and am excited to further explore this area of veterinary medicine as I move through the curriculum.
What are your hobbies (outside of veterinary medicine?) Outside of veterinary medicine I enjoy fishing. When I was a little girl, my family would travel to Delaware every weekend to visit my grandma and most weekends, my dad and I would go fishing. It was one of my favorite things! Every now and then on break I get the chance to fish again with my dad but when he’s not around I love to throw my rod into the water and live in that nostalgic feeling. When I’m not in school, I also really love traveling – especially internationally. I enjoy visiting other countries and immersing myself in their history, culture and traditions.
Tell us a little bit about your journey. While I may seem well integrated into veterinary school now, my journey to veterinary school wasn’t a straightforward one. For starters, I’m a first-generation college graduate and that was no easy feat. My education at my bottom-tier public high school barely prepared me for a post-secondary education and my family’s lower economic status didn’t help either. I grew up in a poor neighborhood where drugs and violence were very common. At my high school, there was a lack of guidance counselors, advanced placement courses, up-to-date textbooks, and extracurricular opportunities in comparison to wealthier districts. I really struggled toward the beginning of my undergraduate career, but I was able to find some great mentors who helped me get back on my feet. For financial reasons, I took two gap years following my graduation from undergrad in 2016. There was no way I could have afforded veterinary school without this time. During the first gap year, I worked full-time for the Procter and Gamble Company, part-time as a dog bather at PetSmart, part-time as a veterinary assistant and was a part-time student all while applying to veterinary school and studying for the GRE. That was a CRAZY year! During the second year, I worked full-time as a veterinary nurse.
My journey to vet school is special to me because for every person I met who discouraged me from applying (either because my GPA wasn’t high enough, I wasn’t involved in the “right” extra-curriculars, or just the fact that vet school isn’t easy to get into), there were two more people mentoring me and welcoming me into the field with open arms. As a result of my upbringing and economic disparity, giving back and helping others has always been a passion area of mine. After all, it is because of the help many people that I am where I am today. My mother, an immigrant of Grenada, also instilled in me the value of giving back at a very young age. In addition to giving back to others via my involvement in student organizations, I started an Instagram page (IG: @roadtodvm) during my first year of veterinary school that focuses on my journey to and throughout veterinary school. Through this platform, I talk about my coursework, dealing with the stress of such a rigorous program, some of the cases I see at the wildlife health center, offer interview advice, resume building advice, general veterinary school advice and speak on a number of other animal and health related topics. My Instagram page has become one of the most meaningful things in my life. It has allowed me to connect with some truly amazing people including veterinarians, other veterinary students and pre-vet students. If I can help just ONE person by sharing my experience, it makes what I do worth it.
In what organizations/jobs are you involved in at school? Janet L. Swanson Wildlife Health Center – Student Technician Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine Student Ambassador and Tour Guide Senior SAVMA Delegate World Aquatic Veterinary Medical Association, Cornell Chapter – President and Founder Zoological and Wildlife Society – Aquatics Representative International Veterinary Students’ Association – Mentor Program Leader and Database Secretary SAVMA Symposium 2020 Marketing Chair