Unlike some veterinarians who have known they wanted to work in this field for their entire life, Stéphie-Anne Dulièpre began her journey with aspirations to pursue architecture as a professional career. However, after connecting with one animal in particular, Stéphie-Anne soon realized how critical of a role animals played in her life. Holding close her passions for architecture and running as well as the words of affirmation from her biggest supporters (many of which came from outside the world of veterinary medicine), Stéphie-Anne is now a
graduate of Cornell's College of Veterinary Medicine and works as a public health veterinarian for the USDA. By embracing each part of the journey and connecting with her own culture, Stéphie-Anne found a career that highlighted her interested in pathology and guided her to work within the interconnected worlds of public health and veterinary medicine.
Interview with Stéphie-Anne Dulièpre
Name: Stéphie-Anne Dulièpre, DVM
School: Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine
Who inspired you to be a veterinarian?
I stumbled upon this profession somewhat later than many of my peers. For much of my life I saw myself as a future architect but one thing was clear, I always knew I wanted to help people. Toward the end of high school I had a moment of clarity. That moment manifested in the simplest of ways. On my walk to and from school everyday I always passed a particular home with a very reactive dog in the front yard who loved to bark at pedestrians. Toward the end of Junior year one day for the first time I passed by this Shepherd mix and he made no sound. Instead he rushed to the fence near me, wagging his tail. We'd gotten so used to each other by then. From then on, until I graduated high school this dog, who's name or story I never knew, became my biggest source of joy on these trips to and from school. I walked alone every day, 45 minutes each way, often in terrible weather, but this dog gave me something to look forward to everyday. It was around then I began to think about how critical animals had been in my life. I spent the first decade of my life in Haiti where I was given the responsibility of taking care of our pets (or perhaps I took on the responsibility myself, who knows). My parents brought home five turtledoves when I was four years old. By the age of 11, I was responsible for the over 40 turtledoves that resulted. This meant waking up at 5:30AM everyday to feed them--along with the dozens of wild pigeons who came to know my schedule over the years. I thought of these turtledoves, the 10-15 cats I rescued over the years, the goats and chickens we cared for who then fed our family, or the dogs who kept us company but also provided us security, and my choice became clear. I wanted a profession which not only allowed me to embrace this very special and multifaceted relationship we have with animals, but also one in which I could help others, regardless of their background or means, to have the opportunity to experience this as well. I've put my energy into vet med since then and rest is history I suppose.
What are some of your passions outside of veterinary medicine?
My love of architecture did not completely evaporate, instead it transformed into art. I love to draw home interiors at odd angles, in the perspective of a mouse as an example. My preferred medium is pastel but I often explore charcoal, ink, and color pencils. I ran competitively in high school and college and still keep up my running today though I compete much less these days. Both running and drawing took a pause during vet school, so I'm happy to be done so I can really pick these back up fully. Besides that, I think I'm very laid back and love to enjoy a good book. I absolutely love nature, the sound and smell of the beach, warm weather, and a sunny day. All these are home for me and remind me of my life on the island.
Did you have any faculty mentors and/or influential professors throughout undergrad or veterinary school? If so, how did they impact your journey?
My mentors in school always came from outside of my main academic circle. The most influential people in my undergraduate education were my coaches and my cross-country and track & field teammates at Hunter College. Those people meant everything to me. They supported me in every way, they were always there to help me get through tough times. They also never stopped believing in me. We are all in different parts of the country these days, practicing our profession as doctors, nurses, lawyers, therapists, etc but we are still very connected and supportive of each other. It was a challenge adjusting without that support network at Cornell, but I found my home with the amazing people at the Office of Inclusion and Student Engagement. These individuals not only kept me afloat, they were essential in my completing my degree. Last by not least, is our dean at Cornell who's lab I worked in. He along with my lab-mates remained consistent figures who were always there to listen and support me when I needed it, and for that I'm forever grateful to them.
What are your interests in veterinary medicine? If you are currently specializing or working in a specific field, what area are you working?
I came into veterinary medicine wanting to be an equine veterinarian. I lived near the Belmont Racetrack in high school though had a very hard time trying to work there. I returned every summer hoping for an opportunity, only to be turned away and told to come back earlier the following summer. I moved on eventually and found opportunity in therapeutic horseback riding hoping things would get better in vet school. Instead, I found the equine world so uninviting to me that I changed my path entirely. I instead turned toward conservation medicine with a focus on public health and policy. I realized that I really enjoyed the work of helping developing communities and their farm animals at the human wildlife interface. I am starting work as a public health veterinarian for the USDA and hope to continue expanding my career further in that direction in the future.
What is your favorite part of your job?
Though I am just beginning my job officially with the USDA, I've been an intern with FSIS (Food Safety and Inspection Service) for two years and am familiar with the territory, so to speak. My favorite part about the job is my direct involvement in the public health work of detecting various diseases and keeping our food chain safe for consumption. The amount of pathology we get exposed to on my job is very exciting. Furthermore, because of my passion for people, I absolutely enjoy the part of my job that gets me to connect with the people who are keeping this country fed. The people who do the tough and sometimes dangerous jobs and get very little reward and recognition in return. In Haiti, we were not so separate from this aspect of our food chain and my job allows me to rebuild that connection here in the US.
What would be three pieces of advice you would give to anyone of color looking to pursue this field?
1. Find your home base and find it early. The course load will be hard and you will have additional weight to carry as a BIPOC. To get through the tough moments your support system will be critical. If you are alone in your class, don't be afraid to explore your university at large or seek your peers nationally.
2. Seeking a career in veterinary medicine is a feat in itself, and pursuing some veterinary specialties can be even more daunting as a BIPOC. Lean on those who've paved the path before you. You're not alone. We're rooting for you and don't let anyone dissuade you from your passion. Not family, not counselors or professors -- not anyone.
3. As much as you can, lean into your culture and be unapologetic about it in vet school. You are wanted here.