Written by: Dr. Tierra Price
Original Date Posted: July 7, 2020
As a current student at Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, Zahrea has paved her own path to veterinary school by challenging herself to create individual opportunities. Discovering this path meant challenging her former idea of veterinary education, including letting go of small animal medicine and instead exploring equine surgery, a field she now aims to not only specialize in and own her own rehabilitation center within. This ambitious lifestyle didn't start in veterinary school though. During Zahrea's undergraduate program, she participated in an internship with a veterinarian with her own television show based in Alaska, where she not only developed the program herself but hopes to continue these efforts in helping other students find and create their own opportunities as a veterinary professional.
Name: Zahrea Lewis
School: Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine
What inspired you to become a veterinarian?
What inspired me to attend veterinary school and earn my DVM is my interaction with animals at a young age. I always wanted as many pets as my parents allowed. From dogs to hermit crabs, I needed animal interaction of some sort. It consistently made me happy. I had times in middle school that I explored other careers, but my heart was always brought me back to veterinary medicine. My family has been my biggest support system, so their belief in my dreams made me feel so much more confident in pursuing them. I didn’t grow up knowing any black veterinarians, so I aim to be that black veterinarian that I needed as a little girl.
What are some of your passions outside of veterinary medicine?
One of my passions outside of veterinary medicine is painting, mainly geometric animal designs. I also enjoy traveling, exploring new cultures and trying new foods! In the future I hope to travel to Egypt, Thailand, Brazil, and many other locations around the world.
What are your interests in veterinary medicine?
My interests in veterinary medicine are equine surgery, mainly orthopedics, and sports medicine/rehabilitation. My goal is to work at and eventually own an equine medical center with a top of the line rehabilitation facility. These interests have changed slightly over the years; as a child I was convinced I would only be working with canines once I became a veterinarian. Although I do enjoy small animals, the amount of satisfaction, passion, and excitement I feel interacting with horses sealed the deal for me. Equine is the way to go!
How have you been able to overcome obstacles when getting to or getting through veterinary school?
I learned early on that opportunities in the veterinary field aren’t simply going to be handed to me. My first internship in undergrad was in Alaska with a veterinarian that was on an Animal Planet TV show. After watching her show, I reached out to her via written letter and asked to come to Alaska for a summer and learn from her. Fortunately, my initiative paid off and I created an internship for myself out of nothing. I’ll always remember that experience, and turns out, that was the same doctor that wrote my recommendation letter for veterinary school. So, one way that I have learned to overcome obstacles in this field is taking initiative and creating the opportunities for myself that I want. In the future, I hope to create similar opportunities for younger students that may feel like opportunities are lacking.
What would be three pieces of advice you would give to anyone of color looking to pursue this field?
1. Never let anyone or anything discourage you from following your dream of becoming a veterinarian. No matter the path you end up taking, it's your journey, and you will become a successful doctor!
2. School can be hectic and stressful, so find your passions and things you enjoy outside of the field, and don’t be afraid to pursue those passions while in school.
3. Find your people! Build those bonds, build that community so you all can uplift, support, and understand what each other are facing, and work through it TOGETHER. It is absolutely necessary and extremely important.