The Personal Side of Veterinary Medicine

Oct. 10, 2022
A student poses in front of a wall patterned with the University of Arizona College of Veterinary Medicine logo.
A student in scrubs sits in a veterinary office. A gray cat perches on her back.

University of Arizona College of Veterinary Medicine third-year doctoral student Arianna Adams is committed to welcoming people and animals into the family of veterinary medicine. As a passionate animal lover and deeply committed family person, Arianna sees the path of a veterinarian as the best of both worlds, caring for animals and the people who love them. In her clinical year, Arianna is fine-tuning her skills and looking ahead to how she plans to make a difference in the field. With eyes set on graduation in August 2023, Arianna’s plans include leveraging her position as a veterinarian to foster connections with animals and their families and mentor aspiring veterinarians.

Adams’ journey to veterinary medicine started when she was four years old. As with many veterinarians, a close connection with a family pet made all the difference in her path. Bought by Arianna’s dad as a gift for their family, Angel quickly found her role as a constant loving companion from early childhood through Adam’s junior year of high school. Spending time with Angel brought joy and certainty about what Adams wanted to pursue as a future profession. When discussing how Angel impacted her choice to study veterinary medicine, Arianna shared,

“[Angel] was always happy. She was always really excited to see you, she was very cuddly, and any time she would hear a noise, she would check things out. She was always watching over me, which kind of goes along with her name, Angel. I feel like I developed such a strong bond with her. And then I also, as a kid, kind of just found myself drawn toward animals in general.”

Family is essential for Adams. She believes her role as a veterinarian will fill a necessary piece for communities that treat their animals as extensions of a family unit. “I have a very close family, and so if I can take care of my family and my family takes care of me, that’s just kind of how that goes. I feel like that’s what veterinary medicine is like. You’re taking care of a family.” The opportunity to build long-term connections with patients and their owners and contribute to her community has drawn Adams toward general practice, though her journey to veterinary medicine has not been easy. As a first-generation college student, Adams has learned to rely on determination to forge her path toward achieving her dream. Experience with practicing doctors was often difficult to find, but she persisted and cultivated various volunteer opportunities at local shelters and wildlife rehab centers. Following the completion of her undergraduate degree at the University of Arizona, Adams moved back home to Phoenix and secured a job in a small animal general practice, an experience that confirmed her goals. She shared,

“That really solidified my passion for veterinary medicine and my passion for general practice as well, because I love the family aspect. You have your patients and those family members that come in and you have that relationship with them. You get to see those patients either grow up or if they come in sick, you get to see them get better. And then you also have that strong bond with not only the animals but also with some of their owners. I just really love that about veterinary medicine because I feel like I’m a very compassionate person in general, and I naturally have a love for animals. But I can also be helpful to humans as well because their animals mean a lot to them. They consider their pets as normal family members, and I can make their day to contribute to and care for their pet(s). So, I think it’s kind of the best of our world to be in veterinary medicine.”

This opportunity to get familiar with the ins and outs of veterinary medicine ensured Adams became an excellent applicant for veterinary school. Combined with the volunteer work she had completed while earning her undergraduate degree, Adams’ experience in the clinic showed that she had the ability and expertise to make veterinary medicine her career. So, when the Arizona College of Veterinary Medicine opened its doors and began accepting applications, Adams seized the opportunity. Shortly afterward, she was accepted into Arizona’s first cohort of veterinary students.

Knowing that veterinary school is a rigorous endeavor, Adams was ecstatic to be accepted and ready to put her all into her work in Arizona’s three-year Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program. She shared,

“Being in an accelerated program, something that’s three years instead of four, and going non-stop throughout the year is hard. But it also solidified for me that I really wanted to do this because I was able to put together what I have learned previously. I was able to bring the experiences I’ve had all together. And now I’m in clinical year, and I’m kind of in my happy place now, because I’m finally back in hospitals. While I’m still learning, and I don’t know everything, and it can be nerve-wracking to be asked questions that you don’t know the answers to, it is nice that I’m able to be in a space where I can learn, and I’m getting even more hands-on experience.”

Arianna Adams sits under an arch that reads "African American Women" in the Women's Plaza of Honor at the University of Arizona.

Her hands-on experiences in her third year consist of multiple clinical rotations in which she develops vital medical skills under the supervision of practicing professionals before graduating as a day-one-ready veterinarian.

After graduating, Adams aims to become a mentor for future veterinary students. When she searched for a mentor before veterinary school, she recognized the importance of having someone there to help her understand the career field. In response to her own experience, Arianna hopes to be someone who will welcome future veterinarians into the profession’s ‘family’ and provide the opportunities they need. She said, “I want to help develop the next generation. I want to be willing to teach people—because you need someone to say yes.” Veterinary medicine, for Adams, is also an opportunity to encourage aspiring veterinarians who, like her, identify as part of a minority. Of this goal, Adams said, 

“Being a minority in this field, I hadn’t seen or met anybody that looked like me. . . That’s a big aspect of trying to change the field of veterinary medicine to become more diverse and contribute to that diversity. For minority communities, it’s a lack of accessibility for them and a lack of seeing people who look like them, [so] they don’t think they can do it. I would like to be a face for them as well as just little kids who look like me or see me. And they’re like, ‘She looks like me, and she did it, and that means I can do it.’”

With Adams’ hard work and compassionate character, she will be a superb veterinarian upon graduation. In addition, her dedication to family prepares her to foster genuine connections with animals, their owners, and the next generation of veterinarians.