Class of 2019 Story: Memories of a CVM Journey, Great and Small

Name: Caide Wooten
Hometowns: Mount Pleasant, S.C., and Morganton, N.C.
Focus: Zoological medicine
Post-graduation plans: Small animal and exotics associate veterinarian in Missoula, Montana

I distinctly remember sitting in North Theater the first or second day of orientation in August 2015. The room was packed, and the air was palpable with emotion — excitement for finally making it to vet school, fear for the course load that had already been described as a “broken fire hydrant” and a thick blanket of social anxiety from all of the small talk.

I remember Dr. Lizette Hardie looking us over and acknowledging that most of us had probably been seeking this day since before grade school, that many had probably been inspired by the work of James Herriot and his All Creatures Great and Small book series.

Of course, with the precision of an Olympic synchronized swim team, I nodded softly with my classmates, a mime-like grin plastered to my mug, thinking all the while, “Who in the world is James Herriot?”

A career in veterinary medicine was never really a goal of mine until just before graduating high school. Like many young men, I constantly told myself I would someday be a professional baseball player (I still will be, by the way).

Veterinary medicine made sense, though. I had grown up surrounded by pets ranging from dogs to rabbits to fish. I had successfully transitioned our backyard just blocks from downtown Morganton into a barnyard for a variety of chickens and turkeys. Vet school was the next logical step, right?

Fast forward a few years and here I was, sitting in North Theater in my own puddle of stress sweat, looking around at 99 faces of the other “fresh meat,” the critical points of orientation passing into one ear and out of the other.

It’s no secret that veterinary school is hard. Students are thrown into a curriculum that is voluminous and seemingly endless at times. Leisurely weekends become few and far between. Traveling out of the confines of Raleigh becomes a Herculean scheduling task. Old friendships and relationships are strained, fast food becomes your diet staple and there are days you question whether you even want to be a veterinarian anymore.

But it won’t be the difficult parts I will recall years from now. I will remember the people who helped shape my experience and made it genuinely worthwhile. I’ll remember the late nights in the anatomy lab before tests, making jokes with friends when we really should be studying (like, seriously).

I’ll remember walking nervously into Dr. Greg Lewbart’s office toward the end of my second year to tell him I wanted to pursue a career in aquatic medicine rather than poultry medicine and walking out ready to tackle the world.

I’ll remember being ready to pee my pants the first time I had to monitor a patient under anesthesia only to be firmly reassured by Dr. Maria Killos that everything was going fine. I’ll remember so many opportunities I was lucky enough to have to travel the globe and experience veterinary medicine abroad. I’ll remember learning the value of prioritizing personal wellbeing even in the face of heightened responsibilities. 

Veterinary school is tough. It really is, and at times it can feel as if the challenges outweigh the benefits. So I am grateful beyond words for the friends, family, mentors and colleagues who were a part of my journey through thick and thin. I don’t anticipate that all of the challenges of veterinary medicine will end after graduation, but I know I have the tools and the support network to combat anything this career may throw at me.

I am so excited for the road ahead.

By the way, Dr. Hardie, I’m currently reading All Creatures Great and Small. I’d give it a solid 4/5 on Amazon.