Class of 2022: Striving for More

It’s the little pushes in Garrett Williams’ life have that have made the most difference.

They’ve come from others, like his grandparents who noticed how much he loved their animal books and encouraged him when he said he wanted to become a vet. It came from his parents, who both didn’t attend college, but told their son that they believed he could.

He has pushed himself, too, especially when it has mattered the most. In high school, when he decided he wanted to go to a four-year college, he steadily raised his grades and ended up graduating third in his class. He pushed himself when the most difficult class he took as an undergraduate at NC State University, an animal science reproduction course taught by assistant professor Daniel Poole, became the one he worked at the hardest because he liked the challenge.

“With that class, I knew I should be a vet,” said Williams, who had been bouncing back and forth between careers in veterinary medicine, human medicine and teaching. “Dr. Poole always you work hard and think critically. It all made me really realize that I could be good at this.”

Williams, who grew up in Conover, N.C., a town of less than 10,000 about 10 miles east of Hickory, enters the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine’s Class of 2022 with big plans and a work ethic to match. He is fascinated by the science behind reproduction, by the function of the endocrine system and how hormones interact. Seeking research experience while still an undergraduate, he enjoyed compiling data and presenting findings on sudden acquired retinal degeneration syndrome (SARDS) for CVM assistant professor of ophthalmology Freya Mowat. He could see doing research of his own one day.

There’s something about veterinary medicine that’s just exciting and different.”

But what’s mostly on his mind is surgery — that’s what he has always wanted to do. As a kid thinking about a career in medicine, it was the details of anatomy and physiology that immediately clicked with him and still do.

He’s already had a bit of surgical experience. He worked after his college classes, usually from 4 to 9 p.m., at Raleigh’s Care First Animal Hospital at Oberlin. He started out cleaning kennels and trimming nails, but eventually did technician work, everything from intubate patients to observe knee surgeries. He said he plans to work there still while at the CVM.

“I just always liked knowing how things worked,” said Williams. “When I was going back and forth between human and animal medicine, I always came back to vet med. There’s something about veterinary medicine that’s just exciting and different.

“There’s so many opportunities with this field and I think that’s why it’s so attractive to a lot of people.”

There’s another aspect to veterinary medicine that unexpectedly hooked Williams. While working at the animal clinic, he discovered that one of the most rewarding aspects was talking with people bringing in their animals for treatment. He could spend hours engrossed in an anatomy textbook, but get as much out of asking clients how their animal was feeling.

“I think the most fulfilling thing for me as been when you have a client crying happy, joyful tears,” said Williams. “I feel like once you see the medicine working really well and you see that someone gets better because of it, it’s those moments that are hard to forget.”

Whatever Williams decides to focus on — surgery, a specialty residency, private practice —  he said he’ll probably end up wanting to do even more. That will be a challenge, but that’s exactly how he likes it.  

~Jordan Bartel/NC State Veterinary Medicine