Class of 2023: Like Father, Like Son

In the early evening after he was formally inducted into the Class of 2023, Gabe Steinman and his family drove to the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine and walked inside together. It was a few days before classes began. The hallways were quiet, but the place spoke loudly to Gabe Steinman’s father, Tim Steinman, a member of the CVM Class of 1995

Class of 1995’s Tim Steinman around 1994 wearing coveralls that he gave to Gabe to take to vet school.

Everywhere Tim Steinman looked, memories came to him, sparked by something as small as the smell of formaldehyde in the anatomy lab. At some point during the visit, Tim Steinman put his hand on his son’s shoulder. He had spent four memorable years here and now his son was about to do the same.

“When I started classes, I walked down the hallway where all of the CVM class photos are hanging,” said Gabe Steinman. “I walked by my dad and saw the photo of him and I said, ‘All right. I can do this.’”

There was never an expectation that Gabe Steinman would dedicate his life to veterinary medicine. Tim Steinman’s only expectation was that his son would follow his own heart. “I wanted Gabe to take his own path and he decided to go to UNC-Chapel Hill for undergrad,” said Tim Steinman with a laugh. “But now that he can one day say he graduated from NC State and leave the former behind, all is forgiven.”

True, he went to UNC to study biology, typically a pre-med track. It’s also true that Gabe Steinman always wanted to be a veterinarian and watching his father and grandfather was his earliest education. His grandfather, Charles Steinman, opened the Salisbury Animal Hospital in the early 1970s. Tim Steinman works there now, with his father. People in town know the Steinmans; they like and respect them. Clients typically call Tim Steinman “Dr. Tim.” Often, they just call him “Tim.”

Gabe Steinman has watched for years as his dad got to work early and left late. He answered calls at home, even in the middle of the night. That has always stuck with him. It taught him what a veterinarian could be and should be. Tim Steinman has a saying: veterinary medicine is not for the weak of heart, although you must have a big heart to do it.

“Over the years I’ve had a lot of people come up to me to say, ‘Oh, your dad is just the best. He really cares.’ And he does,” said Gabe Steinman. “He goes the extra mile. He’s never off the clock. If somebody calls him on the weekend, he picks up the phone and says, ‘Don’t worry about it. Just come in Monday and we’ll figure it out.’”

His father and grandfather’s clients know Gabe Steinman, too. His earliest memory of the animal hospital is cleaning its kennels when he was 9, and getting paid by the pound. He’s never really stopped working there — or thinking of veterinary medicine — even while at UNC. After looking into different pre-med program paths during his freshman year, he left campus during summer break to work on a horse ranch in Wyoming.

“When I started classes, I walked down the hallway where all of the CVM class photos are hanging,” said Gabe Steinman. “I walked by my dad and saw the photo of him and I said, ‘All right. I can do this.’”

He had never touched a horse before and was soon spending 10 hours a day with them. Something clicked. His innate enthusiasm for animals shouted at him.  

“Then I was like, ‘All right, any animal, bring it on,’” said Gabe Steinman. “My dad always told me that you can do whatever you want to do just as long as you make it your own experience. I realized how much I really loved working with animals and how much I really missed working with them.”

Gabe and Tim Steinman attend the White Coat Ceremony. Photo by John Joyner/NC State Veterinary Medicine

Tim Steinman also gave his son the same advice his father, who earned his DVM in 1969, gave him: “study, study, study,” he said. Gabe Steinman is now learning from some of the same professors who guided his dad.

Mathew Gerard, who was a resident at the CVM when Tim Steinman was in school, announced Gabe Steinman during the White Coat Ceremony class induction. Professors at the CVM who will soon end up having worked with both father and son include Philip Sannes, professor of cell biology, and Greg Lewbart, professor of aquatic animal medicine.

Gabe Steinman said he may one day be a small animal veterinarian like his father and grandfather, even work at their animal hospital perhaps, but he may not. He’s interested in global health issues and has experience in veterinary research, having studied gene expression.

He’s looking forward to working with exotic species, with horses again and is especially eager to get hands-on experience at the CVM’s Teaching Animal Unit, an on-campus working farm. Something that will come in handy is the blue coveralls his father gave him before school started. Tim Steinman wore the same pair when he was in school.

But Gabe Steinman isn’t motivated by a type of animal he must work with or what job title he needs to have one day. He thinks about how he will make others feel, just like his dad. That’s the legacy he wants to continue.

“Above all, I’d like to be remembered for just being kind,” he said. “I think that’s very rare these days.”

~Jordan Bartel/NC State Veterinary Medicine