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CVM Alum Finds Calling, Gives Back

When Nancy Rathbun-Ramsey was a kindergartener in Buffalo, N.Y., she scrawled in crayon what she wanted to be when she grew up.

“I put down ‘animal doctor’ because I didn’t know how to spell ‘veterinarian,’” she says.

It’s a goal that she realized in 1994, when she graduated from the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine. And though now she owns her own successful private veterinary practice in Maryland, the CVM is never far from Rathbun-Ramsey’s mind.

This year, she pledged 10 percent of her estate to the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine.

“I’m so happy with my education and my career,” she says. “Personally, I think I owe everything I have now to North Carolina State. I’ve always donated yearly to the school,” she says. I think it’s only right to recognize who gave you your start.”

Like many veterinarians-to-be, Rathbun-Ramsey always loved animals — but her parents didn’t. Growing up, the family only had one cat. Rathbun-Ramsey didn’t have a dog of her own until after college.

Before she entered high school her family moved to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Rathbun-Ramsey set her sights on going to the University of Florida, which has a college of veterinary medicine. After her freshman year, she decided that Florida was just too big, and she transferred back north, to the University of Rochester, where she majored in biology but still was focused on becoming a veterinarian.

Nancy Rathbun-Ramsey with her dog Poopy, a dachshund beagle mix.

While at Rochester, she also got involved with human medicine, volunteering with a campus emergency squad and a local ambulance as an emergency medical technician. Finding the work rewarding, she got additional training as a respiratory therapist at a local hospital, where she worked full-time after college. Never losing sight of her dream, however, Rathbun-Ramsey applied to a veterinary school in New York and planned to resign from her hospital job — until she learned that she hadn’t been accepted. It was a blow.

She took time to reassess. Remembering her original plan to attend the vet school at the University of Florida, she took an exploratory road trip to check out some of the veterinary schools veterinary medicine in the South. Along with the University of Florida, her list included the University of Tennessee, the University of Georgia and NC State.

Her first stop was North Carolina. It would be the last.

“I loved the look of North Carolina — the water, the pine trees, everything. I canceled the rest of the trip.”

To establish residency and qualify for in-state tuition, she got a job as a respiratory therapist at Duke University Hospital , where she ended up working for six years.

When she applied to NC State, Rathbun-Ramsey knew that the competition would be tough. However, she got an in-person interview as part of the application process, and thought she aced the interview. In March 1990, she received an envelope in the mail. It was big.

“When I opened it and saw that I was accepted, I screamed,” she said.  So much so that her little dachshund, Genesee, ran and hid in the closet, she says.

Her time at NC State was everything she had hoped for and more. “I loved every minute of it,” Rathbun-Ramsey says. “It was really great. I have nothing but positive things to say about NC State. I’d do it all over again if I could.”

Finally on track to realize her childhood ambitions, she loved every minute of her time at NC State, devouring every experience at the CVM. After graduation, she had her sights firmly set on working in a small animal practice.

That took her to Waldorf, Md., outside of Washington, D.C., where she worked for the next four years in a general practice there. Around the same time, Rathbun-Ramsey went on a blind date with Buck Ramsey, the brother of a veterinary technician at the practice. Next year, they will celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary.

Buck Ramsey is from Prince Frederick, a small town in Southeast Maryland, and he longed to move back home to pursue a career in commercial construction. In 1998 the Ramseys moved there, and Rathbun-Ramsey went to work for the Prince Frederick Animal Hospital. In 2003, she purchased ownership of the practice, which was then in a 2,000-square-foot house and had a staff of 12. It has thrived since then, moving into a 7,000-square-foot hospital, and now employs 36 people, including six veterinarians.

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In addition, the Ramseys have a 12-year-old son, Thomas, and a house full of the pets Rathbun-Ramsey never had as a child, including a dachshund, a bowlegged cat, a fish and a hermit crab, Hermie.

Life is good — and busy — in Prince Frederick.

“I feel I owe it all to NC State,” she said. “It gave me all I needed to get this far.”

~Steve Volstad/NC State Veterinary Medicine