Hofmeister Awarded Scholarship at the Perfect Time

Good timing has played a key role in Marisa Hofmeister’s life. 

Hofmeister is a fourth-year student at the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine. Time is a precious commodity in her daily schedule as she rotates through multiple medical services in the NC State Veterinary Hospital — a standard, but demanding, final year experience.

Her schedule means there’s really no time for Hofmeister to take on the part-time jobs that she had during her first three years in the college. Those jobs were a big help in holding down the debt load necessary to finance four years of veterinary school. 

That’s why the Sandy Thach Scholarship in Veterinary Medicine couldn’t have come at a better time.

Sandy Thach is a retired administrative assistant who worked in the office of NC State’s associate vice chancellor of student affairs. There, she helped select students to receive prestigious scholarships from the NC Fellows and Caldwell Scholars programs (now consolidated as the Caldwell Fellows program). 

Around the same time she came to NC State, the CVM had recently opened its doors in 1981. Then, as now, among the excellent students forming the first-year CVM class were some with significant financial need. Their stories made a lasting impression on Thach. They became special people to her.

After her husband died in 2017, Thach made the decision to do something meaningful for the students who still come to NC State with boundless potential hindered by financial need. Her thoughts went back to that first class of CVM students she met years ago who graduated in 1985. Working closely with the North Carolina Veterinary Medical Foundation, Thach created the scholarship.

For Hofmeister, that scholarship has made a profound impact. Knowing that her academic and clinical schedule would leave no time for jobs, when she read about the Thach Scholarship online, it was an easy decision to apply. Then she waited.

“I got an email letting me know that I had gotten the scholarship while I was at my parents’ house,” she says. “As soon as I found out I was so excited I immediately told my dad. It was such a relief.” 

Hofmeister is the first person in her family to attend college, and a scholarship making graduate school more accessible is especially exciting news for all.

But it wasn’t the first instance when timing has played a key role in Hofmeister’s journey to a career in veterinary medicine. 

“I knew I wanted to be a vet since I was little,” she says. “When I was about 11 I was in the car with my mom when she hit a turtle. I made her turn around to see if we could help it. Then, she began to encourage me to do that, so of course I resisted. I decided I wanted to go into human medicine.”

That all changed when the family’s dog developed cataracts and diabetes, Hofmeister says. 

“Our dog was treated at NC State, after that I was converted,” she says. “I was totally interested in how they were able to fix my pug.”

After her conversion to veterinary medicine, Hofmeister has never looked back. She was sure about attending NC State, graduating from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences with a degree in animal science before applying to the CVM.

“I absolutely love NC State,” she says. “I love the college, the people, the atmosphere. It’s all been so great.”

Although she has been focused on going into a small animal practice after graduation, more recently Hofmeister’s interest in human medicine has come back into the picture. Working in an externship in Nicaragua stimulated her interest in zoonotic diseases — illnesses spread from animals to humans. One Health — the concept describing the complex interrelationship involving the ecosystem, animals and humans — is a major focus of the research and extension work of the CVM.

I knew I wanted to be a vet since I was little. When I was about 11 I was in the car with my mom when she hit a turtle. I made her turn around to see if we could help it. 

As a result, Hofmeister has also earned her a certificate in global health from the CVM’s global health program. For her project, Hofmeister conducted research in Senegal on antimicrobial resistance in E. coli.

Wherever her professional future takes her, Hofmeister has a message for any current or future scholarship donors. “It makes such a significant difference for students,” she says. “It removes a large burden for us. It allows us to focus on school, and activities like clubs and volunteering.”

For someone like Hofmeister with an interest in global health, it makes all the difference in the world.

~Steve Volstad/NC State Veterinary Medicine