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COLLEGE STATION, March 7, 2006 - You may not be familiar with
the name of Sonja Lee, but perhaps you should be. She is a small
part of Texas history.
Lee became the first woman ever in Texas to get a doctor of
veterinary medicine degree from Texas A&M University, earning
her diploma in 1966. And because Texas A&M has the state's only
veterinary college, that means she is still the first female Aggie
veterinarian in the state's history.
"I knew I was the first woman ever to graduate with a veterinary
medical degree from Texas A&M, but to be honest, it wasn't that
big a deal to me," Lee says from her Lubbock office.
"I was more concerned with graduating and completing the
courses. The courses were not easy then, and I'm sure they aren't
any easier today."
Lee said times were different then. Texas A&M, once an
all-male military school, did not allow women to attend until
"I was the only woman in the vet school, but you could walk
across campus in the mid-60s and not see very many women at all in
any of the buildings," she recalls.
It does show how times have changed. Today, about 70 percent of
the students in the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical
Sciences are women.
Lee, a native of Corpus Christi, says fellow students and her
professors were highly supportive of her while attending school,
but some other Texans were not.
"I got some letters that were pretty bad, mostly saying that a
woman had no business trying to be a veterinarian," she recalls.
"One letter said I was part of a communist conspiracy or something
like that. But it didn't bother me very much."
Once she graduated and started treating animals, Lee said some
of her clients who walked through the door were surprised to see a
woman wearing a white lab coat.
"A few pet owners let me know that they did prefer that a man
treat their animals," she says. "But most of my clients were nice
about it. They kept coming back to me, so I guess they believed I
knew what I was doing."
Lee was a classmate of current College of Veterinary Medicine
& Biomedical Sciences Dean H. Richard Adams.
"Sonja adapted well to an all-male environment and excelled in
her studies, thereby setting the stage for other women to follow in
her footsteps," says Adams. "In 2001, she received the Outstanding
Alumni Award from our college."
Lee says she is not that surprised that so many women today want
to be veterinarians. Now celebrating its 90th anniversary, the
veterinary college uses a highly competitive admissions process and
only about 125 students are admitted each year.
"I guess it's just taken a while for women to be accepted into
veterinary medicine, but in other fields, too," Lee believes.
"It used to be rare to see a female medical doctor, and now they
are everywhere. The same is true in law school and dental school
and even business. Women are accepted now in every field of
What has changed since she got her diploma 40 years ago?
"Technology, for one thing," she believes.
"The medical equipment we use today has really improved since
1966, and there are many more medicines available. Also, the amount
of money people are willing to spend on their pets has changed
dramatically since then. Plus, pet insurance is fairly common
today, and it certainly wasn't in 1966."
With decades of experience behind her, Lee says she has no
intention of retiring. She still enjoys going to her clinic every
day and meeting with people and their pets.
"There are really no two days in vet medicine that are alike,"
"So there are new challenges every day. And what's funny is that
now, some of my clients are grandchildren of my first clients.
Every now and then someone will say, 'You know, my grandma says she
brought her cat to you years ago.'
"It's been a rewarding career and a fun career. I'd do it all
over again in a heartbeat."
Angela G. Clendenin
Director, Communications & Public Relations
Ofc - (979) 862-2675
Cell - (979) 739-5718
Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas 77843
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