The Road More Traveled
Posted August 08, 2018
Dr. Cheryl Herman and Dr. Morgan Scott
Their professional paths may have diverged, but the mutual
support Drs. Morgan Scott and Cheryl Herman have for their unique
interests and ambitions make them ideally suited for their work…and
for each other.
Few couples within the College of Veterinary Medicine &
Biomedical Sciences (CVM) have more differing professional
interests than Dr. Cheryl Herman and her husband, Dr. Morgan
Herman, a clinical associate professor, teaches anatomy to
undergraduate and professional students, whereas Scott is a
principal investigator researching antimicrobial resistance among
Their unique paths diverged from the same beginning—the
University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada,
where, in 1985, they met as veterinary students during the many
social gatherings that brought their two classes together. Not only
did they share a common professional interest in large and
mixed-animal practice, but they also shared an affinity for
pursuing outdoor activities in the Canadian Rockies: skiing,
cycling, and backpacking.
“I don’t know where the time went,” said a smiling Scott as he
recalled their initial meeting, in which they connected easily.
Herman graduated first in 1987 and eventually moved to
Lloydminster, in Alberta, Canada, to start her clinical career four
hours away from Scott as he finished up veterinary school and then
started out in a separate practice.
After two years, they were reunited at Lloydminster Animal
Hospital, a mixed-animal practice in which for efficiency’s sake,
they divided their clients—Scott took on the food animals, mostly
bovine patients, while Herman jumped at the opportunity to work
specifically in equine medicine.
“I started out only wanting to work on horses and ended up
working only on cats,” Herman said with a laugh. “That’s why I
always tell my students, ‘never say never.’”
Herman cycling in India
Even though they essentially worked together, they had a unique
set of patients, which made the work more individualized. If the
occasional overlap resulted in conflict, Scott admitted, with a
chuckle, “she was always right.”
As clinicians, their dedication to their clients took precedence
over their lives, because, working in a small practice, one was
constantly on call, which made it impossible for the young couple
to plan any dates or trips, especially in a time before cell
These grueling nights, among other things, began to wear on
“I got bored fairly quickly in the type of practice I was
pursuing. There was a lot of repetition, in that 95 percent of what
I was doing were things I did routinely, and then there was 5
percent that was new and kept the job interesting,” he said. “One
spring, I had done 120 caesarian sections and the last one I took
17 minutes skin-to-skin. I thought, ‘Oh, isn’t that fantastic?’ And
I was like, ‘Well, is it really?’”
Scott began to focus on those few unusual cases that raised
unanswered questions, such as when he came across a steer that had
died from pneumonia but also harbored lung worms, a rare find in
the “Frozen North.” The case left Scott wondering: should northern
Alberta ranchers invest in treating their animals for this
parasite, which was otherwise rare and had no apparent ill
To delve into the research and statistics that would help
clients make those kinds of decisions, Scott obtained his doctorate
in epidemiology from the University of Guelph in Guelph, Ontario,
Canada, a feat made possible by Herman’s support as she continued
to work in clinical practice.
Herman and Scott at the Taj Mahal
“She funded this whole expedition,” Scott said.
After graduation, Scott accepted a position in food safety
surveillance in the Alberta government, where he became interested
in bacterial resistance and, specifically, how agricultural
practices like antibiotics in animal feed might encourage
resistance in humans.
He wanted to investigate these questions but acknowledged the
inherent complexity in designing a logical scientific study. As
Scott put it: how can we investigate resistance factors associated
with foodborne bacteria if “I don’t even remember where I ate two
The answer to his design problem was waiting for him at Texas
A&M, where Scott accepted a research position in 2001.
At an Aggie Thanksgiving hosted by the university, Scott met the
chief veterinarian for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice,
the late Dr. Derry Magee. Their discussion revealed the perfect
setup for a study—the Texas prison system, where the food supply
and consumers were understood in such a way that Scott could
confidently know where the food came from and where there would be
very little food introduction from the outside world. Shortly
thereafter, Scott and a team of researchers from Texas A&M
University and the United States Department of Agriculture’s
Agricultural Research Service received a $1.5 million grant to
study the bacteria in the animals, food, and humans in the unique
Herman in the classroom
Their move to Texas sparked unforeseen changes, not only in
Scott’s career but for Herman’s, as well, in ways arguably greater
than the change in climate.
While Scott began his research, Herman decided to explore her
growing interest in teaching. Their clinic had hosted several
summer students who had been drawn to Herman’s approachable and
patient nature, making her a preferable mentor, so when the couple
moved to Texas, Herman, too, began working at Texas A&M, where
her passion for teaching has grown as she has interacted more and
more with the CVM’s veterinary and biomedical sciences
“Anatomy is an easy subject to make relevant. Plus,” she said
with a smile, “it’s just fun.”
Herman said she has no regrets about switching to teaching after
14 years of clinical practice, even though Texas clinics probably
see more interesting cases because of the warmer climate and a much
more diverse disease ecology.
“It’s all here: vector diseases, toxic plants, rare fungal
conditions—things we had to know for the North American Veterinary
License Exam but we never thought we’d see in practice back in
western Canada,” Scott said.
While Scott prefers teaching smaller groups through
graduate-level courses, he said he admires his wife’s dedication to
“The tendency of a researcher is to become narrowly focused;
teaching keeps you fresh and honest by having to know the breadth
of your discipline and not just the narrower focus of your research
area,” he said.
He said he is more drawn to the solitary work of research,
punctuated by interactions with his colleagues.
“According to my Meyers Briggs INTJ [introversion, intuition,
thinking, judgement] personality, I’m only allowed five close
friends at a time anyway,” Scott said, poking fun at his
self-proclaimed introversion and then pointing to his wife. “So,
she’s number one.”
Scott in the lab
Their unique accomplishments have been made possible by their
mutual support and their taste for new experiences, such as when
the couple completed a 23,000-kilometer (that’s almost 14,300
miles, for us Americans) around-the-world bicycling expedition in
“It changed us both forever,” Herman marveled. “You spend nearly
14 months with all your belongings on a bicycle, and then you come
home and ask yourself, ‘is all this stuff really necessary?’”
This perspective shift was solidified when their house was
burglarized during their excursion.
“At that point, we realized we really didn’t care that much
about the stuff,” Scott said, with a shrug.
The trip of a lifetime was good for their marriage, their world
view, and, apparently, Scott’s research.
“I did my best thinking on that bike,” he said. “You have a lot
of time to think, and it’s not easy when you’re riding in traffic
in new Delhi.”
“Or,” Herman added with a shake of her head, “when it’s pouring
rain in Germany nonstop. It is an experience we would have again if
we don’t retire too late.”
Both are self-described perfectionists about their work which
makes it easier to understand each other’s commitments.
“It helps that we have similar schedules,” Herman explained. “I
think it’s more difficult for couples when one person doesn’t
really get the time commitment.”
While their different, and rigorous, professional paths have
been possible because of their mutual support for each other’s
ambitions and their unique interests, they also believe their
differences complement each other and make them ideally suited for
their respective professions.
Above all, it is their shared value of open communication that
has reinforced their lifelong companionship.
“We’re best friends,” they said, smiling at each other.
For more information about the Texas A&M College of
Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, please visit our
website at vetmed.tamu.edu or join us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
This story originally appeared in the Spring 2018 edition of CVM Today magazine.
Contact Information: Megan Palsa, Executive
Director of Communications, Media & Public Relations, Texas
A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Science; firstname.lastname@example.org;
979-862-4216; 979-421-3121 (cell)
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