“I’m one of those students who decided they were going to be a veterinarian when they were 5 years old,” Monica Pickett said.
Along with the love for animals that unites all veterinarians, Pickett’s calling is largely based on her desire to interact with clients, and is as much about the people as the pets.
“People care so much about their pets, and often when they come in they’re so anxious, and it can be about the littlest thing,” Pickett said. “I like talking to people and I like making them feel better.”
When she was a sophomore in college, Pickett decided to pursue small animal general practice after witnessing the love and care her family’s veterinarian had showed Pickett’s dog Spud, who had developed hemangiosarcoma, a cancer of the blood vessel walls.
“I was at my parents’ house when he fainted because he had a splenic tumor that had ruptured,” Pickett said. “We rushed him off to the emergency hospital and he went through everything. He had an emergency splenectomy and a plasma transfusion, but there was no saving him.
“My family and I were a crying mess and the veterinarian was so calm and straightforward with us,” she said. “She was very realistic and didn’t give us any false hope. I was in there when Spud passed away. That was when I was sure—I wanted to be a veterinarian.”
The following summer, Pickett was still mourning the loss of Spud and felt the need to care for another dog. She looked into fostering and took on the “fixer-upper” Wolfie, a German Shepherd who had heartworms, weighed less than half of her ideal weight, and suffered from multiple physical and mental health issues.
“She was skin and bones,” Pickett said. “She had horrible diarrhea because we were reintroducing her to food. She had been abused and was terrified of people. She had severe mange, so she hardly had any hair.
“That dog was my life; I spent all of my time nursing her to good health,” she said. “I had her for three months, and by the end of it she had put on weight and looked like a dog again. I loved her and I got to see her become a happy, well-adjusted dog. It was the most rewarding experience.”
After Wolfie was adopted by “the perfect person for her,” Pickett kept in touch and even met up with them a year later.
“When I walked up, I didn’t believe it was the same dog,” she said. “I squatted down and she was a little unsure. Then she freaked out and tackled me, and she was kissing all over my face. It was exciting that she remembered me.”
After graduation, Pickett plans to join Hill Country Animal Hospital in Austin to work with her mentor of several years, Dr. Kohl Kemnitz ’14.
Pickett met Kemnitz during her undergraduate education at the University of Texas when she took Wolfie to his practice, where Wolfie had been an established patient. She mentioned to Kemnitz her desire to attend veterinary school and he immediately offered her the opportunity to shadow him at the hospital, even though he was only a new graduate himself.
“He took me on and I spent the entire summer with him,” Pickett said. “He let me shadow him as much as I wanted. The clinic was my favorite place to be; it was like paradise.”
Since then, Kemnitz has supported Pickett throughout her entire veterinary school journey.
“A lot of times in veterinary school, you get imposter syndrome and you feel like, ’I don’t belong here. I’m not smart enough. All of my classmates are so smart,’” Pickett said. “It’s intimidating being around such high-caliber people all of the time. Dr. Kemnitz was always there to say, ‘No, you’re a high-caliber student, too. You’ve got this.’
“We talk usually every few weeks,” she said. “He checks in to see how I’m doing, and when I’m stressed out, he tells me it’s going to be OK and that we all get through it. I just know that he’s going to be a really good mentor when I graduate.”
As Pickett begins her career in general practice, her relationships with colleagues, clients, and pets will support and encourage her throughout her time as a veterinarian.
“I don’t think I can explain how much I love general practice,” she said. “When someone brings their pet in as a puppy, you do all their puppy vaccines, build a relationship with them, and see them for their annual appointments. Then if their dog becomes sick, they trust you, they depend on you, and you’re there for them. That’s my favorite part.”
Note: This story originally appeared in the Spring 2020 edition of CVM Today.
Contact Information: Jennifer Gauntt, Director of Communications, Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences; email@example.com; 979-862-4216