Zachary and Victoria Grimsley had only been engaged for a few months when they began applying to veterinary schools.
They met as animal science majors at Texas Tech University—where she had won a National Championship in wool judging and he participated on the meat judging team—and they knew that whatever veterinary school they ultimately chose, they would go through that experience as they had their undergraduate education—together.
“It was a stressful couple of months, knowing that we were at somebody’s mercy, essentially, for where we were going to be for the next four years of our lives,” Victoria said. “I remember the day we got the news about Texas A&M—I got in immediately, and Zach was No. 2 on the waiting list.
“That was a rough day, because I was excited that I got in and I really wanted to go to A&M. I had known as a very young child that I wanted to be an Aggie veterinarian; it was my life goal,” the Pflugerville native said. “But then Zach didn’t get in to A&M right away, so it was a very melancholy day.”
The pair was fairly confident Zach would ultimately be accepted and carried on in planning for their July wedding. As the deadline to claim her position drew nearer, Victoria had to make a decision on whether to accept Texas A&M’s offer. It was not lost upon her that she could reject the offer, only for Zach to get the opened spot.
Fortunately, a week or two before she had to make that decision, Zach received a phone call.
“We were sitting in the car. He answers and is very stoic, saying all of the things you would say if you’re getting into veterinary school at A&M, but he wouldn’t tell me while he was on the phone,” Victoria said. “He finally gets off the phone and he’s like, ‘I got in’ and I start bawling in the passenger seat. I cried happy tears for, I don’t know, quite a while because I was so excited that we were both going to get to go to A&M together.”
“I didn’t show my emotions as much as she thought that I would, but I was really excited,” the Abernathy, Texas, native said. “They had told me that I was more than likely going to get in, so I kind of already accepted that it was probably going to happen. But it definitely was a relief to know that I was finally accepted.”
On July 22, exactly one month before their first day of veterinary school, Zach and Victoria were married. In the month that followed, they went on a honeymoon, moved across the state from Lubbock, and settled in to life in College Station.
While many of their peers were adjusting to the traditional challenges of veterinary school, Zach and Victoria were also adjusting to married life as newlyweds who were living together for the first time. In many ways, those challenges exacerbated each other, as they acclimated to each other’s educational idiosyncrasies.
“I will be the first to admit that Zach is way smarter than I am. He inherently gets things a lot faster. He can read something one time and he will remember forever, or somebody can explain it to him one time and he’s got it,” Victoria said. “I need to sit down, process the information, and write it out; it takes me probably twice, maybe three times, as long to really understand the information.
“Nothing compares to vet school classes, just the sheer speed and volume, and so that was a big struggle we had to work through our first year, really learning our different learning styles,” she said.
“Another of the tough parts of being in vet school at the same time is how we prioritized studying,” Zach said. “My mentality is I do my schoolwork first and then do everything else household-wise, whereas Victoria is completely the opposite; she cannot focus if the house is a mess.
“The hours also made it tough because we were both in school from early until late and on weekends, we had to study for Monday tests,” he said. “Nobody was like, ‘I can go to the grocery store because I have time.’ We both felt like we needed to be studying and so that was a struggle.”
“That first year of veterinary school for us was probably the roughest as far as how quickly everything all came together. But we made it and I think it’s only made our marriage stronger; we always joke, ’If we can get through vet school together, we can get through anything together,’” Victoria said.
On the other hand, going through the experience together offered benefits that many of their married peers did not have, including having someone to bounce ideas off of and, as competitive individuals, having “built-in” motivation.
“I feel like there were parts we thought were going to break us individually, but it’s been really nice to have somebody who knew exactly what I was going through on a day-to-day basis, who really understood that I had to study so much,” Victoria said. “No one felt neglected or made the other feel guilty when we needed to study instead of going out to see a movie.”
As fourth-year veterinary students, they have experienced the strange phenomenon of having completely different schedules during their clinical rotations; while some may wonder if that has presented a challenge for a pair who have been “inseparable,” with nearly the exact same schedules for the past seven years, they actually find it refreshing.
“It got to the point where we almost didn’t know what to talk about anymore because we had done the same thing together all day long,” Victoria said. “Being on different rotations, we get to come home in the evenings and really talk about something that excites us, that the other person didn’t experience; getting to share that has been really fun for us.
“We play it like almost a game,” she said. “We present a signalment and tell the other our clinical findings and the other person has to guess what we did, and then we talk about the case together.”
This is something they will continue to do for a while after graduating; the two accepted jobs as small animal veterinarians in Spring, in north Houston, but at different clinics.
“Coming out of vet school, we knew we would probably have to go to two different practices, just so that we can get different experiences under different doctors, but the hope one day is to come together and practice in the same clinic that we own,” Zach said. “Then we can take all of those experiences and put them together to have the best medicine that we can practice together.”
Ideally, the clinic they own together will allow Victoria to continue to practice small animal medicine, mainly focusing on dogs and cats, and Zach to focus on mixed animal medicine and play a larger role in the business aspects.
For now, because everything to this point has managed to work itself out, as long as they’re able to pursue their dream together, side-by-side, as a married couple, they will consider themselves fortunate.
“It’s been really rewarding for both of us to be in veterinary school together. A lot of people joke—we were referred to as the ‘married couple’ for a really long time,” Victoria said. “But, ultimately, that is who we are in vet school; we are the couple that came in together and have thrived together.
“We’re both really thankful that we got in together; we’ve been told countless times—I really have no idea how many times we’ve been told this—how we are very lucky to have gotten in at the same time, to be in the same class and able to experience all of this together.”
“Continuing into our future, we’ll still be doing something similar together,” Zach said. “Our dream is to have a family-owned business that we can raise kids in—running around the clinic after school. Making it a family-centered experience is something I think will be really good for us once we get out of vet school and start building our family.”
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