Positive role models provide inspiration
Ayla Turnquist, a fourth-year student at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Veterinary Medicine, grew up on a horse
farm (Photo 3). Her grandmother raised miniature horses, her mother raised Thoroughbreds, and she grew up in Pony Club, riding
and competing in events. Although she grew up with horses, Turnquist says, "I was never really interested in veterinary medicine
because the veterinarian we used worked 24/7, 365 ... I knew that was not the lifestyle I wanted. I completely wrote off the
profession at 12 years of age."
Photo 3: On an International Veterinary Student Association trip to Latin America last summer, Turnquist spent time deworming
horses and cattle on the island of Ometepe in Nicaragua.
Only after graduating from college did Turnquist realize that she wanted to pursue veterinary medicine. "I spent some time
working for an equine veterinary clinic where there were 12 vets," she says. "They all shared on-call, they all had lives,
and the people who owned the practice had kids. They did lots of other things other than veterinary medicine. They were happy,
"They worked really hard, but I saw that they could also do other things, and they inspired me to pursue this profession."
Turnquist has an interest in acupuncture and pain management. After graduation, she would like to complete an internship and
learn how to incorporate acupuncture into Western veterinary medicine.
Career counseling points the way
Amy Norvall, a fourth-year student at the Louisiana State University's School of Veterinary Medicine has had a horse-filled
background. Born on a farm in Zimbabwe, Norvall has been riding and competing for as long as she can remember. Although she
loved horses, as an undergraduate Norvall wasn't sure what she wanted to do. She talked with a career counselor who asked
her to imagine the coldest, rainiest, most awful morning ever, and then asked, "What would motivate you to get ?"
After some thought, Norvall replied, "If someone called me and their horse was sick, then that's what I'd get out of bed for."
She changed her studies to animal science and pre-veterinary medicine.
"From there it was like a domino effect," she says. "The more I got into it, especially toward the equine side of things,
the more I knew it would fit for me."
Norvall likes working with horses and riding them in her spare time, but credits the people in equine medicine for drawing
her to the industry. "All the equine veterinarians that I've met have such great personalities and are such easy people to
relate to, to talk to, that I really enjoy it. I look forward to being colleagues with them."
This year Norvall will complete several externships and a variety of rotations at school to try to discover the area that
interests her most (Photo 4). In the United States on a student visa, she would like to stay a while longer. In both Zimbabwe
and South Africa, there is a broad horse spectrum — the show circuit, polo and the racing industry. In addition to externships
in the U.S., Norvall has completed an externship in Australia.
Photo 4: Norvall learns how to palpate and perform ultrasonographic examinations in mares.
"I just know that equine medicine can take you in so many different directions, anywhere in the world," says Norvall. "I lean
more toward the performance side of things, as opposed to the reproduction side, but there's no telling. Whatever feels right,
I will go in that direction. Not only the horses, but the people involved — other veterinarians — make it a great profession."
While early affiliation with horses inspires a love for the animals, interaction with veterinarians encourages students to
make equine medicine a career. In the next article of this two-part series, you'll meet the mentors — those equine practitioners
who pay special attention to guiding young veterinary students to equine practice.
Ed Kane, PhD, is a researcher and consultant in animal nutrition. He is an author and editor on nutrition, physiology and veterinary medicine
with a background in horses, pets and livestock. He is based in Seattle.