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Alumni revisit RUSVM at annual West Indies Veterinary Conference

Not only was Dr. Mickey Axelband in the first graduating class at Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine (Ross), because his last name begins in “A” he was the first graduate ever to receive a diploma from the school in 1985.

November’s West Indies Veterinary Conference (WIVC) was another first for Dr. Axelband as well; he had not been back to St. Kitts since 1984. In its 12th year, the annual conference has welcomed hundreds of RUSVM alumni back to the island to earn continuing education credits, reunite with classmates and meet fellow Rossies from other graduating years.

The 2016 conference offered 6 guest speakers across specialties ranging from cardiology to neurology, and a variety of social sessions to allow alumni and speakers to network and mingle. The event also provided the opportunity for current RUSVM students to participate in the popular “speed networking” session with alumni; a chance to visit with established DVM grads to get information and advice about different specialties and career paths. The conference program also offered a walking tour of campus where alumni could view additions and upgrades to campus facilities and academic technology.

For Dr. Axelband, the experience of returning to his alma mater has been a bit surreal. Of St. Kitts, he remembers sugarcane and undeveloped land, and how welcoming Kittitians were to the small coterie of veterinary students and a campus that had arrived on the island, quite literally, by boat to St. Kitts in the early 80’s. The decision to separate the RUSVM campus from Ross University School of Medicine meant that the entire campus was moved from Dominica, in order to mitigate the potential for storm damage to both schools. Although much has changed, a few things were familiar to him such as the roads near Basseterre, the island town center.

His path after graduation has been equally adventurous. After finishing his clinical year, he took his boards, worked in a variety of veterinary jobs and then opened up a practice in Florida and purchased two additional clinics. He’s worked as a pharmaceutical consultant, and has even appeared in an “ask the vet” TV segment for two years and served as a regular on-air veterinary consultant for ABC News. Most recently, he is the founder of American Veterinary Group, a company that specializes in the purchase and modernization of veterinary practices.

He advises new graduates to keep an open mind about career prospects that might present themselves. When he graduated from Ross, he thought he would enter small animal medicine. Even a few years ago, he said he would have never considered that today he would be starting his own company.

“Once you’ve got that degree, it just opens up so much opportunity that you never know what’s around the next corner,” said Axelband.

Although this was Dr. Axelband’s first WIVC, it will not be his last.

“I will be back every year,” he said. The next WIVC conference will be November 4-11, 2017.