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RUSVM Student Charts Her Own Course

When Sydney Davis first sailed in the Caribbean as a yacht captain, little did she know she would one day study near those very same waters earning her DVM and master’s degree in St. Kitts at Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine.


Adventurous Beginnings

Davis developed her father’s love for sailing during her childhood on the coast of Maine. She began work docking boats in a marina and then started crewing on traditionally-rigged 80-150 ft. tall ships such as the schooners Liberty, Liberty Clipper and America. She earned her captain’s license, and began delivering boats from Rhode Island to the Caribbean for their owners and working in the yacht racing circuit.

“It was a great way to spend my early 20’s,” she said.

After a decade in the yachting industry she began thinking about pursuing her other love, veterinary medicine. Davis enrolled in a vet tech program and after a month, a faculty advisor asked her to think about going pre-vet and also pursuing her bachelor’s. She followed that advice and became licensed as a vet tech so she could work while earning her bachelor’s and associates degrees. She applied to a few vet schools but focused on Ross.

Island Family

As a single parent, the community feel was one of the reasons she chose to attend Ross. Her 7-year-old son, Camden, attends the RUSVM Preparatory School, and the proximity of the school to her classes has made caring for him while attending vet school easier.

“It’s a whole community that we’ve built right here with our friends and neighbors. It’s become an even bigger support network here than back home with family,” she said. “It’s been way better than I could have ever expected. I think I spent more time with my son in the past two years than I did in the four years before this.”

Unexpected Opportunities

As Davis continued her DVM training she began looking for opportunities to become a well-rounded student.

“I started looking at how big veterinary medicine is, and what I can explore as a career path. I started volunteering for the St. Kitts Sea Turtle Monitoring Network's In-Water team to do weekly swims, catching, tagging, collecting samples and data, and releasing sea turtles.”

She was interested in getting more research experience and inquired about joining a research project in the area of marine mammals and conservation work. She was approached by faculty at the end of her 4th semester about a research project, and proposed that instead of taking her on as an assistant, she could earn her master’s degree through the Integrated DVM/Masters by Research degree program at Ross. The intensive program provides DVM students the opportunity to focus on a topic specific to one of the four research centers and complete a research project. At first, Davis was hesitant to pursue the integrated program.

“I thought I had to be this amazing scientist going in, but obviously I can’t go into a master’s program being a master of the subject…I realized how much expectation we put on ourselves,” she said.

Through the support of administration and faculty, Davis took the leap and began the integrated DVM/Masters by Research degree program. During this time, she applied for and received the Morris Animal Foundation Student Scholar Award of $5,000; the first student at Ross to be awarded. The funds are helping her with her work looking at the relationship between metabolism and immune function in bottlenose dolphins based upon human swim interactions. She is working in collaboration with a number of facilities throughout the Caribbean, and also looking at less invasive sampling techniques and how these techniques can used for better conservation and management practices.

“The vets and trainers are so in-tune with the animals and it’s been really great to work with people so passionate about their health and happiness,” she said.

She also applied for and was awarded the RUSVM One Health Scholarship through the Center for Conservation Medicine and Ecosystem Health, as well as the Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine Scholarship through the DeVry Education Group Scholarship Fund. These awards are supporting some of her master’s work and living expenses. All of these funds will help her take care of her family, finish her work, and reduce her overall debt.

She has some simple advice for students thinking of applying for scholarships:

“Apply. I think we see these emails and fly past them…because we are so busy with our day-to-day lives and school that a deadline comes and goes,” she said. “But the actual application process is not terrible.” She said the process of applying for scholarships helped her to redefine her goals, and think about why she was pursuing her training.

“It’s a nice checkpoint to ask yourself why do I want to be here…what am I passionate about?” It’s great to start thinking a little outside the box to ask; what can I contribute to this field? Because now I’m receiving the education to actually make a difference.”

Looking ahead

Davis will finish 7th semester and stay on island to finish up lab work, recheck data, draft her thesis and help out as a vet tech to keep her in the game before her clinical year at Tufts in Massachusetts in May. As for what’s next, along with continuing to study marine mammal and small animal medicine she is considering getting more experience in emergency and critical care medicine.

Taking chances and saying “yes” to things even when she’s felt uncomfortable or scared have been valuable life lessons. “When I have, it has just opened all of these doors,” she said.

 

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