Finding Her Niche in a Non-Traditional Veterinary Career
Enjoying her veterinary assistant position at a small animal practice and serving as the Captain for the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine’s Large Animal Neonatal Unit while in undergraduate and veterinary school, Dr. Sarah Hooper spent the early part of her veterinary educational career planning on working in a mixed animal practice. However, things changed in 2010 when Dr. Hooper joined a team of international scholars in the Leadership Program for Veterinary Students at Cornell University, a decision that would ultimately lead her to her current role as Assistant Professor at Ross University of Veterinary Medicine (Ross Vet).
During the program, Dr. Hooper was paired with Cornell University facility member, Dr. Craig Altier who guided her in a project focused on antisense mechanisms of salmonella where she learned Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) technology and her interest in “non-traditional” veterinary medicine was born. Dr. Altier quickly turned into Dr. Hooper’s mentor, offering her advice that would later shift her career path, “find a niche where no one else is at and fill that niche.”
Dr. Hooper realized her niche involved combining her mastery of research technology, her interest in bat conservation, and her deep-seated dedication to serving others. “I specifically opted to enter academia rather than the industry as I wanted to impact the lives of students by being a professor, who was there to not only teach students, but to also be a pillar of support and help students recognize their potential and achieve their future dreams.”
Dr. Hooper is currently working on establishing her research lab, the “Caribbean and Beyond Hooper Bat and Ecohealth Lab”. Given that endemic island bat species are some of the most understudied bat populations in the world, Dr. Hooper hopes her research will continue to contribute to the understanding of Caribbean bat species and why these creatures are so important to not only the health of our ecosystems, but to the health of humans and animals as well.
Dr. Hooper is also the founder of the Guide Dog Foundation (GDF) Puppy Raiser Group (www.guidedog.org) at the University of Georgia. She has developed a thriving and self-sustaining volunteer program, Dawgs Raising Dogs, for college students interested in raising future service dogs for Guide Dog Foundation. This group of approximately 100 dedicated members has raised hundreds of service animals.