“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” – John F. Kennedy

The incoming class of 2023 of the University of California School of Veterinary Medicine

In our annual activities to orient and welcome new students to the next step in their academic journey, we are reminded of the potential of the future. By introducing them to our traditions, we are, in turn, inspired by their energy to define what lies ahead. In listening to their dreams, we reflect on our past and renew our belief in change.

Ali Pankowski and Elizabeth Grant (left to right in center) are both from multigenerational DVM families.

I like to remind each class that they have all worked extremely hard to get the chance to pursue their dreams of becoming a veterinarian. Each of them had the ability to apply to medical school and become doctors who treat humans, instead they were accepted into a profession that treats humanity. Our new class of veterinary students, like so many before them, come to us with their own histories, talents, and dreams—each with their own story to share with us. For example, the class includes members whose parents include past presidents of the California Veterinary Medical Association and family histories built upon veterinary medicine.

Mirella Lopez joined the Class of 2023.

For our 29 first-generation college students (first in their family to obtain a college degree), they represent the opportunities that education provides to lift future generations. As a first-generation college student myself, I know the responsibility and promise of a college education. So I love to see stories such as our new student Mirella Lopez. Prior to being accepted, Mirella served as a volunteer in our Knight’s Landing One Health Clinic, which provides free veterinary services to a predominantly Latino community.

At the clinic, veterinary students work alongside medical students, providing health services to the people and pets of this underserved community. In this role, Mirella translated and spoke directly with clients about their pets and the importance of bringing them into the clinic. Like so many of her new classmates, she has given back through her service, while developing her knowledge and leadership skills.

David White receives his white coat.

First generation student David White immersed himself in activities related to food-animal health, working in a veterinary practice and as a surgery technician. David’s experiences as a large-animal veterinary assistant solidified his passion for helping people whose livelihoods depend on animals. Working in a rural community allowed him to understand the intersections of food animal, farmer, and human health.

Yafen Zhen with Dean Michael Lairmore and her family.

Yafen Zhen may have overcome the most to become a UC Davis DVM student. Coming from an immigrant background with parents who do not speak English, she mastered effective communication skills by interacting with business professionals, which allowed her to deal effectively with her family’s financial stress even while she was achieving academically.

Our school’s faculty, staff, and fellow students understand the important role we will have in the career and lives of our new students. As they become enlightened during their educational journey with us, their light will shine back on us, adding to the collective history of our school.  Our new students become part of our vision and our collective future. Time is fleeting; they are our students today and our colleagues tomorrow.