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Vet Gazette

Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine eNewsletter

Alumna Shares Inspiring Story

February 14th, 2012

Jamie Sullivan

This year, alumna Jamie Sullivan (Class of 2009) passed her boards with flying colors and went to work as a DVM. Why is this news? Because she had to tackle some big hurdles on the way to becoming a veterinarian.

Veterinary school is challenging for anyone but soon after enrolling at OSU in 2005, Sullivan started having health issues. She felt really hot at night and was putting on weight. When she went to the doctor, they discovered she had high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Sullivan was only 25 years old and had been working for years as a wild land firefighter so she was in excellent shape. None of it made sense. “I was always a very healthy eater,” she says. “I always worked out.  I played college soccer. I was not a sedentary person and I just kept getting heavier and heavier. The doctors kept telling me, ‘you’re not eating right; you’re not exercising enough.’”

The reality: Sullivan had an undiagnosed pituitary tumor. The next few years of vet school were tough. She was sleeping a lot and had trouble concentrating but somehow she got through it with A’s and B’s and graduated with her class. Then came the really hard part: She tried and failed to pass the board exam four times.

Discouraged but wanting to stay in the veterinary field, Sullivan went to work as a Certified Veterinary Technician at a twenty-four hour clinic. There she learned how a vet clinic works from a CVT’s perspective. “It was a good experience. I learned how to talk to clients and how to relay information to them so they understand,” she says. “I learned how to go over estimates and tell owners how to do home care. And I learned how to treat techs.” She worked there for over two years before another trip to the doctor finally resulted in the discovery of her tumor. “They immediately sent me to OHSU,” she says. “The tumor was so big, it was eating away at the sinus wall. They estimated I had it for six years.”

In March 2011, they removed the non-malignant tumor. Then she had two months of recovery at home. The surgery was a big success. “As soon as surgery was done, my headaches went away,” she says. “Before surgery, I was sleeping 16-18 hours a day; I was so lethargic. I was super cranky. I physically could not sit in a room long enough to take boards which is why I struggled with them.” Now she can sit, focus and study for hours. Last month, she passed her board exam and was hired as a DVM by Lebanon Animal Hospital two weeks later.

Sullivan is working with a personal trainer to get back in shape and is looking forward to hiking the Three Sisters this spring. But the thing she is happiest about is finally being able to use her education. “I am looking forward to using the skills that I learned in school to help animals,” she says. It was a rough road but she never gave up and kept her positive attitude. “All in all, it made me a better person; more understanding and well-rounded.”

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