Agri Leader

Becoming a veterinarian: Coming full circle

No matter how far you roam, sometimes the pull to come back home is too strong to resist.

It was for Pam Wise, doctor of veterinary medicine and daughter of Sheriff William Wise and mom Kay Wise. The 30-year-old ventured across the Caribbean Sea and later up to Indiana in pursuit of her lifelong dream of becoming a veterinarian, but now she’s home again to make her mark on her hometown of Arcadia.

“I have never wanted to be anything other than a vet,” said Wise, who recently bought her grandmother’s house on the Mercer ranch, near her parents and other family members. “I would go sit in the mineral box and read a book, and the cows would come up and I would pet them,” Wise recalled. She added, “When we would harvest an animal to eat, I would want to know what all the organs were. My parents were like, what is wrong with her? I was just curious. ‘What is that and how does that work?’”

Wise said she followed in her mother’s footsteps, while her older sister Kimberly took after their dad and went into corrections. Her supportive parents urged Wise to begin working for a local veterinarian so she could get a good idea of what the career would look like.

Her junior year of high school she started cleaning out kennels and walking dogs. Soon she was promoted to vet tech and switched to checking in animals, taking medical histories and assessing animals’ weights and temperatures. She also got to go on field calls, working cows, vaccinating horses and keeping the large animal truck stocked with supplies.

“The vet was pretty good about letting me learn hands-on stuff, like pulling blood,” Wise remarked. That gave her a real leg-up when she began attending vet school. Wise got her associate’s degree at then-South Florida Community College and earned a bachelor’s in beef industry at the University of Florida, along with taking her pre-requisites for veterinary school. During her time at UF she was on the Block and Bridle Club and the livestock judging team.

With all of that under her belt, the young woman and two of her close friends embarked on a huge adventure — veterinary school in the Cayman Islands. “It was tough, but somebody had to do it,” Wise joked about ringing in the 2009 New Year on the Caribbean Sea and spending her free time snorkeling.

The students spent almost three years on the tropical island nation, and it wasn’t all paradise. “It was rough. You’re in a foreign country. You don’t know anybody. You don’t have a vehicle. Milk costs $6 a gallon,” Wise recounted. In addition to an intense study program, she served as secretary of the food animal medicine club.

After her schooling abroad, she completed her clinical year at Purdue University in Indiana, which she said she “really enjoyed.” Her professors told her she could practice anywhere she wanted, but Wise wanted to come back to her home town.

“I’m happy that I’m back here serving the community,” said Wise, who returned in September of 2012 and works for Crankshaw Veterinary Services as a licensed veterinarian. The practice is the same one that hired her as a teen.

Her sense of civic duty comes partly from her parents, both of whom are members of the Arcadia Rodeo Association and who are also supporters of the community’s fund-raising barbecues, Toys for Tots program and Project Graduation. Now Wise is the official on-call veterinarian for the rodeo association. Since March, she has been there to help out if any animals get injured during events in the arena.

During her regular day job, she takes care of both small and large animals and performs lots of spaying and neutering as well as other surgeries such as amputations or urinary bladder stone surgeries, which she described as “pretty fun.” Her mom also keeps her busy with calls to come help deliver calves on the ranch, which experiences an uncommon number of twin births.

“I’ve pulled several sets of twins for them this year,” Wise remarked.

In her future, Wise hopes not only to be able to work some challenging veterinary cases, like the rare case of horse botulism she recently dealt with, but also to eventually have her own practice.

“The best part, I think, is making animals feel better. They come in and you can tell they are sick. When you figure it out, it makes you feel good,” she explained.

She’s happy to be giving back to the community where she grew up and which welcomed her back “with open arms.” Wise is also grateful for her family’s support. “They’ve never told me you can’t do it. I was always raised that if you work hard enough for something you will be able to achieve it. That’s the mindset I’ve had throughout school, and I probably wouldn’t have made it through school without their support.”