With a history of discovering and carrying newfound creatures into her home as a child, it came as no surprise to her family and friends when Aubrie Michelle Smith, of Stephens City, Virginia, decided to pursue a career caring for animals.

Now, not only will she earn her doctor of veterinary medicine degree from the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech in May, but she’ll do so as her class’s valedictorian and recipient of the Richard B. Talbot Award.

“I am very blessed to be where I am today,” said Smith. “I am deeply honored to be selected as the recipient of this year’s Richard B. Talbot Award in memory of our founding dean.”

Smith completed a bachelor's degree in biological sciences with a minor in animal and poultry sciences from Virginia Tech in 2014. During her undergraduate years, she gained experience as an animal and poultry science teaching assistant, found early access to the veterinary college as an animal care technician, and spent her summer working at an entomology research center.

In the summer prior to starting veterinary school, Smith was accepted into the Multicultural Academic Opportunities Program (MAOP), where she started a research project with human cardiac stem cells, which later led to publication.

While pursuing the veterinary college’s small animal track, one of five options in the tracking curriculum, Smith expanded her horizons through diverse learning experiences. From visiting Atlantic salmon farms in southern Chile, to visiting the vivariums in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, she has studied veterinary medicine in seven states and four countries. “It’s good to get a different perspective,” she said.

Outside of the classroom and clinics, Smith remained active in extracurricular activities. She served as a member of the Companion Animal Club, Public Veterinary Practice Club, as well as the student chapters of the American Veterinary Medical Association and Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Society. She also served as a student ambassador for the school — a position in which she says she enjoyed “sharing [her] enthusiasm with prospective students.”

With plans to keep traveling in the future, Smith has accepted a position working in emergency medicine in Northern Virginia. While she is looking forward to the next step, she is doing so with a sense of nostalgia for all her years in Blacksburg, including her classmates who now feel, she said, “like a family.”

“Vet school has pushed me further mentally than I ever thought I could go,” Smith said. “I am very proud of my alma mater and all of my classmates who have made this journey with me. I will miss seeing all their faces, along with the wonderful faculty and staff at VMCVM. Virginia Tech will always hold a special place in my heart.” 

Written by Leslie Jernegan, a master’s degree student in the Department of English in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences

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