“So, where are you from?”

On the road to conduct a farm call isn’t exactly the place you’d expect to reconnect with a high school classmate, but during a production management medicine rotation at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, veterinary student Jeff Cartzendafner discovered that he and Clinical Assistant Professor of production management medicine Sierra Guynn not only both grew up in Westminster, Maryland, but they graduated from the same high school class.

The fact that both student and professor attended high school at the same time shows that there are many paths to becoming a veterinarian.  

After graduating college, Cartzendafner started his career working in clinical and research laboratories. In the clinical laboratory, he tested human clinical samples for viruses such as HIV and influenza. Cartzendafner moved on to work at three different research laboratories, where he helped formulate the chemistry strips for the TRUEtrack glucometer and performed cDNA/siRNA/genomic screening.

After earning his master's degree at Johns Hopkins University, he realized that he would need a Ph.D. to move further in his career. That made him wonder if it was time for a career change.  

“The thought came around: I should revisit my original passion, veterinary medicine,” he said.

Cartzendafner had wanted to pursue veterinary medicine since he was 5 years old because of his love for both animals and medicine, but he wanted to make sure his interest was still strong before diving into veterinary school. He began volunteering for and then working for a researcher who was studying herpes virus in sea turtles. 

The experience sealed the deal. Cartzendafner was ready to pursue his doctor in veterinary medicine at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. This month, he graduates with his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and will move to St. Petersburg, Florida, to work in general practice small animal medicine.  

Cartzendafner said beginning a veterinary career later in life has its advantages.

“It gives you a different perspective on life. After you’ve had work experience where you’ve had to deal with a lot of people and a lot of personalities, I think it gives you more of a diverse experience. I think it makes you appreciate things that you once took for granted when you were younger,” said Cartzendafner.  

His high school classmate turned professor agrees.  

“Nontraditional students tend to be very hard workers, which I respect immensely,” said Guynn. “Jeff was no exception. But the best part about Jeff is that he is a phenomenally caring and considerate person for animals and humans alike. You can’t teach compassion — it’s something you can improve upon, but in Jeff it’s inherent. He provided excellent patient care and had excellent communication skills, even though as a small animal tracker on a production management medicine rotation, he was far outside of his wheelhouse and veterinary goals in life. And all the time he smiled!”

Written by Sarah Boudreau

 

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