Commencement May 19

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Sarah Wilke '24: Pursuing her passion for animals

Sarah Wilke '24, a Biology major specializing in Pre-Veterinary Science, admits to being shy and feeling a stronger connection with animals than people. However, her dedication to opening a mobile veterinary clinic for exotic animals such as fish, birds, and reptiles has taught her that communicating with pet owners is as important as relating to their pets, a lesson learned through her internship and volunteer experiences.

“I feel like most people in the vet community are introverted and relate to animals more than people, but vets need to work with people a lot, and not just the pets,” she said.

Wilke interned with and works for Lakeside Veterinary Services in Montour Falls, New York. Her experience there has helped her gain confidence in the people side of veterinary medicine.

“I keep to myself a lot, so working at the office has helped with that,” she shared. “I intake the clients and get as much info as possible, which has helped me be less nervous talking to people.”

Wilke was initially a customer of Lakeside, bringing her dog, fish, and tortoise there for care. When she expressed an interest in becoming a vet, the clinic invited her to shadow the staff for a week. Things went so well that the clinic offered Wilke a part-time job and worked with her to develop an internship to meet her academic program requirements.

At Lakeside, Wilke is gaining many practical experiences to prepare her for her future career, such as completing in-house test analyses.

“I help monitor the pets when they are under anesthesia, fill prescriptions, and do anything around the office that’s needed,” she added.

“It’s a lot of the same things, but also not the same things,” she shared. “Every day there’s something new and different, which I really enjoy. We typically have one or two emergencies, and I have to triage them and work fast to make sure the patient is stable.”

Wilke learned quickly that communicating early and often with the pet owners had an impact on the welfare of the pet. For example, after a pet has surgery, she educates the owners about the necessary post-operative care.

“I make sure they know how important it is for their dog to wear the cone and when to give medications, explaining what they are and what they do,” she said.

Beyond her work at the clinic, Wilke became a certified New York State wildlife rehabilitator and founded Serendipity Squirrels, which is listed on the State’s Department of Environmental Conservation website.

Over the summer, she volunteered with Worldwide Vets. This nonprofit organization pairs volunteers with vets, nurses, technicians, and conservation support staff to help improve animal care around the globe. She spent two weeks in Peru and two weeks in Costa Rica, learning about the wildlife conservation efforts in the region while assisting veterinarians with wildlife rehabilitation. She helped dogs, birds, sloths, manatees, monkeys, and many other types of animals.

Volunteering for the organization took Wilke out of her comfort zone. She had never left the United States before, nor traveled alone. However, she quickly made friends with the vets and other volunteers and has kept in contact with them after returning home.

In her travels, Wilke gained an additional appreciation for the role communication plays in animal care. In Peru, she learned a lot about animal trafficking and the need to educate local populations about the harmful effects it can have on the area’s ecosystem.

Wilke is considering volunteering again and would like to go to South Africa to work at a reptile sanctuary.

“I would definitely do this again, as these are experiences you won’t get anywhere else in the world,” she shared.

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