Featured Story

Changing Career Paths

Written by Dorothy Bliskey and Photography by Travis Pohl

Working as a veterinarian wasn’t always the occupational choice of Jackie (Oosterhouse) McIntyre of Randolph. She first received her Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration with a double major in accounting and marketing from the Wisconsin School of Business at UW-Madison.

With that degree, she worked for three years in the business world at SC Johnson in Racine as a financial analyst and a certified public accountant. During that time, she also volunteered as a volleyball coach for Muskego High School.

All that changed three years into her career when she decided she wanted to become a veterinarian.

“While at SC Johnson and coaching volleyball, I had incredible mentors and supervisors,” Jackie said. “They consistently made me think about what I would be doing 5 and 10 years into the future. Their guidance really made me think crit­ically about what I wanted my future to look like, and for that reason I decided to pursue an education in veterinary medicine.”

Jackie is in her final year at UW-Madison and will graduate this May.

The six-year route to receiving her Doctor of Veterinarian Medicine degree at UW-Madison has not been easy. The first step of the journey began with Jackie attending Colorado State in Fort Collins, Colorado. There, she completed the pre-requisite classes required to apply for veterinary programs. It was followed by four years of study at Madison to receive her doctorate.

“The pre-requisite coursework is quite extensive,” Jackie explained. “But you are able to have an undergraduate degree in a field of your choosing, providing you add the veterinary school pre-requisites into your undergraduate curriculum. The best undergraduate choices are career fields you are interested in working in because the acceptance rate into veterinary school is not very high.”

During her final year, Jackie is immersed in clinical coursework with clinical rotations occurring in two-week blocks year-round. “Some of the rotations are required, but you have flexibility in the fourth year to pursue experiences that are tailored to your specific career interest,” Jackie said. “For example, I will be spending some time away from the Veterinary Teaching Hospital to work with dairy and production medicine veterinary practices.”

While men used to dominate the veterinarian field, that’s no longer the case. In fact, the majority of students accepted into the most recent class at UW-Madison’s Veterinary Medicine program were women. “There were 1,307 applicants for 96 seats in the class,” Jackie said, noting 1,042 were females (78 were accepted) and 265 were males, with 18 being accepted.

When Jackie chose veterinary medicine as a career path, it never entered her mind to think it might be a good choice because she’s a woman. “I just thought it was a good career choice for me. In my case personally, I am interested in working in large animal medicine, which has traditionally been an occupation held by more male than female veterinarians,” Jackie said.

“I may need to take a different approach in some cases to accomplish what needs to be done, but in medicine – as in many things in life — there are often many techniques that can be applied to solve any given problem.”

While attending UW-Madison’s Veterinary Med­icine program, one of the male students pursuing the same degree stood out — Jackie’s husband, Kolby. “We met while we were attending classes there,” Jackie said, adding that Kolby has graduated and is currently working as an associate veterinarian at Waupun Veter­inary Services. “It’s a nine-doctor practice in Waupun where the primary focus is on food animal production medicine.”

As she heads toward graduation and steps into the work world as a veterinarian, Jackie looks back at the challenges and experience of returning to college. “The curriculum for the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine professional program is difficult, and the cost of the education is high — not to mention the amount of time it takes,” Jackie said.

“I really think it was just as difficult and challenging for my friends and family as they supported me through this process. I am very fortunate to have an incredible support network and would not have been able to do it without them.”

She credits her own pets for their support as well. “For my dog, Penny, and cat, Elbie, it was probably also difficult. They became real-life study props and were very tolerant of my poking and prodding!

“I am really happy with my choice to switch ca­reers,” Jackie concludes. “I have met some incredible people and mentors — my husband for one! Seven out of the 11 people in our wedding party were people I met directly or indirectly through veterinary medicine. I’ve made friendships that will last a lifetime.

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