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Recent Scholarship Recipients

School of Veterinary Medicine Academic Scholarship

Award Recipient – Ashlee Trammel

Sometimes I think I understand animals better than I do humans (it’s funny, but true!). I have just always had a deep compassion for animals for as long as I can remember. I will say, the statement “I have wanted to be a veterinarian since I was a little girl,” though cliché, could not be more accurate.

I was born and raised in Oklahoma and graduated from Oklahoma State University with a Bachelor of Science in Zoology. My time at OSU expanded my knowledge of animals in a way that confirms that veterinary medicine is what I want to do with my life. During my time in undergrad I had amazing opportunities such as volunteering at a local cat rescue, doing community service with the OSU Exotics Club, interning at the Oklahoma City Zoo, and working and shadowing local veterinary clinics. Also, I had the unique opportunity to volunteer at the American Therapeutic Riding Center, which is an equine assisted therapy center. This allowed me to see how much of an impact healthy animals can have on people. Through these experiences I have learned not only what it takes to pursue a career in this field, but to also have a deeper care for the well being of all animals and to understand how important the role of a veterinarian can be for human health as well.

There have been a few obstacles that I have faced on my journey to vet school, so I am beyond grateful for the opportunity I have to study at St. Matthew’s University. I am most looking forward to the small class sizes at SMU and the different perspectives offered by the variety of professors. I am looking forward to attending St. Matthew’s University School of Veterinary Medicine and experiencing everything the beautiful island of Grand Cayman has to offer!

Award Recipient - Matthew Rietveld

Matthew Rietveld is a graduate from the University of Victoria. He majored in microbiology and served as president of the University of Victoria Biochemistry and Microbiology Student Society in his final year.

From childhood to adulthood he has spent the majority of his spare time out in the wilderness of British Columbia exploring and studying the studding biodiversity. His affinity for animals has always been apparent, and it led him to volunteer, then work with a wild animal sanctuary caring for deer, raccoons, otters, and many more animals.

Matthew loves to travel and has a host of different interest and hobbies, which led him to get his Dive Master certification from New Zealand, entertain as a fire dancer in Australia and South East Asia, and train as a martial arts instructor back in his home town of Victoria. His driving belief is that “in order to achieve optimal performance you must train the body as well as the mind”.

Matthew’s acceptance into our DVM program will bring him to the culmination of his goals: completing a Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine, here in the beautiful Grand Cayman Islands at St. Matthew’s University.

Award Recipient - Lauren Lev

I’ll be honest; I have not always wanted to be a vet. In fact, my answer to the question, "what do you want to be when you grow up?" varied between forensic pathologist, dolphin trainer, and, at times, a rock star. Because my musical abilities did not extend beyond the walls of my shower, I passionately pursued a career in emergency medicine. However, about four years and a few thousand dollars too late, I decided it was not for me. I spent the better part of a year lost. I slowly realized the only thing that made me happy was my dogs, so I started showing up to the local shelter. Some days I would walk the dogs or play with the cats, other days I would just sit with them. Eventually, one of the volunteer coordinators learned about my medical experience and asked if I would volunteer in the clinic as a surgical technician. Although I was hesitant to leave comfort of my just-come-play-with-the-dogs bubble, I agreed. Slowly, I began to notice a change in myself. For the first time in two years, I felt I had a purpose and that I was making a difference. I had found my drive and motivation. Most importantly, I was happy again.

With my new found passion for veterinary medicine, I hit the ground running and began researching schools, requirements, and the application process. I learned about St. Matthew's from a chance encounter with an alumni from undergrad. I quickly fell in love with the school and the opportunity to study marine medicine. Although I am not fulfilling a life long dream of mine, I believe sometimes the best paths in life are the ones that choose you.

Award Recipient - Cassandra Martinez McDow

Growing up, my childhood friends used to joke that I lived on a “farm,” which for the Jersey Shore isn’t saying much. Nonetheless, like most veterinary students, I always had a passion for animals and KNEW it was what I was meant to do in life.

I began my path to veterinary medicine in high school where I had the opportunity to attend Cornell University through their Veterinary Research Apprenticeship Program. That was when I became sure that I wanted to pursue this career. I continued my education at the University of Findlay (Ohio) where hands-on experience was greatly emphasized. During my tenure, I enlisted in the US Army Reserves, where I served as a medic for four years. Being a reservist allowed me to continue my studies. I expanded upon my curriculum by interning at the Montgomery Zoo (Alabama) as well as conducting research of shelter dogs, and how their stress levels can be effected by human interaction. Ultimately, I graduated as an Honors Scholar and Cum Laude.

My actual road to veterinary school has diverged a few times both professionally and personally, but I am ecstatic to be part of the SMU family. The accelerated schedule allows me to complete my degree and start my career sooner. The small class size allows for individualized attention and interaction with professors for an intense but interactive learning environment. My goal is to one day have a mixed animal practice and specialize in critical care and exotics.

Luckily, I am able to have my family with me on island. As such, we live off campus in West Bay with our two dogs and one cat. Since my husband, John, also works, our 2 year old, Elena, attends preschool. While at times, having my family here makes time management tricky, it is doable and I am so thankful to have their support.

Award Recipient - Kallie Hobbs

When the unthinkable happens in life you can choose to be dragged down or you can choose to rise above it and make a difference. I choose to make a difference. My career goals are to obtain a DVM specializing in equine surgery with an interest area in cardio/pulmonary research. Though always passionate about animals, the final push to seek this as a career was the result of unfortunate circumstances rather than a lifelong ambition.

I graduated from the University of South Carolina with a BS in Public Relations and Sports Marketing and worked in the field shortly after graduation. I grew up riding horses competitively and knew in my heart that I wanted an equine-related career. Not long after graduation, my horse was admitted to North Carolina State University with pleuralpneumonia. After spending four months in the hospital, we had to end her fight due to substantial lung necrosis and laminitis.

I was fortunate that during this experience I had a team of doctors that included me during the entire treatment process and spent hours explaining everything they were doing to try to save her. These experiences led me to realize that my passion is veterinary medicine. While completing prerequisites for veterinary school, I was fortunate enough to be able to work in a highly published research lab and work on a project dealing with cytokine interactions. I was also able to work in hospitals that ranged from small animal emergency surgery to North Carolina Sates's equine medicine department. This only further developed my passion for veterinary medicine. My career goal is to become a board certified equine internal surgeon and practice and do research at the university level. The road that led me to veterinary school has been long and often trying. St. Matthew's University was the obvious fit for me with the small class sizes and competitive learning environment. I am truly excited to not only become a member of the veterinary class but also an active member of the school environment.

Award Recipient - Rebecca Verhoeven

From a young age, I learned that my passion was caring for animals. I spent more time as a child in pens, pastures, barns and sheds than I did with other children my own age. However, when I graduated high school I made the decision to study law. I moved to Grand Cayman with my fiancée and our dog shortly after I graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science from the University of North Texas. I worked as a legal assistant for some time but I quickly began to recognize that my childhood passion could still be a reality.

Three years after moving to Grand Cayman, my husband and I began planning financially and I made enquiries into St. Matthew's University, School of Veterinary Medicine. I attended the University College of the Cayman Islands for several months and completed a number of prerequisite courses. I began spending my afternoons walking dogs at the Cayman Islands Humane Society and I worked part time at a local veterinary clinic, in addition to working part time as a legal assistant.

I am grateful that I now have the opportunity to finally achieve my goal of becoming a veterinarian on the Island that I have come to know as home. I look forward to the adventure and completing my studies at St. Matthew's University because I know that in addition to receiving a world-class education, I will gain skills and perspective right here at home that will be invaluable to my professional career.

Award Recipient - Christina Hoffman

I have known that I wanted to be a veterinarian ever since I was a little girl. A fascination and compassion for animals grew into a career goal. My time spent at veterinary clinics during high school and college only further solidified this desire.

I graduated, with honors, from Cedar Crest College and majored in Biology with minors in Chemistry and Psychology. I also completed a thesis in the area of animal behavior. As an additional perspective and broadening experience I earned a master’s degree in Health and Biopharmaceutical Economics from Lehigh University.

My road to veterinary school had the proverbial detours along the way. However, one could say that when you have to fight for something that is very important, it has greater meaning. I look forward to studying veterinary medicine at St. Matthew’s University and accomplishing my dream.

Award Recipient - Leah Drake

My vision has always been to earn a Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine; however, after my undergraduate work this vision became somewhat blurry. Job availability and the cares of life began to cloud my sight. The purpose of this statement is to share my new focus and highlight those character traits and skills that will make me a successful student and veterinarian.

I grew up on a small cattle ranch, which included commercial production and show string operations. This environment forged in me responsibility and the rewards of a job well done. After high school, I attended Sam Houston State University earning a B.S. in Animal Science (Magna Cum Laude), and Texas A&M University earning an MS (Beef Cattle Science).

Upon graduation from TAMU in May 1997, I accepted a management position with a company in a non agriculture related field. My responsibilities included managing employees, inventory, and accounting in 3 university textbook stores in 3 different locations. This was a time of growth and refinement of my skills. There was, however, a void in my life, and my job was not as fulfilling as it was once.

I missed the interactions with the animals and people of the agriculture industry. Equally as important, I had a strong desire to give back to the industry that gave me so many opportunities. After extensive soul searching, I knew I wanted a career as a veterinarian.

To pursue my new focus, I have recently taken college courses to prepare me for a professional curriculum. I resigned from my management position of 11 years, sold my house, and relocated to my hometown to live with my parents and work with my local veterinarian. I am very excited to be a student at St. Matthew's University School of Veterinary Medicine.

Cayman Scholarship

Award Recipient - Mary Catherine (Kadie) Frazier

My passion has always been clear, however, the pursuit of this passion has not been straightforward. Various hurdles along the way threatened to delay or impede the attainment of my ultimate goal of becoming a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM). These obstacles proved to be character building and cemented that helping and healing animals is the only career choice in which I would find true joy. Employment at veterinary clinics in both Cayman and the US allowed me to be privy to multiple approaches to animal care as well as business management. The blessing of receiving invaluable experience in both countries provided the opportunity to compare and contrast, as well as bring extraneous knowledge home.

Although the completion of my undergraduate career off island was enjoyable, the time away caused me to appreciate this little "rock" in the Caribbean Sea even more. The existence of St. Matthew's University School of Veterinary Medicine allowed for a situation to occur which I didn't perceive to be possible: I could receive quality education, continue to build on-island professional relationships, and contribute to the betterment of my community and, all the while, remaining in the same geographical location as my family. The fact that the curriculum at SMU is slightly accelerated was very appealing because I would ultimately only have to spend one final year abroad to complete the program. I am excited to commence the DVM program at SMU and believe that the University will provide many opportunities for Caymanians and non-Caymanians alike.