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How I Became A Veterinarian

I have always loved animals. I have always cried when I saw one hurting. I have always wanted to know how to help them. In fact, my whole family loves animals. We had lots of cats, dogs, even birds, turtles, and frogs. We spent a lot of time at the animal clinic. I so admired our pet’s veterinarian, Dr. Jack Jones that my mom suggested that I ask if I could hang around his clinic some time. At 13 years old, I spent the summer watching and marveling at Dr. Jones's compassion, expertise, and commitment. By the end of the summer, I knew. I wanted to be a veterinarian!

[Image1] Veterinary school is four years, just like medical school. In fact, we learn everything a human physician learns.

By the time I reached high school, I was very focused. I took all the advanced science courses that I could. I joined many leadership and civic clubs. And I worked toward having a good enough academic record to be accepted into veterinary school.

But when I was 13 years old, I went to the library to find out just how one becomes a veterinarian. Doing the only thing I knew, I looked up the words veterinary medicine in the card catalog. I found on card after card the other the name “American Veterinary Medical Association.” So I looked up the address for this official sounding group, and sent them a letter. I explained that I loved animals and wanted to be an animal doctor. To my surprise and delight, they sent me a big packet of information containing the details about where veterinary schools are, what classes I would have to take, the kinds of grades I’d need to make, how long Vet School is, AND how much it cost to go to veterinary school. Well, when I saw that dollar figure, I knew that I would have to find ways to help my family pay for this expensive education. You see, we were not rich. And while we were not particularly poor, we didn’t have a lot of extra money. And vet school required a lot of extra money!

[Image 2] When I was 16, I marched down to McDonald's and got a job serving burgers. 

So I started working to make the best grades I could to increase the possibility of winning academic scholarships. I also started working the day I turned 16. My first job, really, was when I was 12 years old delivering newspapers. That only lasted a short while. But when I reached “real” working age, I marched right down to McDonald’s and got a job serving burgers (do you want fries with that!). I also started competing in the Miss America Scholarship pageant to earn extra cash to pay for school.

As a college student, I majored in Animal Science to prepare me for veterinary school. I had to take tough courses, including physics, chemistry, organic chemistry, comparative anatomy and many more. Also, in order to be considered for some vet schools, I had to take the MCAT & VAT; two standardized tests required to get into medical schools. Half way through my junior year it was time to start applying to veterinary schools. I applied to three: Louisiana State University, Kansas State University, and University of Missouri-Columbia. I first received notification from Univ. of Missouri saying that I was accepted. But they only offered me a $2000.00 scholarship. That wasn’t even enough to pay for books! Then I received an acceptance letter from Louisiana. And they were offering a full scholarship! Trouble was, I really wanted to go to the school in Missouri. So, at my mom’s advice, I told the Dean at Univ. of Missouri about the scholarship offer from Louisiana. I asked him if there was any way they could increase the amount they were offering me. And to my thrilled surprise they did!! It didn’t cover all my expenses but, boy, it helped a lot.

Veterinary school is four years, just like medical school. In fact, we learn everything a human physician learns. Except they just learn about one mammal, the human. Veterinarians must learn about SIX mammals (cats, dogs, horses, cows, pig, and chickens). School was tough. I got very little sleep, spent up to 20 hours in class and labs, and lived off fast food. There were many days that I wanted to give up and go home. But, by God’s grace, I made it through. I did take a year off to be Miss America. But when that was over, I came right back to finish what I’d started. That was the original goal in the first place! I graduated from the University of Missouri College of Veterinary medicine in 1991. Hallelujah!!

If you want to know more about becoming a veterinarian, click here:


[Image3] Here I am at two years old - as a little girl, I never dreamed I would grow up to be Miss America.

I never dreamed, as a little girl, that I would one day become Miss America. I didn’t really want to. I always loved animals. And, except for a brief time in elementary school when I thought I wanted to be a teacher, I always wanted to be a veterinarian. Since I was a young girl, I knew that the expensive veterinary education was way beyond my family’s financial abilities. So I began looking for scholarship opportunities to help get me through veterinary school.

When the Director of the Miss Jonesboro pageant approached me about entering her “local” pageant which is in the Miss America System, I was more then willing because she told me that the Miss America Scholarship Program was the largest source of scholarship for women in the world. She then told me that I could win tens of thousands of dollars if I won a state pageant and went on to the Miss America competition. I knew right away that this might be my ticket to paying for veterinary school!

But before I met the Miss Jonesboro Director, I had participated in two other pageants. Thanks to the encouragement and inspiration of my church choir director, I entered my very first pageant, “Miss Black Teenage World.” I was fifteen at the time. All my friends were in it too. It was more fun than competition. Still my natural tendency to want to win made my First Runner-Up placement a bit of a disappointment. But I did enjoy the experience, so when the high school counselor announced the Junior Miss Program was looking for participants, I signed up. I went on to win the title of Northeast Arkansas Junior. And placed in the “Top 8” at the Arkansas Junior Miss Program. I was later told that I was “too sophisticated” for the Junior Miss Program and that I should consider the Miss America program.

[Image 4] I am waving to the crowd after winning the title of Miss America 1990. 

In 1983, I was nominated to represent the FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America) in a high school pageant. I gladly accepted. I won! That’s where I met the lady from the Miss Jonesboro Pageant. So later that year, I entered my first pageant in the Miss America system, the Miss Jonesboro Pageant. The road was long to the Miss America stage. You see, I HAD to win a “state pageant” in order to get to the Miss America pageant.

It took seven years, eleven tries in two states to get there. I entered four local pageants in the Miss Arkansas system. I won three of them, which meant that I went to the Miss Arkansas pageant three times. But I could never win the Miss Arkansas title. So after that third failed attempt, I changed my method. By this time, I was a veterinary student at the University of Missouri-Columbia. So, since I was a student in the state of Missouri, I was eligible for the Missouri preliminaries. So in February of 1989 I entered the Miss Columbia pageant and won. I went on to the Miss Missouri pageant that summer and won. In September, I became Miss America 1990. And my life changed forever...

If you want to know more about the Miss America system, click here:


My favorite color: red (and purple)

My favorite foods: PIZZA!, cookies, mac and cheese, cereal, turkey and dressing, and many more.

My pets: “Blessed”, a 19 year old Siamese cat

My hometown: I was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. I grew up in Jonesboro, Arkansas

My family: My mom is deceased. My dad’s name is Frederick C. Turner, Jr. I have one older sister, Suzette. She is married with three children.

I made a personal commitment to Christ: When I was seven years old. I grew up in a Christian home, but one day my mother came to me and said, “You know, you can’t get to heaven on my apron strings. You have to have a relationship with the Lord yourself.” Right then I accepted Jesus into my Life.

[image5] I made a personal commitment to Christ when I was seven years old.


I’m motivated by: The belief that every opportunity I have is a result of God opening doors. After several tries, I became the 1990 Miss America, which provided the scholarship money for me to pursue my dream of becoming a veterinarian. It also gave me a public platform to share my testimony with others.

If I could change one thing about myself: My tendency to procrastinate. I always have to come through in the clutch because I wait until then to get the work done! Fortunately, I operate fairly well under pressure.

One of my favorite things to do: Absolutely nothing. Since I have to get dressed up and travel a lot as a motivational speaker, I love to come home, order a pizza, rent a video, and just veg out.

I was influenced by: My mother. She worked in the church, took hot meals to the elderly, led a Bible study, went back to school to get her master’s degree, counseling people, and showered my sister and me with love...all as single parent. A single-parent family isn’t the optimal situation, but it doesn’t have to be dysfunctional – my experience certainly wasn’t.

If I could tell the world one thing, I’d say: God created every one of us as incredibly special, unique individuals. He gave us each the ability to do something specific no other human being can do in the way we can. The greatest success we can have in life is to use the talents God has given us to fulfill His purposes.

I deal with the challenges of being single by: Looking to God to meet all my needs. He’s my provider, my best friend, my boyfriend. I look forward to the possibility of getting married and having children. But I’ve learned to be content because this is where God has me at this time.

My favorite Bible passage: Romans 8:38-39: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” I love these verses because they reassure me that nothing can stand between Christ’s love-which is my very foundation-and me.

[image6] Except for a brief time in elementary school when I thought I wanted to be a teacher, I always wanted to be a veterinarian.

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