From primates to polar bears, SAVMA president has worked with them all

Published on April 29, 2015
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Jessica L. Carie (Colorado State ’16) is a self-proclaimed beach bum who grew up in New Orleans and attended the University of Miami for undergraduate studies. In fact, the first class she enrolled in at college was scuba diving. Yet, despite her love for warm weather, it took little convincing for this wildlife enthusiast to move to Alaska before ending up at Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. Her passion for organized veterinary medicine and getting to know others has most recently led her to become the new president of the Student AVMA.

Carie knew she wanted to be a veterinarian ever since her first visit to the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans when she was a young girl. She also was bit by the travel bug early on, which inspired her to go out of state for college after high school. While studying biology, she pursued her interest in wildlife work by volunteering everywhere from an aquarium to Monkey Jungle, a protected habitat for endangered primates. After graduation, Carie knew she wanted to experience more before applying to veterinary college.  

Jessica L. Carie (Photo by R. Scott Nolen)

A conservation internship opportunity with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in, of all places, Alaska had piqued her interest.

“My parents had just gone on a cruise to Alaska and raved about how beautiful it was. My dad and I love the outdoors and travel, so I figured I’d give it a shot,” Carie said. During the three months there, she worked at a walrus field camp and tracked moose and wolves. “I was blown away. It was like being in a movie,” she said.

Carie returned to New Orleans, worked at a small animal practice, and backpacked in Europe with a friend for a spell, but the itch to return to Alaska was too much to deny.

She ended up going “from one awesome experience to another,” working with the FWS, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and World Wildlife Fund doing seasonal work for about five years, on and off. In that time, Carie worked with sea lions in the southeast part of the state and otters in the south-central region. She also surveyed and captured polar bears on the Arctic coast. 

Ready to move, Carie then relocated to Colorado to establish residency before applying to veterinary college. She worked odd jobs for a year before being accepted at CSU in 2012. She still has a passion for wildlife and conservation medicine but isn’t limiting herself to that realm once she graduates next year. Carie is spending her fourth year in a variety of rotations. She’s considering joining the Army Veterinary Corps—it would be her third attempt—to work in the public health or food safety sector. If that doesn’t work out, “most everything is still on the table,” she said. 

New Student AVMA president Jessica L. Carie spent five years on and off monitoring and caring for Alaskan wildlife before applying to veterinary college. (Photos courtesy of Jessica L. Carie)

For now, she’s focusing on facilitating an idea-sharing environment by making the student organization more welcoming, especially to newer members.

“I just want to update our current protocols and try and get us to be a little more useful to each other and offer more time to everybody to exchange ideas and discuss. Joining the SAVMA HOD can be intimidating, especially as a junior delegate. I’m trying to work to make sure it’s more inclusive, with a comfortable vibe for people when they’re starting out. You’re not going to share ideas if you’re not comfortable,” Carie said.

She remembers feeling overwhelmed when getting involved in SAVMA during her first semester but loved meeting veterinary students from the various colleges. Even after getting heavily involved with SAVMA, though, it didn’t occur to her to run for president until someone suggested she’d be a good fit for the job.

“Realizing that people could be great leaders but don’t always know it, that has put an idea in my mind to be on the lookout for people who need more encouragement before joining something like SAVMA. It was a good life lesson, and I’ve attempted to be proactive since then and encouraging of people I see with leadership potential. Someone planted the seed, and I went with it,” Carie said.

She’s also focused on continuing work by previous SAVMA presidents to not only push for students to get involved in allied organizations but also help these groups reach out more to students and involve them in their decision-making processes.

“We are 15,000 members who will be joining these organizations in the next few years, so student involvement goes both ways.

Students get messages from the AVMA, (American Veterinary Medical Foundation), and (Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges) that it’s important to be involved with organized veterinary medicine, but there needs to be an exchange in both directions,” Carie said.