Veterinary students react to deaths

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Veterinary students lost two colleagues this past March, both set to graduate this spring, and responded with an outpouring of support for the deceased, their families, and their pets.

Veterinary students at Colorado State University participate in the Veterinary Students United event held in honor of two fourth-year students who died in March. (Courtesy of Dr. Caroline A. Cantner)

Whitney Joypauline Engler, 27, a fourth-year veterinary student at the University of California-Davis, was found shot to death on March 27 inside a home she shared with her roommate, Joseph Andrew Hein, 23.

According to news reports, the incident started the previous evening when a neighbor called 911 to report two people had been shot. After police made numerous calls to the home but got no answer, police surrounded the home and evacuated neighbors as they tried to get the people inside to come out. The bodies were discovered early that morning. Police say Hein apparently committed suicide after he fatally shot Engler in the head and chest.

Engler grew up in San Diego and graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in brain behavior and cognitive science, according to a memorial page for her on the UC-Davis website.

“She is remembered for her passion for animal behavior and finding the good in every animal, her compassionate work with underserved populations at the Mercer Veterinary Clinic, her time spent fostering animals, and most of all, her incredible bond with Rosie—her Australian Shepherd service dog. Whitney could connect with all animals and surrounded herself with her three cats, two parrots, and a collection of finches,” according to the Web page.

Engler had planned to become a board-certified veterinary behaviorist and wanted to incorporate behavior and reproductive services within a predominantly small animal practice. A memorial scholarship fund has been established at the UC-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

Kelly Haysman Smith, 28, a fourth-year veterinary student at Michigan State University, was found dead inside her apartment March 24. According to news reports, police say she died of natural causes and do not suspect foul play while toxicology results are pending.

Her obituary in the Grand Rapids Press states that she earned undergraduate degrees in Spanish and microbiology from Michigan State. Smith participated in eventing and dressage throughout her childhood and her adult life. She was from East Grand Rapids, Michigan. Memorials in her memory may be made to the Humane Society of West Michigan in Grand Rapids.

To memorialize Engler and Smith, the Student AVMA asked for a nationwide moment of silence or other observances April 2. Many veterinary colleges, including foreign ones, responded accordingly and posted pictures to social media along with the hashtag #vetstudentsunited.