SAVMA president has found her niche
Sarah Neuser will be the first person to tell you she isn't perfect. But then, dozens of others will say otherwise.
The fourth-year student at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine decided to join the profession later than most, but now that she's here, she has flourished, as evidenced by her election last year as the 2018-19 Student AVMA president.
"Truthfully, I didn't understand what I was getting into (when first participating in Minnesota's SAVMA chapter), but I don't think anyone does. When I got to the meetings at the national level, I fell in love. People wanted to fight the same fights and cared about the profession. I found a place where I wanted to be involved. It kind of feels like a dream," Neuser said.
Originally from Eagan, Minnesota, she didn't know she wanted to be a veterinarian until after high school. Neuser had been shadowing at children's hospitals and elementary schools, but her friend was shadowing a veterinarian, and Neuser found herself more interested in what he was doing.
"So I started shadowing a vet myself and never looked back," said Neuser, who did undergraduate externships at Countryside Veterinary Clinic and Pet Crossing Animal Hospital, both in suburban Minneapolis. "I just liked the vets I worked with, especially compared to other professions. They were so willing to help me with things. If I had a question, they went out of their way to give me more information. (It's) a kind and welcoming profession."
Neuser transferred to the University of Minnesota after a few years at Inver Hills Community College majoring in animal science and living at home to save costs. She says veterinary college is as demanding as a job, but it provides another kind of family for her.
"Being there with classmates all day and people experiencing the same life experiences as me, I didn't expect that. I had a commuter undergrad experience, so I didn't get involved on campus. I was just trying to get home to beat rush hour. I didn't expect to get as involved in vet school as I did. It's been a good fit. I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be," Neuser said.
Her classmates seem to agree. They nominated her to be featured on the Steller Kindness Project, an online platform that shares stories of quiet acts of kindness and celebrates people who positively impact others, sometimes without even realizing it.
"There are no real words to describe how beautiful of a human that Sarah is. She will continually go out of the way to help others, put a smile on a stranger's face, and give as much love as she can possibly give," said Kat Daley, one of her classmates, on stellerkindnessproject.com/sarah.
Neuser said it was a "huge honor" to be nominated. She cites 2017-18 SAVMA President Jeff Olivarez as someone else who has brought joy to the profession. That, and he helped her appreciate that it's OK to have fun in the position, too.
"What he taught me is when you're in these roles, people look to you. I felt like I had to be a certain way to be president. He taught me you have to be yourself and care about the students. I'm sure how I operate won't be perfect, but it will resonate with some people," Neuser said.
As far as what she wants to accomplish, Neuser is looking at the big picture.
"I think one of the struggles in organizations is making sure that the people back home are getting messages. How are we communicating with every member?" Neuser asked.
Her goal is to empower her fellow SAVMA Executive Board members and give them the resources to effectively communicate with members and work on their needs.
"And I'm also trying to pass vet school," she said with a smile.