Class of 2016 Recipients

Shanna Nelson

Shanna Nelson

The Gentle Doctor Benefit celebrates its 26th year as the largest fundraiser for student scholarships at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine with its largest awards in the history of the program. Thanks to the generous support of the College’s friends and sponsors, two members of the Class of 2016 were awarded scholarships totaling $7,000 each.

“I went online to check my loans and found out that I had received the scholarship,” said first-year veterinary student Sarah Claytor of her reaction to being chosen as a GDB award recipient. “Honestly, I’m still wondering how I got it, but being an out-of-state student, it really helps me out,” she said.

“It was incredibly nice to have some of the burden taken off of my debt load,” said Shanna Nelson, who received this year’s other $7,000 award. “Just the name of the scholarship — the Gentle Doctor — means a lot to me because it refers to our commitment to animal welfare.”

Nelson, from Fair Grove, Mo., earned a bachelor of arts in biology from Drury University in Springfield. She said she has always been interested in animals, but her attraction to pursuing veterinary medicine as a career blossomed when she became involved in equestrian sports. Nelson rode stock horses to compete in barrel racing contests. She said the experience brought her into frequent contact with veterinarians as she worked with them to resolve soundness issues that her horses would sometimes exhibit.

These days her busy schedule limits Nelson’s riding to taking her horses out on the trail when she visits her parents’ 30-acre hobby farm, but she retains her interest in working with horses. She hopes to pursue equine medicine and work in a mixed animal practice when she completes her veterinary education.

Sarah Claytor

Sarah Claytor

Claytor traces her interest in veterinary medicine to a childhood spent on her grandparents’ farm in Staunton, Ill. “I used to follow my grandpa around, especially when he went to take care of the animals,” Claytor said. “My favorite thing to do was to feed our cows apples.”
Her interests expanded to include small animals, including volunteering at the local humane society shelter while she was in high school.

After graduating high school, she attended Southern Illinois University, earning a bachelor’s degree with a major in animal science and minoring in chemistry. Her interest in large animal medicine developed further. During her sophomore year, she conducted an undergraduate research project evaluating the effects of fescue toxicosis on the microbial population found within the rumen. Using four mechanical rumens, she started a microbial culture by obtaining rumen fluid from a dairy cow. She then fed the mechanical rumens “bugs” for two 10-day trials. After both trials were completed, she used DNA tests to analyze the microbial populations.

During her junior and senior years at SIU, she worked at the university’s Bull Test Station and the Beef Center, where she gained hands-on experience and knowledge about feeding, conversion of food to weight gain, breeding soundness, artificial insemination, pulling calves and drawing blood.

In addition to the two large awards, the Gentle Doctor Benefit fund provided each of the 120 members of the Class of 2016 a $100 scholarship for the Missouri Veterinary Educational Services (MVES) Bookstore.