Class of 2021 Scholarship Recipients

Long Gone from Arizona to Missouri

Jennifer Long has always been focused on a career. At 3 years of age, her parents say, all she cared about was becoming a house painter. Or, a bus driver. By age 4, however, she was singularly focused on becoming a veterinarian, and she never looked back.

From a town called Cave Creek near Phoenix, Arizona, she played volleyball throughout high school and earned a scholarship to Central Methodist University in Fayette, Missouri.

There was some initial culture shock. Phoenix boasts 1.6 million residents, making it the fifth most populous city in the United States, as well as the nation’s most populous state capital — the only state capital with more than one million residents.

Fayette counted 2,700 residents in the 2010 census, but Long quickly grew to appreciate the mid-Missouri way of life.

“The culture difference between Arizona and Missouri is drastic,” she says. “Coming from the Phoenix area to Fayette and Columbia, I fell in love with the atmosphere that is found in this part of the country, as well as the small school scene. At CMU, I was usually in classes of about 20, although I also had classes as small as eight.”

When it was time to select a veterinary medicine school, a combination of factors led her to MU’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

“I toured this place three times before I came for my interview, and I started to get that feel immediately,” Long says. “To see the dedication of our anatomy professors who come in at 2 a.m. to set up an exam, which gives students as much time as possible to study, was just a small indication as to the dedication of the professors at the vet school. The commitment of the professors to their students was evident every time I came to visit the school; they are incredible faculty. You would have no idea how renowned they are if you didn’t look up their credentials, because none of them acts like it. None of them acts like they are paving the way in their fields, which they are. You look at all the textbooks and all the research, and you just go, ‘my goodness.’ They are so humble and so willing to translate their vast intelligence to you. That was super noticeable since day one of my visiting here.”

Her trademark diligence and meticulous attention to detail revealed other factors in Mizzou’s favor.

“As of last year, there is now a vet school back home in Arizona. But it is a new program that is still being established, so in-state tuition there was sometimes more than going out of state,” Long says. “Arizona has agreements with UC-Davis and Colorado State that allow us to attend those schools at in-state tuition rates, so I considered and applied to attend those schools as well, but for me, MU won out in that comparison.

“A big factor was the CVM’s 2-and-2 program,” Long says. “I really liked the idea of getting into clinics sooner. I’m a hands-on learner, and a common complaint I’d heard from students elsewhere was that they just didn’t get enough time in clinics, so they didn’t feel prepared when they went out into the real world. I think MU’s 2-and-2 program is really a big step in the right direction to avoid those types of concerns.”

During a summer break from CMU, she job-shadowed at a high-end clinic in North Scottsdale.

“It was the kind of clinic where you took the dog or cat to the back room to draw blood so the pet owner wouldn’t have to watch,” Long remembers. “Then you cleaned the animal up, wrapped the site in pretty tape, and tied a bandana on it before you took the pet back to its owners.

“Then, one spring semester, I shadowed with Dr. Kenneth Vroman (DVM ’69), a Mizzou alum practicing in Fayette,” Long recalls. “I had never even been around a cow in my life, so it was an eye-opening experience and really good for me. He taught me a lot about what a practice is like in a rural setting. I got to go on quite a few farm calls. The difference in how medicine was handled between rural Missouri and that clinic in Scottsdale was really fascinating. It was interesting how veterinarians can learn how to alter medicine depending on what the clients and the animals themselves need. It was also interesting to hear what he had experienced at Mizzou, and to compare that with what I’m experiencing now.”

Moreover, the experiences keep on coming. In addition to her classes, Long was recently selected as president of the CVM’s student chapter of the American Veterinary Medical Association. She belongs to Zou Club. She’s youth director at her church in Fayette. She has adopted a 90-pound bloodhound and will soon start planning a wedding.

“At this point, I don’t have an ideal job or an actual plan for after I graduate,” Long says. “I thought I did. I grew up riding horses so, for a while, I thought I wanted to do equine. Then I thought I wanted to do small animal. But, for the past few years, I had been set on exotics as my future path. Coming into vet school, I thought I wanted to work with exotics and nothing but exotics. However, just coming here and beginning classes has opened my eyes to all the long-term possibilities. One that has piqued my interest is going into oncology. I really like the opportunities that present themselves there.”

There is one thing of which Long is sure.

“I am so incredibly grateful for this scholarship,” she says. “Coming into vet school and knowing you’ll be walking out of here with $150,000 in debt is an intimidating thought. The Gentle Doctor Benefit scholarship makes it so much easier for me to be here and do what I’m doing.”

“Living away from home, I have a lot more expenses so that money becomes even more important,” Long says. “It has freed me up to do a lot of things that I otherwise would not have been able to do. It gives me more flexibility after I graduate, especially because the fields that interest me will likely require an internship or residency. It allows me to think about my wedding. It allows me to deal with a lot less stress over the next several years.”


Mizzou Feels Like Home to a Girl of Two Worlds

Natalie Gulson, a first-year student at MU’s College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM), has always been a girl of two worlds.

Gulson was born in Xalapa, the capital of the state of Veracruz, Mexico. Her mother, Pilar, is Mexican and a professor of English in the language faculty of the University of Veracruz. Her father, Rex, is American and the principal bassoonist for the Xalapa Symphony Orchestra. He also teaches at the University of Veracruz and a private music institute.

Her father’s pursuit of a doctorate moved the family to the United States, back to Mexico, back to the States, and then back to Mexico.
“We moved back to Mexico when I was going into 4th grade and stayed there all the way through my high school years. That’s where I found out that I really liked animals,” Gulson says.

“When I was in 7th or 8th grade, I found this puppy on the street,” Gulson recalls. “My mom didn’t want me to keep him, so I took him to the shelter, where they said, ‘We’ll fix it for you, and then you find a home for it.’ After I found a home for the puppy, I went back to volunteer. I started going there every Saturday to clean kennels, and little by little, I got to know the veterinarians. Eventually, they asked, ‘Do you want to come up with us to the surgery room and see how it works?’ I was like, ‘Yes, of course!’

“I got to spend a lot of hours there,” Gulson says. “That’s how I knew what I really wanted to do — become a veterinarian.”

Upon getting her diploma, Gulson returned to the U.S. for her for undergrad years at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.

“I went there because they had University farms and a really good pre-vet program,” Gulson says. “I did a lot of research with their equine farms and I continued shadowing with a veterinarian there.”

Gulson’s name ended up on several published research papers for her work at SIU. Then, she applied to several schools of veterinary medicine and was accepted at all of them.

“Some of my interest in Missouri was based on financial considerations,” Gulson says. “But, beyond the financial angle, a lot of my decision to attend Mizzou was how I felt when I came on my interview day. I really liked how Mizzou had their day planned. The current students all seemed really happy, and I felt super-welcome here.”

Still debating between four schools, Gulson showed her initiative and persistence.

“I emailed (Admissions Manager) Kathy Seay and asked her a few questions: What do students like most about Mizzou? Could I possibly speak with a student and ask them a few questions? Could I talk with the Dean and ask a few questions?

“I think Kathy must have forwarded my email to all the student ambassadors,” Gulson divulges. “I got so many emails back — a crazy amount of emails! I wrote one email with maybe 10 questions, and the students were answering with huge emails, explaining every question and answer in super detail. I could sense that all of the students really liked it here, and they wouldn’t have picked another school, no matter how many options they had.”

The satisfaction and enthusiasm of her peers swayed her to Mizzou, but finances were also a factor.

“I really loved a couple of other programs but, in the long run, is it really worth paying twice as much for my education and being twice as much in debt? The financial aspect played a big role in my decision,” Gulson says.

The financial aspect has improved.

“When I was informed that I would receive the scholarship, I didn’t really understand it at first,” Gulson says. “I was like, ‘What?’ You don’t apply for this, you are selected. I didn’t realize I was a contender for something so amazing.

“It was a nice surprise, because it meant I didn’t have to take as many loans to complete my studies,” Gulson gushed. “My dad was really happy, too. My dad is helping me a little bit this first year at MU, because he knows I’m paying out-of-state tuition.”