Writer: Olivia Norton
Mary Anne (Wegenhoft) White has never questioned her passion for animals. She grew up near Baton Rouge, La., and often visited her dad’s family ranch in Columbus, Texas. With a family history in agriculture and a dream of becoming a veterinarian, many of Mary Anne’s youth activities included animals. Mary Anne, along with her brother and sister, raised broilers for 4-H in middle school, and she worked as a kennel technician for a local veterinary clinic and in the LSU AgCenter Embryo Biotechnology Laboratory during high school.
When it came time for Mary Anne to go to college, with her veterinary school goal in mind, she set her sights on Texas A&M University with reassurance from her Aggie family members. After visiting Aggieland, Mary Anne said the Department of Animal Science felt like home. She was confident she found the right major because it was clear the advisors and professors cared about their students, the classes would benefit her during vet school and they would challenge her.
During her undergraduate career, Mary Anne took advantage of the diverse opportunities within the department including the Saddle & Sirloin Club, traveling with Dr. Howard Hesby to Washington D.C. and New York, and Alpha Zeta. However, it was the student worker position within the Animal Genomics Lab and completing an honors thesis under Dr. Clare Gill and Dr. Jim Sanders that Mary Anne credits as her most valuable experiences.
Mary Anne graduated with a bachelor’s degree in animal science in 2005. That same year, she was awarded the Gamma Sigma Delta Outstanding Graduating Senior Award for Animal Science, was a College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Senior Merit Award recipient, and also received a Buck Weirus Spirit Award from the Association of Former Students.
After graduation, Mary Anne pursued her dream of becoming a veterinarian. She graduated from the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences in 2009 and today is an associate veterinarian at Southside Animal Hospital in San Angelo.
As a small animal practitioner, Mary Anne’s special interest lies with cats. She is a member of the American Association of Feline Practitioners, the Texas Academy of Veterinary Practice and is actively involved with the Texas Veterinary Medical Association (TVMA). She was also selected as TVMA’s Recent Graduate representative at the 2014 American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Veterinary Leadership Conference and was the 2014 TVMA Recent Graduate Practitioner of the Year.
Locally, Mary Anne is on the City of San Angelo Animal Services Advisory Committee and has led changes to city ordinances relating to animals and helped coordinate the development of a new ordinance to address the free roaming/stray/community cat issue in San Angelo. She and her husband, David White ‘05, are active members at Sierra Vista United Methodist Church.
How did your degree in animal science prepare you for becoming a veterinarian?
My degree gave me a very good academic background for veterinary school at Texas A&M that has directly prepared me for my job. While I do not deal with cattle, horses or other livestock species on a daily basis, my success in veterinary school was positively influenced by the preparation I received through my degree in animal science. The activities that I performed while working on my senior research project and just as a student worker in the Animal Genomics Lab have also enabled me to have a better understanding of many of the diagnostic tests that I utilize on a regular basis in private practice. I really like genetics and my project involved identifying quantitative trait loci (QTL) associated with disposition in cattle. The project wasn’t just lab work, but it involved field work and animal harvest/processing the cattle as well. Drs. Gill and Sanders were especially supportive of me throughout my junior and senior years at A&M, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without their help and guidance. I may not be working directly in that field, but the background it gave me to appreciate research and evaluate studies/journal articles/etc. was invaluable. They also became a part of my group of supportive Aggie family members while there. I even presented my research at the national American Society of Animal Science meeting. That was a great introduction to meetings and presentations at a national level.
What advice would you give to undergraduate students who aspire to work in veterinary medicine?
Take challenging classes and explore extracurricular activities that will give you a broad range of experiences. Veterinary medicine is not just private practice, and a background in animal science could be especially useful if going into research, government (for example, the United States Department of Agriculture or Texas Animal Health Commission) or public health as a veterinarian. More than anything, most veterinarians deal with people on a daily basis and are looked at as leaders within their community or work place. Try to develop public speaking skills, interpersonal communication skills, and just have experiences with a wide variety of people and circumstances. Of course, grades are very important – so continue to work hard and apply yourself the best you can in your courses. Also, take the harder or more advanced science classes if they are offered, especially microbiology, anatomy and physiology. It will benefit you in the long run.
For more information regarding news from the Department of Animal Science, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Texas A&M University, please contact Courtney Coufal at firstname.lastname@example.org or (979) 845-1542.