In first grade, when asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, Sarah Wahlstrom wrote, “a part-time safari trainer and part-time veterinarian.” Today, Wahlstrom is well on her way to making that dream a reality by pursuing a career in aquatic animal medicine.
“(When I turned 15), I started by volunteering at a vet clinic,” Wahlstrom wrote in an email to the Community Foundation. “I have gotten experience (working with animals) at an emergency clinic, small animal clinic, bovine practice, wildlife rehabilitation center, zoo vet hospital and with elephants in Thailand.”
A graduate of Falconer High School, Wahlstrom received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Zoo and Wildlife Biology from Malone University. She is currently working toward her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine.
“In the field of zoo and aquarium medicine, it’s common for people to complete two one-year internships and a three-year residency following graduation. It’s a long road getting to where you want to be,” Wahlstrom wrote.
Last summer, Wahlstrom had the opportunity to intern with the Seattle Aquarium where she assisted with the rehabilitation of a stranded false killer whale calf, Chester, at the Vancouver Aquarium’s marine mammal rescue center.
“It’s awe-inspiring and a great honor to be able to assist in the rehabilitation of such an intelligent and charismatic animal,” she wrote. “The team from the mammal center was phenomenal to learn from- they do amazing work rehabilitating pinnipeds (seals and sea lions) and cetaceans (whales and dolphins).”
When asked for advice to give to future veterinary students, Wahlstrom was quick to respond.
“It’s really important that you do lots of research to understand what you’re signing yourself up for,” she wrote. “You need to have lots of diverse experiences, have a high GPA and make connections along the way.”
This is part of a series focusing on students who have received scholarship assistance from the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation. If you were a scholarship recipient and want to share your story, contact Sarah Marciniak, 661-3390 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Current high school seniors or college students interested in learning more about the scholarship opportunities available through the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation can learn more here. Applications are now available for the 2015-2016 school- year and are due June 1.