Read the full testimonial of SMUSVM alumni Dr. Marika Kolegue, who shared her experience at St. Matthew’s University.
“I was able to study the field I love, learning next to classmates that became my new family, all while living in a tropical paradise that people travel across the world to visit.”
From a young age, I knew I wanted to be a veterinarian. Starting in middle school, when my family would take our animals to the vet, I loved to observe, question and try to assist the doctor. In high school, I shadowed our local veterinarian. He helped me gain appreciation and understanding for this medical field and developed my awareness of the impact that I had not only on the animals, but on the owners too.
After graduating high school, I attended the University of Florida and majored in Animal Science. While in school, I worked as an anesthesia assistant, a microbiology lab assistant, and a large animal surgery technician. These positions helped me gain experience and built a foundation that was critical for my success in vet school. I ended up accepting a spot in St. Matthew’s University, School of Veterinary Medicine, Class of 2013. It remains one of the best decisions of my life! I was able to study the field I love, learning next to classmates that became my new family, all while living in a tropical paradise that people travel across the world to visit. I still pinch myself that I had this extraordinary opportunity.
I used the skills and knowledge from SMUSVM as a launch pad for my professional career. My first full time position was at a two doctor veterinary clinic in Austin, Texas. The doctor that I worked for gave me the freedom to develop my skills with surgery, and continue to grow in my medical knowledge. When I struggled and had questions, she was there to assist and guide me through some of the big learning curves that a new vet will go through when they first start practicing. It was an incredible start of my veterinary career, but I knew I wanted to explore a job with cattle or public health, so I started looking for new career opportunities. I accepted a position in August 2015 with the Ministry for Primary Industries in New Zealand! This was nerve racking, but like when we all moved to Grand Cayman, I was ready to step out of my comfort zone and try something completely new.
My current role is best described as a government auditor. I am based at livestock processing plants that are exporting their products overseas. I work alongside talented international veterinarians to ensure the plants we support are compliant with New Zealand and oversea countries’ rules, regulations and requirements. The two primary functions of this role are to ensure proper animal welfare and food safety for the end consumers.
Making the jump and moving to New Zealand has allowed me to participate in many unique opportunities. I’ve become actively involved in agricultural animal welfare, participated in disease outbreak responses, and provide educational experiences for the farming community. It’s been an amazing opportunity for me. I intend to stay here and continue to develop my international veterinary experience while exploring, hiking, and experiencing some of the best areas and foods the world has to offer.