The world is my oyster, it seems right now I can end up wherever I want to end up.
It was a glimpse of what was to come the day a young Lauren Paduch saw a black bear during a family camping trip. Instead of retreating like the rest of her family, she ran toward it. “I just wanted to be friends,” Ms. Paduch recalled.
Luckily, her father scooped her up before she got too close to the roving carnivoran. In retrospect, it should have been clear the young Middleborough native was bound to become a veterinarian.
Now 27 and with a Bridgewater State University biology degree to her name, Ms. Paduch is pursuing that very goal. After graduating last spring, doctoral programs lined up to admit her, including those at Boston University and Northwestern University. Ultimately, she chose the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University where she plans to earn a PhD, allowing her to work in both clinical and research settings.
Beyond chasing a random bear, there were other early signs of her destiny. For instance, as a child, Ms. Paduch would use her toy stethoscope on the family dog. She also loved visiting petting zoos. “The way my mom describes it, there was always a connection with animals,” she said.
Yet, after graduating in 2010 from Middleborough High School, the dream of becoming a veterinarian didn’t immediately lead her to college. “While I had grown up wanting to be a vet, in high school I started second- guessing myself,” she said. “So I took some time to work and get some experience, and that turned into five years.”
That experience came by way of secretarial jobs, as well as working in a small-animal clinic and volunteering at the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals at Boston’s Angell Memorial Animal Hospital.
Healing animals as a career soon came back into the picture. Ms. Paduch enrolled part time at BSU in January 2015, and switched to full-time status the next semester.
While part of her felt BSU was the right choice, she began to wonder if, given her career aspirations, she’d be better served attending a big-name institution. Then Ms. Paduch had a heart-to-heart conversation with the faculty member who would become her mentor, Professor Jeffery Bowen of the Department of Biological Sciences. “After talking with him, I could see all Bridgewater had to offer,” she said.
Ms. Paduch also visited other schools and found classes jammed with 300 students. That was a turn off. When Dr. Bowen told her about BSU’s small class sizes, along with opportunities for lab work and undergraduate research, the deal was sealed. She chose to remain a Bear.
How’d that work out?
“The biology program here is awesome,” Ms. Paduch said, as she sat in an office inside Boyden Hall after her first week at Tufts. She also praised the BSU faculty, particularly Dr. Bowen. “I can’t speak highly enough of him. He’s a wonderful teacher.”
While many students in the Tufts University veterinarian program change career tracks along the way, at the moment, Ms. Paduch hopes to focus on research tied to species survival programs and wildlife medicine. But, she’s confident she’ll be well prepared for whatever area of veterinarian medicine ultimately calls to her.
“The world is my oyster,” she said. “It seems right now I can end up wherever I want to end up.”