Hey y'all! My name is Jessica Hirsch, and I am a fourth-year (2023) clinical DVM student in Massachusetts. I’m a born and raised Virginian, and graduated from Virginia Tech in 2018 with two Bachelor of Science degrees in Animal & Poultry Sciences and Psychology. I have a deep passion for animal behavior and loved my time working with Saint Francis Service Dogs during undergrad. My other professional interests include small animal emergency medicine, small animal surgery, and nutrition!
In March 2020, I hit the pause button on vet school and took a medical leave of absence due to chronic illnesses. In July of 2020, I had a cranio-spinal fusion from my skull to C2 as a result of Cranio-Cervical Instability, as well as a cranial decompression to treat my Chiari Malformation. I returned to vet school in January 2021 with a renewed passion for veterinary medicine and a whole new disabled perspective. I've continued to require multiple additional surgeries but have been able to stay in school throughout my treatments. What I thought was the most devastating thing to ever happen to me, turned out to be the greatest blessing of my career so far.
As a self-described disability activist, I currently serve as the Disability Justice Liaison for my school's Veterinary Council on Diversity, a position I established on the council in 2019. I aim to raise awareness and advocate for people with chronic illnesses and disabilities in veterinary medicine. I hope sharing my story will comfort other aspiring veterinarians and veterinary technicians in knowing they are not alone; it is possible to tackle veterinary school with chronic illnesses and disabilities, and there is no shame in taking a medical leave when needed.
Most importantly, I want to highlight to our entire community that there is a place in veterinary medicine for people with disabilities and chronic illness, and you shouldn't be deterred from chasing your dream!
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