Tracey Davis Hlede said the possibilities were endless for her at the University of Illinois.
“I loved being a student in the Department of Animal Sciences. All I had to do was ask, and my professors were willing to provide me with so many opportunities,” Davis Hlede said. “My professors’ diverse viewpoints, backgrounds and classes made me think outside of the box.”
Rex Gaskins, a U of I professor of immunobiology in the Department of Animal Sciences, helped her develop a unique study-abroad research program in the Netherlands and later assisted her with an independent research project in his lab. Gail Scherba, a veterinary virologist at the U of I College of Veterinary Medicine, provided her with additional opportunities.
“These experiences taught me valuable life lessons such as confidence, independence and the impact a mentor can have on someone's life. These were experiences that you can't find solely in the classroom,” she said.
There is something for everyone in animal sciences, no matter your background, she said.
“The possibilities are unlimited if you are ready to explore,” Davis Hlede said. “I always knew I had many career paths I could follow, and this helped shape my decisions so I was confident in my choice.”
She pursued a path that became the perfect fit – a career in veterinary clinical medicine.
“My career integrates my passion for science, deductive reasoning, communication and education,” she said. “Being an effective clinician requires teaching abilities for the students I work with and my clients. I must be an advocate for pets.”
As an outreach and recruitment coordinator and clinical instructor for Furnetic and the Chicago Center for Veterinary Medicine, a University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine satellite teaching hospital in Chicago, Davis Hlede has veterinary students working with her in an urban, high-quality practice setting.
“I enjoy the positive outcomes of medical cases. It is a time of sheer joy and satisfaction when I can reunite a healthy pet with their family while teaching a veterinary student that they can make a difference,” she said.
In addition, she does outreach for the College of Veterinary Medicine by visiting schools and talking with students about the field. She also runs a mentoring program that includes monthly lectures for high school students on the science and career paths involved in veterinary medicine.
“A large component of the outreach program is to pursue the university's mission of encouraging diversity by reaching out to Chicago communities with underrepresented minorities and offering all the necessary tools and mentorship needed for successful admission into the veterinary school and the profession,” Davis Hlede said.
As an alum and outreach coordinator, she has the opportunity to share her positive experiences at the U of I on a regular basis with the students she mentors from elementary school to college.
“It is special to be a part of the future of my profession and the future of graduates from a worldly institution like the U of I,” she said. “Helping youth to realize their full potential and encouraging them to attend an institution like the U of I is the least I can do to give back to an institution that has given me so much.”