An unexpected path leads to mentoring the next generation of veterinarians

Dr. Andrea Gentry-Apple had envisioned herself as a large-animal ambulatory veterinarian. She went to the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine with that goal in mind. However, after a fortuitous internship she learned that her passion was to help foster the love of animal medicine in others.
Posted 2023-03-30T20:17:58+00:00 - Updated 2023-06-15T09:00:00+00:00

This article was written for our sponsor, the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine

Veterinary medicine offers a wide range of opportunities for graduating students. Many are absolutely certain on what they want to do and pursue that goal with a laser focus. But sometimes an opportunity arises that takes a student down a different path, as was the case with NC State College of Veterinary Medicine alum Andrea Gentry-Apple, DVM, who started out looking for a position as a large-animal veterinarian and found herself in academia instead.

Gentry-Apple attended the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine from 2011 to 2015. She attended as a Food Animal Scholar after completing her undergraduate degree at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro.

"I wanted to be a large-animal ambulatory vet going from farm to farm treating beef cattle, small ruminants and camelids," Gentry-Apple said. "After graduating from NC State, I went to the Tuskegee College of Veterinary Medicine in Tuskegee, Alabama [for an internship]. I loved it, but after my internship I contemplated if I could do large-animal ambulatory medicine full time, for my entire career."

At the end of her internship, Apple-Gentry began hunting for ambulatory jobs. One day she noticed a different kind of job opening, to teach at North Carolina A&T State University. "At Tuskegee I fell in love with the teaching aspects of my job so I decided to apply," she said. "Academic veterinary medicine found me, because in vet school, I didn’t see myself here."

Gentry-Apple was destined to work in veterinary medicine. Her mother was a nurse, and Gentry-Apple grew up watching surgical and medical shows on television. "However, I thought — and still think— that people are gross," she said. "Veterinary medicine excited me because I had to solve a puzzle without my patients talking to me. I also fell in love with large-animal medicine because their size creates another obstacle which I have to respect and overcome."

Gentry-Apple is a Teaching Assistant Professor in the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences at NC A&T and coordinates the school’s Pre-Vet Program. Her classes include anatomy, physiology, histology, biology and disease of laboratory animals. "I also assist in overseeing the care of our laboratory animals and assist with sample collection should a primary investigator need it," she noted. "There are also a host of committee assignments and other self-inflicted odd jobs."

The best part of her job, Gentry-Apple said, is that she gets to teach while still practicing medicine. "I still get clinical work in with our researchers using animal models," she explained. "At NC A&T we also have a 500-acre farm with a whole host of animals, so they keep me on my toes. The best part about teaching is that I am able to bring the ‘real world’ into the classroom. Showcasing the importance of anatomy with clinical cases, or demonstrating how to perform ear cytology, or teaching foundational principles of ECGs for a physiology lesson really excites me. Then, as students go out to internships and are able to use the foundational principles we teach in lessons, the light bulbs click! Their excitement with being able to recognize principles outside the classroom keeps me going and engaged."

Gentry-Apple’s time at NC State honed her clinical skills, and several of her instructors helped form her teaching style at NC A&T. "There were teachers there who had a very down to earth teaching style," she recalled. "They did things and said things that made you remember the content. They also went the extra mile. I took many of those teaching styles and I use them every day to relate to students and make learning entertaining."

One of Gentry-Apple’s most influential mentors at NC State was Dr. Allen Cannedy, director of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs at the College of Veterinary Medicine. "His office was a sounding board for me," she said. "Not only for diversity issues but also for times when I felt inadequate or that I didn’t belong. He would let me ride along with him to farm calls. I remember one trip vividly. We ended up at a camel farm working up an arthritic male camel! Those little things continue to remind me of the good and being able to apply the real world to class instruction."

Gentry-Apple admits that the NC State CVM of today is far different from when she attended, with upgrades that make her a bit jealous. Her advice to new students is simple: The program is what you make it. "I wouldn’t change my decision to go to NC State, even with other university acceptances," she said. "I still speak to my classmates. I still visit. And now I have students in the program. I recommend NC State for students who are ready for the work because hard work pays off. And we have a ton of fun, too!"

This article was written for our sponsor, the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine