2005 Dobyns-Bennett graduates Jennifer Cotey, Ellen Yungmeyer and Katie Golob, left to right, received their veterinarian degrees from the University of Tennessee on May 11. Contributed photo.
KINGSPORT — In 2005, three friends and long-term classmates graduated from Dobyns-Bennett High School.
Eight years later, the three — Ellen Yungmeyer, Jennifer Cotey and Katie Golob — graduated together again, this time from the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine after getting undergraduate degrees from three separate universities.
The big day was May 11.
“I was planning to go to veterinarian school” four years ago, Golob said. “I had no idea Jennifer and Ellen were planning the same.”
Yungmeyer and Cotey attended Washington Elementary together, while Golob attended Jackson Elementary. All three attended Sevier Middle and D-B together, and they spent the first three years of vet school in classes together.
Golob and Yungmeyer met and became reacquainted when they both had interviews at UT the same day, and Golob learned from Yungmeyer that Cotey also was seeking admittance to UT after the three attended three different undergraduate programs. Cotey and Yungmeyer roomed together their first year at UT.
Born in West Virginia, Yungmeyer moved with her family to Denver when she was a toddler, and then to Kingsport when she was 9.
Yungmeyer got her undergraduate degree in biology from Sewanee University of the South and then went to UT for veterinarian school.
“I’m headed to Mississippi State (University) for an internship in equine medicine and surgery,” Yungmeyer said.
Then, her plan is to specialize in caring for horses, although UT’s vet school has no concentration on specific species, i.e. students have a broad base of large- and small-animal instruction and interaction.
“I always thought that I might want to be a veterinarian,” Yungmeyer said. “When you say that as a kid, it’s like saying you want to be a firefighter or policeman. People don’t take you seriously.”
But after the rigor of three years of classroom instruction and a year of on-the-job training, so to speak, following a four-year undergraduate degree, she said becoming a vet is still the right choice for her.
She said keeping up with the differences and different treatment for various species can be overwhelming at times.
“In some species the body is comparable,” Yungmeyer said. “But there are a lot of differences, especially in their GI (gastrointestinal) tracts.”
A drug used to treat a cat or dog might kill a horse or cow and vice versa, she said.
Looking back to high school, Yungmeyer recalled a now-retired teacher.
“Miss Barbara Wiseman’s biology class was kind of pivotal for me,” Yungmeyer said of her teacher for freshman and Advanced Placement biology and genetics at D-B.
For Golob, her main mentor for becoming a veterinarian was Dr. Andy Cherry, owner and operator of Cherry Point Animal Hospital.
“I was so young when I knew I wanted to be a veterinarian, even back in the fifth grade,” Golob said.
That year, she and a friend job-shadowed Cherry. While in high school, she cleaned kennels for him. She also worked for him in college. He wrote a letter of recommendation for her to get into veterinarian school.
Golob plans to specialize in small animals and a general practice in the Southeast. She’s looking for an associate position with an established practice so she can learn from other vets and hone her skills, but she said she eventually might open her own practice.
Golob, born and raised in Kingsport, recalled having excellent science and math teachers at D-B, as well as good mentors to help coach her for her college career. She earned her bachelor of arts in animal science from Clemson.
She said being in South Carolina and away from home was good for her undergraduate time but that it was nice to be a little closer at UT so her family could help her during busy study and clinical times.
Cotey, a native of Longview, Texas, who grew up in Kingsport starting in first grade, still has her grandfather living here and calls Kingsport her hometown, although her parents moved to Marietta, Ga.
She is moving to Birmingham, Ala., where her fiance, also a 2013 UT vet school grad, has a job. She is seeking a small animal general practice position and has talked with some veterinarian operations in Birmingham.
Cotey said she knew going into college she liked and was good at science and math and thought about engineering or business but settled on biology and then vet school.
“I actually didn’t really decide on that until my junior year of college,” said Cotey, who got a bachelor of science in biology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “I chose a school that had a lot of options.”
After her freshman year, she worked at the kennels of Colonial Heights Animal Hospital and later worked at a small animal vet in Chapel Hill.
One of the turning points in college was when she studied abroad in Kenya in a wildlife and ecology program. She said she then realized that helping animals was a way of helping humans.
Asked about advice for would-be veterinarians, Yungmeyer advised high schoolers with an interest in the field to put their best efforts into math and science classes.
Cotey and Golob said in high school they took Advanced Placement classes in math and science.
“The science classes are the most important,” Yungmeyer said.