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2018 Graduates Share Memories of Illinois

[Dr. Chandler Todd graduates]

Congratulations, Class of 2018!

As they wrapped up their time at Illinois, we invited members of the Class of 2018 to share their favorite rotations, memorable experiences, and what they’ll miss and to let us know where they were headed. Read on for a variety of viewpoints.


Dr. Chandler Todd

Hometown: Crete, Ill.

“First-year surgical resident Allison Putterman was my favorite professor. She is one of the few doctors who took a special interest in me not only as a future doctor but as a human. She answered all of my questions both about clinics and life. She truly cared about how I did and my successes. She encouraged everything I did, and she gave me some of the best career advice I have received. Her undying support has made me feel more confident and going out to practice, and I know I will always have her support and help when I need it. She is one of the best residents and overall doctors the school has, and she will be a phenomenal surgeon once she finishes her residency.”

Dr. Todd has entered a small animal general practice, Midwest Animal Hospital, in Orland Park, Ill. The featured photo above shows Dr. Todd (at right) with Dr. Putterman (at left), shortly after Dr. Putterman hooded her at the graduation ceremony on May 11.


[Dr. Lindey Rothrock cared for a zebra while a fourth-year veterinary student at Illinois]
PJ’s care team included, from left, Lindsey Rothrock, Nicovi Hutchinson, Valerie Bender, Tara Poyer, Brittany Cortina, and Meghann Jerden.

Dr. Lindsey Rothrock

Hometown: Streator, Ill.

“One of my most memorable patients from fourth year was PJ. PJ was a young zebra! He came through the Equine Surgery Service because he had a heel bulb laceration. We were able to put him under general anesthesia and place some wire and a cast. PJ was really sweet and very easy to handle. He belonged to a traveling petting zoo!

“I will miss having such a large support system along with so many educated people to be able to talk to about so many specialties. You rely a lot on your fellow classmates in so many aspects from emotional to physical help on clinics.”

When she shared her stories in February, Lindsey was in the process of interviewing in Illinois at mixed animal practices.


[Jessica Huntington]Dr. Jessica Huntington

Hometown: Schaumburg, Ill.

“My favorite rotation was emergency. I enjoy the pace of ER as it keeps me on my toes and I love stabilizing the patients. I also love not knowing what is going to walk through the door next. I enjoyed getting to work with all the various departments to provide the clients the most complete picture of their pet’s health as well.

“One patient that stands out to me is Bo. He was a 20-year-old paint horse that came into the hospital for colic while I was on my equine surgery rotation. We went to surgery and removed a strangulating lipoma as well as a couple feet of bowel. Unfortunately, he was euthanized 5 days after surgery as his condition declined despite our best efforts. He taught me a lot about critical care as well as reminded me of my strength and passion for this career.

“I think the biggest lesson I learned was to trust my instinct more often. So many times I was afraid to say something because I doubted my knowledge and skills but I’ve learned to trust more in my knowledge in order to provide better care to my patients.”

Dr. Huntington is working as a small animal rotating intern at a referral hospital in the Chicagoland area.


Dr. Brittany CortinaDr. Brittany Cortina

Hometown: Miami, Fla.

“My favorite rotation was through the U of I Vet Med International Programs. Five third- and fourth-year veterinary students were selected to travel with Drs. Margarethe Hoenig and Avery Bennett to Tanzania in Africa for a spay, neuter, and infectious disease control program. We worked alongside doctors from Sokoine Agricultural University Department of Veterinary Medicine in Morogoro, visiting various small villages in the surrounding areas.

“Participating in this program not only allowed us to achieve more practice performing surgical procedures, but it also allowed us the opportunity to give back to communities in need. It was a truly life-changing and humbling experience where we learned invaluable skills while growing a better appreciation for the difficulties that other areas of the world face. Seeing the joy on children’s faces as we passed out stickers and cared for their dogs is a memory I will never forget!

“I strongly believe that the Illinois curriculum has set me up for success with all the hands-on experiences and opportunities provided, starting with our first year of veterinary school. I feel confident in my technical skills and clinical ability and believe I am well-equipped to start my career.

I strongly believe that the Illinois curriculum has set me up for success with all the hands-on experiences and opportunities provided, starting with our first year of veterinary school.

Dr. Brittany Cortina

Our unique curriculum was the reason why I chose to attend the U of I, and I feel lucky to have had so many opportunities for learning and development. Seeing the progression from first year to second year on clinics and then again as a fourth-year truly solidifies your knowledge and is living proof of how much you have learned and grown throughout the years.

“I will miss all the friends and wonderful people I have met here at the U of I. I am lucky to have made such a special group of friends and that we have managed to stick together from the first to the last day of veterinary school. Veterinary school would not have been the same without such a strong support group and a class that feels like family.”

Dr. Cortina has entered a small animal rotating internship at the Oklahoma State University’s Boren Veterinary Medical Hospital.


[Kristine Kozak]

Dr. Kristine Kozak

Hometown: Homer Glen, Ill.

“My favorite rotation was FARMS. There was always something fun to do, and the clinicians and techs always were willing to teach. I learned a lot and was able to be very hands-on.

“I will miss the people. Our class seems like it’s a big family and everyone was willing to help each other out.”

Dr. Kozak is a mixed-practice veterinarian in Kentucky.


[Lothery]Dr. Cassie Lothery

Hometown: Salem, Ind.

“I will be serving as a veterinarian in the US Army Veterinary Corps, where my duties include care of the military working dogs, food safety, and care of privately owned animals on base. Immediately after graduation, I will be attending further training, then will be stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina for a one-year internship program provided by the US Army First Year Graduate Veterinary Education (FYGVE) program to polish my skills prior to my first permanent duty station.

“I have made so many new friends since starting vet school. I will definitely miss my classmates the most after graduation, but I am sure many of us will keep in touch.”


Dr. Sara Pearson

[Sara Pearson in Tanzania]
Sara Pearson holding an African giant pouched rat at the APOPO center in Morogoro, Tanzania. These rats save countless numbers of lives each year by sniffing out landmines and tuberculosis.
Hometown: Stillman Valley, Ill.

“I will miss the endless array of opportunities at Illinois. Every day brought new experiences. For example, one day you are helping with open-heart surgery on a puppy, and then the next you are learning how to endoscopically AI [artificially inseminate] white-tailed deer, or learning how to trim horse hooves and use a forge, or checking in animals at the state fair, or sitting with the veterinarians on the course at the Rolex Three Day Event, or spaying and neutering dogs and cats in Tanzania.

“My experiences at Illinois have been so diverse, and these were learning opportunities I never would have dreamed about having. Not only were these opportunities fun, but they built the foundation for the type of doctor I strive to become.

The joint DVM/MPH program at Illinois allowed me to explore the topic of One Health. I have always wanted to be a veterinarian, but seeing the greater picture of how veterinarians play a role in areas such as human health, food safety, and disaster preparedness gave me an even deeper sense of pride in joining this profession as well as created endless opportunities within the job market.

“Not only will we as veterinarians make a difference in the lives of animals, but we will make an impact on the world.”

Dr. Pearson works at Alpine Veterinary Hospital in Rockford, Ill., while finishing her master of public health degree in epidemiology and biostatistics from the University of Illinois-Chicago.


[Maggie Bland]Dr. Maggie Bland

Hometown: Orland Park, Ill.

“On my FARMs rotation, we had a pot-bellied pig who needed a C-section to deliver her babies. Only one of the babies survived, and it was the one I was handed after the C-section. We got to bottle feed him and love him for a few days before he was sent home with his mom.

“My favorite rotation was small animal emergency medicine. There are many reasons why I loved this rotation, such as the amazing staff on the ER service who loved to teach us and always treated us with respect, the hands-on experience students got, and the major role in client communication students had.

“I am completing a small animal rotating medicine and surgery internship at Veterinary Specialty Center of Seattle and then either continuing on with a residency in emergency/critical care or working as an ER doctor at a referral center.”


Congratulations to the Class of 2018! We wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors and look forward to seeing all of your accomplishments.

See photos from the Class of 2018 DVM Fest event and graduation.