After a detour into teaching, Sabra McCallister fulfills her veterinary dream

The NC State CVM graduate's role as a livestock veterinarian in Eastern North Carolina is all about community.

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

Sabra McCallister’s dream since childhood was to become a veterinarian. When McCallister was 15, that dream grew stronger when she started working for her cousin, Ann Marie Livengood, DVM, a 1990 NC State College of Veterinary Medicine grad who owns a small-animal practice in Pfafftown, North Carolina.

"I honestly do not remember ever wanting to be anything except a veterinarian," Dr. McCallister said. "I love being able to connect with people via their animals, provide needed services to the community and advocate for agriculture all in one job. The job allows me to provide advice to clients about their animals, in a way giving their animals a voice."

Dr. McCallister graduated from the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine as a general practitioner in May 2022 and immediately joined the Pamlico Animal Hospital in Washington, North Carolina, as lead livestock veterinarian. The practice boasts six full-time veterinarians, of whom four, including Dr. McCallister, are NC State graduates. The mobile livestock practice has a geographic range of service including Beaufort, Hyde, Pitt, Craven, Martin, Washington, Tyrrell, Bertie, Chowan and Pamlico counties.

Interestingly, Dr. McCallister’s DVM was her second degree from NC State. "I graduated in 2014 with a degree in Animal Science and a minor in Extension Education," she explained. "I became a teacher at Freedom High School in Morganton, where I started their FFA program for students with an interest in agriculture and leadership. After one year, I moved to Eastern North Carolina to be with my husband. At the time, there were no teaching jobs available and the opportunity [arose] to be an assistant manager at a boar stud (a pig genetic facility). It was during this time that I realized I would never truly be happy unless I went back to school to become a veterinarian."

After working as a veterinary assistant at Pamlico Animal Hospital during the summer between her second and third year at the College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. McCallister proposed a plan to expand the practice into a mixed-animal practice to address the shortage of livestock veterinarians in Eastern North Carolina.

"The backbone of our clinic is the community it serves," Dr. McCallister observed. "We are constantly striving to provide affordable veterinary services to the surrounding area. The community is the reason the mobile practice was started and why the small animal hospital is currently working to expand its normal business hours to provide urgent care."

The majority of patients seen at Pamlico Animal Hospital are dogs and cats, but two veterinarians are available to treat exotics, including reptiles, fish, small mammals and pet birds. Pamlico Mobile Vet Services provides care to farm animals ranging from cattle and poultry to llamas and aquaculture. "Jaime Slater, another soon to be NCSU alumni, will be starting in June 2023, is ready to hit the ground running to further our aquaculture clientele," Dr. McCallister said. "We plan on providing health inspections, health certificates, reproductive evaluations and in-house diagnostics including cultures to the local hybrid striped bass farms."

Dr. McCallister, like many NC State graduates, said her time at the College of Veterinary Medicine was instrumental in her decision to become a livestock veterinarian. "During my time as an NC State undergraduate, I had the opportunity to work at both the Swine and Dairy Educational Units, which is what sparked my interest in livestock medicine," she explained. "At the CVM, the food-animal students were welcomed into the large-animal hospital to help on cases throughout all four years of the program. The faculty truly cared about mentoring students to become effective livestock veterinarians."

Several unique aspects of the NC State veterinary program also informed her decision, Dr. McCallister added. Foremost was her ability to choose her specific focus area. "Being able to choose food-animal medicine allowed me to take specific courses related to my area of interest," she said. "NC State also has an onsite livestock teaching unit, which is made to mimic large-scale production farms, allowing students hands-on production experience starting their first year. This part of the campus includes small-scale poultry, swine, dairy cattle, beef cattle, small ruminants and equine farms. All of this is a literal stone’s throw away from the main campus building."

In addition, the food-animal faculty went out of their way to provide students with opportunities to grow in food-animal medicine. "The farm animal service would allow students to come in and volunteer their time to help with real clinical cases in the hospital, which proved to be an invaluable learning experience," Dr. McCallister said.

Though the work can be hard, Dr. McCallister truly lives her dream come true. "Being able to connect with the community via their animals is a huge reason I love my job," she said. "I also enjoy being able to advocate for agriculture and teach people better management strategies when it comes to caring for their livestock."

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

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