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Saint Leo Blog

Despite Challenges, Biology Major Has Her Eye on Career as Vet

Read the story of Madison Lucke, a Saint Leo University biomedical science degree student who recently completed her coursework and eyes a career as a vet in spite of challenges in her life.

A photo of Madison Lucke, a Saint Leo University biomedical science degree student, kneeling with her Goldendoodle service dog, Tammy, and her appendix quarter horse, Katie

Since age two, Madison Lucke has been riding horses. She was involved in an accident in which she fell off a horse as a teenager. While this event would alter her path a bit, it hasn’t stopped her from working toward her goal of becoming a veterinarian.

Lucke, 23, is a native of Dalton, PA in the Scranton area. She goes by “Madi” and has a younger sister. Her Goldendoodle, a service dog named Tammy, is always by her side.

Higher Education Journey

A graduate of Scranton Prep, she initially attended another university closer to home.

“We had a major snowstorm with over 30 inches of snow,” she recalls. “I was just so tired of the winters there.”

Plus, she says she did not feel like this previous school supported her. She knew that her aunt and uncle lived in San Antonio, FL just two minutes from Saint Leo’s University Campus.

“I checked out the campus and fell in love with it instantly. I loved the people and the area. So, I applied and got accepted very quickly. I’ve never looked back.”

She enrolled in Saint Leo’s BS in Biology with a Biomedical and Health Sciences specialization.

“I have several doctors in my family and I originally wanted to be a medical doctor,” she explains. “But I got to shadow a doctor to see what the work is like and realized that it probably wasn’t for me.”

Overcoming an Accident

At age 15, Lucke was thrown off of a horse she was riding. She suffered a head injury, causing her to experience severe migraines. This eventually led to her having focal seizures.

“Because of this, I got a service dog. Her name is Tammy and she is a four-year-old golden doodle.”

This experience changed her career outlook.

“I decided that I wanted to be a vet,” she says. “I’ve realized how important it is to care for animals, and I’ve always loved animals.”

She describes what a focal seizure is like and how Tammy helps her handle them.

“I basically kind of zone out and blank out for a few seconds,” she says. “Tammy can alert me about 15 minutes before one comes on by smelling a hormone that is released through my ankles. She can then go retrieve help for me.”

The Biomedical Science Degree Program at Saint Leo

In the fall of 2018, she began her classes in the biomedical and health sciences degree program. While she enjoyed all of her instructors, one professor in particular made a very positive impression on her.

“I really enjoyed my senior seminar class with Dr. Laura Altfeld. She was very encouraging and let us think outside the box. She really helped us narrow our focus on what we wanted to do in terms of a career.”

In addition to the classroom, she earned practical experience by working for a family vet.

“I decided that this was what I really wanted to do. Once I realized that, I could focus on my schoolwork while knowing in the back of my mind what career I planned to pursue. If you ever get any opportunities to actually work in a certain field before you get your degree, go for it because it will make your schoolwork so much more manageable.”

She completed her biology degree coursework in December and will collect her diploma at the spring commencement in 2021.

University Campus Involvement

In addition to her academic studies, Lucke was very engaged in campus activities and jobs. One role she had was working in the CAVE as a PAL Coach.

“I helped students develop better study skills and habits and worked with them on creating their class schedules so they knew which classes they were taking and which ones they still needed to complete.”

She also worked for the Student Support Services team and its success coaches, helping them file paperwork, create decorations, and prepare for various campus events.

To top it all off, she served as the treasurer of the Intercultural Student Association.

“My role was to manage our finances, make sure we had enough funds to cover different events, and come up with ideas for different campus events and student outreach opportunities,” she explains.

For her, Saint Leo University’s core value of community resonates most.

“At my other university, I felt like an outcast. At Saint Leo, everyone was so incredibly welcoming and friendly. Some of the professors even carried around treats for Tammy. It was such a refreshing experience.”

Advice to Students Considering Saint Leo University

Lucke has some tips for anyone who may be thinking about applying to Saint Leo’s University Campus.

“Come to campus and look around. Talk to other students and professors because they will be willing to help you. Everyone seems to love and support each other. Also, check out the area around campus and the Tampa area. Take a good look before you make your decision.”

Professional Pursuits

Lucke has had several work experiences already, allowing her to narrow her focus. For over a year, she worked as an educational leader at the Florida Aquarium in Tampa.

“My role was to be out on the floor with our guests,” she says. “I would teach them about the different animals, work with animal ambassadors, and I even got to handle some alligators.”

She also spent a year and a half working with a vet in Pennsylvania.

“I started out shadowing him every day. He finally asked me if I wanted to work for him and I gladly said ‘yes.’ I was a vet assistant, so I held the animals during certain procedures, drew vaccines, and assisted with surgeries. I was basically his right hand.”

She says this practical experience was invaluable.

“I got to work with dogs and cats mostly but also handled some livestock like chickens, pigs, and goats. I learned that I love doing this type of work and wanted to pursue this in my career. It taught me how to professionally deal with people who usually aren’t very happy to see you because their animals are sick, and then you have to ask them to spend a lot of money.”

Another job she had was as an assistant at a therapeutic riding center in her home state.

“It was amazing to see such shy children come in who were so afraid of their environment turn around to be brave enough to start handling a 1,200-pound animal like a horse.”

Her career goal is to be a vet for a variety of animals, but she says she particularly enjoys working with livestock and large animals.

“I grew up on a farm riding horses and being around livestock,” she says.

Free Time Fun

In her spare time, Lucke enjoys hands-on arts and crafts, golfing, and riding her horse.

“I have a nine-year-old appendix quarter horse named Katie. We rescued her because she was abandoned at a barn.”

Photo credit: The photograph included in this blog article was provided by Madison Lucke and is used with permission.

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