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Veterinary alum stays grounded by animals
By Patti Drapala
MSU Ag Communications
FRANKLIN, Tenn. – Although she looks for symptoms and clues when examining her animal patients, Mississippi State University veterinary alumna Paula Ann Schuerer never suspected the real reason when a former instructor called with questions.
The MSU College of Veterinary Medicine was considering Schuerer as its 2010 Alumnus of the Year. The college’s feline specialist, Dr. Sharon Grace, needed to complete the nomination about Schuerer and her veterinary practice in Franklin, Tenn., a town on the outskirts of Nashville.
“Paula was my student extern when she was a senior veterinary medical student, and I later hired her as an associate veterinarian when I had a practice in Franklin,” Grace said. “I was very excited to hear that the college was set to nominate her as the alumnus of the year.”
Schuerer assumed Grace wanted information for a class lecture. An unassuming and private person, Schuerer did not think much about it after that. When she later received the traditional congratulatory call from the college, Schuerer was surprised.
“Sharon has been my friend and mentor for a long time,” said Schuerer, a 1995 graduate of MSU’s veterinary college. “Sharon challenges students to think rather than just spoon-feeding them the answer. My success as a diagnostician is directly related to the solid foundation she provided me as a student. She pulled the whole thing off without my suspecting a thing.”
Schuerer, a native of Huntsville, Ala., investigated several veterinary medicine programs in the Southeast as a high school senior. She chose MSU when she learned she had been accepted into the early-entry program for undergraduates planning to attend veterinary school in the future.
Veterinary medicine was not the only attraction MSU held. An avid athlete in high school, Schuerer became a member of MSU’s track and field team. Her specialty was the discus.
“I was a scrawny girl who was a walk-on for a team of superb athletes who were competitive,” Schuerer said. “I was fortunate to have trained beside one of them who went on to represent Nigeria in the Olympic Games, and I was cheering as much for her and Nigeria as I was for the United States simply because she was my friend.”
Schuerer was destined to become a veterinarian after losing her pet dog as a result of malicious poisoning. She was a child at the time, but she vowed to prevent such tragedies from happening if she were in a position to do so.
“I started school at MSU with a goal of becoming a veterinarian and never once dropped a class or changed majors,” she said. “I stayed focused on my goal of helping animals.”
Schuerer also completed a master’s degree in business administration while in the veterinary school and received both advanced degrees in 1995. She recently achieved board certification from the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners in canine and feline practice.
After Grace accepted a position with MSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine as its feline specialist, Schuerer opened her own clinic in Franklin. She continued to thrive on the daily dose of love she received from treating dogs, cats and a few guinea pig patients.
“Paula is a dog person and is passionate about Boston terriers, but she has never met any patient she didn’t like,” Grace said.
Schuerer said she believes the bond between humans and animals is one of trust, love, and affection. People have a responsibility to uphold this bond when caring for animals, she said.
“I named my clinic Animal Ark, which originates from my Christian faith,” Schuerer said. “In the Bible, Noah’s ark carried animals to safety and symbolized animal caretaking. Animal Ark gives me an opportunity to share my faith when asked about its origin.”
Although Schuerer graduated more than a decade ago, she has not forgotten MSU and the quality education she received. She established a memorial scholarship there in honor of her mother, Linda “Big Lou” Schuerer. The scholarship is a tribute to the importance Schuerer’s mother and father placed on helping others advance and achieve.
“My mother and father sacrificed for me to have a chance to attend veterinary college,” she said. “I feel blessed to be able to provide a small scholarship to assist a future veterinarian who will have a direct impact on animal health. This is the core of my faith and my being.”