Thomas Fredrick Martin Jr. (photo)thought he wanted to be a doctor when he grew up. As a senior at St. Augustine High School, he even knew he wanted to study dermatology.
To pursue his dream, he applied to and was accepted into the Early Medical School Acceptance Program (EMSAP) offered collaboratively by Texas A&M International University and the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.
After his second summer of specialized training at UTMB-Galveston, and more than a year of attending classes at TAMIU, Martin started thinking about his reactions to the work and the effect of human patients on his psyche.
"I lived on a ranch all my life and had always thought I had wanted to be a doctor," said Martin, "and then my dad suggested being a vet would combine the two: living on a ranch, working with animals and the medicine part that I had always liked, so I decided to pursue that."
Like his earlier dream of being a doctor, Martin pursued his new career choice with concentration and dedication.
"To get into the vet school at [Texas A&M University - College Station], you don't need a degree. They just have a list of prerequisite courses that you have to take. I'm finishing the last of the prerequisites this semester. One of them is an animal nutrition course, and they don't offer it here at TAMIU, so on Tuesdays and Thursdays I've been driving to Kingsville," explained Martin.
He has been getting hands-on experience as well, working with Laredo veterinarian Dr. Sandra Leyendecker whenever Martin has time or if Dr. Leyendecker is working on something she thinks would interest him. He has even helped with emergency surgery.
"A couple of days ago, one of my horses at the ranch cut herself on the fence, under her shoulder, between her front legs. She had a cut that was four or five inches deep; it was real bad and it severed the muscle. I took her to Sandy and she let me clean the wound and do a lot of the stitching," explained Martin.
He said that even though he decided not to become a medical doctor, he is very pleased to have had the experience of the University's EMSAP program. Without it, he said, he might not have known his true career path until after many years of medical school training.
"That's the good thing with the EMSAP program, you get exposed to how it is to be a medical student or to be a resident and get to decide if that's what you want to do. Every summer we'd go to Galveston for anywhere from four to six weeks to the medical school and we'd follow around medical students or residents, and we'd get to see surgeries," Martin said, "That's why [originally] I had leaned towards something like dermatology, something not so invasive. I guess some people can. . .it doesn't really bother them, but it kind of bothers me. I think I'd have an easier time working with animals."
After only two years of undergraduate study, Martin has already been accepted into the veterinary school at TAMU, and plans on beginning classes in the fall. In four years, he expects to have his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and possibly return to Laredo to practice.
He said it is important for people to realize that going to TAMIU can help one get what one wants out of life, including getting into professional programs such as medicine or veterinary school. And for those who are already enrolled, he says that getting to class is the most important thing to do as a student.
"It seems to me if you go to class and pay attention and be active in class, that's all you really need to do well on tests or in classes. But if you start missing classes, you get so far behind that it's hard to catch up. So I try my best not to miss class," said Martin with a smile.
For more information on the EMSAP program, please contact Dr. Mario García-Ríos at 326.2585, visit offices in the Dr. F.M. Canseco Hall, room 313C or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
University office hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.