Emily Lawrence '08 has joined the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine as a collegiate assistant professor in the Animal Care for Education (ACE) program. In addition to working with students in labs, she takes care of the ACE canine instructors.   

The ACE team provides husbandry, care, and enrichment to the animals used in the veterinary teaching program. Through the ACE program, the veterinary college opens its doors to about 30 dogs from three local shelters every fall. Students work with the dogs, improving their physical and mental health and helping them develop social skills. After their time in the ACE program, these canine instructors are adopted into loving homes.   

Moving forward, Lawrence will work with the ACE spring spay program with the goal of expansion. In the spay program, second-year veterinary students work alongside experienced faculty members and veterinary technicians to perform free spay surgeries on cats and dogs from the community.   

There is clearly a high demand for free or low-cost spay services — this year, the college received over 200 applications within 24 hours.  

"We want to find a way to expand to better serve the community with a program that provides low-cost or free services to animals in need throughout our surrounding areas. We want to figure out a way to do that while also teaching the students,” said Lawrence. 

Lawrence was inspired to become a veterinarian because of an experience at an animal shelter.   

When she was in the sixth grade, she volunteered at a shelter that performed euthanasia. The volunteer supervisor asked her which cats were her favorites so she would know not to put them on the euthanasia list — a massive amount of responsibility for an 11-year-old. In that moment, Lawrence knew that she wanted to dedicate her life to helping animals.  

"That's when I decided that veterinary medicine was what I was going to do,” she said. 

Lawrence is originally from Franklin County, Virginia, and she earned her bachelor’s in biology at Virginia Tech in 2008. After earning her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Georgia, she spent 10 years working as a small animal practitioner in southwest Virginia as well as providing relief services for the past three years in southwest Virginia and the Piedmont Triad region of North Carolina.  

"In practice, I've always enjoyed client communication and that lightbulb moment when you're explaining something and then all of a sudden they get it. I thought that maybe I could do that for students, too, and see that light-bulb moment on a regular basis,” she said.   

Lawrence is excited to return to Blacksburg and to bring her real world experience to the students she works with, looking beyond textbooks to what cases actually look like in practice. 

Lawrence’s advice for graduating students entering practice for the first time? Find a mentor.  

"You're going to feel like you're out there flailing around regardless,” Lawrence said, “but it helps if you have people around you who support you." 

Written by Sarah Boudreau M.F.A. '21, a writer with the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine


Andrew Mann
Director of Communications and Marketing