Sam Sorensen (1980) – From SMC to World-Traveling Veterinarian

In this edition of our Alumni Spotlight series, we catch up with Sam Sorensen (Class of 1980), who has followed her passion for veterinary medicine to an extraordinary career filled with adventures, challenges, and a whole lot of furry and scaly friends.

From SMC to Vet School

After leaving Santa Maria College in 1980, Sam wasted no time in pursuing her dreams. She enrolled in vet school at Murdoch University, embarking on a rigorous five-year course. While it wasn’t always smooth sailing, she found herself surrounded by incredibly intelligent peers, forming lifelong friendships along the way. The program covered everything from animal anatomy to physiology across various species.

Finding Her Niche

Initially, Sam saw herself working with horses and cattle, but a few encounters with hot summers and relentless flies changed her perspective. She transitioned into mixed and small animal practice, working part-time while at university and continuing this dual role post-graduation. However, her journey took an unexpected turn when she briefly became a dolphin and sea lion trainer at Atlantis Marine Park. Fun as it was, the pay wasn’t great, prompting her to take a job in Port Hedland.

Port Hedland in the 1980s was a tough and rugged town, and it was here that Sam honed her skills as a versatile veterinarian. Her mentor, Mike Lumsden, believed that women could excel in every aspect of the profession, and he taught her the art of surgery, from pinning fractured bones to amputating limbs and treating a wide range of conditions. This experience solidified her determination to pursue a lifelong career as a veterinarian.

From Perth to China and Beyond

After a few years in Port Hedland, Sam returned to Perth and took on various roles as a small animal veterinarian. She continued to expand her knowledge through further study. In 1992, she achieved a remarkable milestone by opening the Claremont Vet Hospital, becoming one of only two female vet hospital owners in the state at the time. Her career then took an international twist as she ventured to Shanghai, China, where she worked at a large vet hospital, experiencing a wide array of exotic diseases and treating diverse animals, from tigers to guard dogs.

Sam didn’t stop there. She has travelled and volunteered in various locations, including Cook Islands, Solomon Islands, Nepal, Peru, Morocco, South Africa, and her homeland, Australia. Her career has been rich and varied, with each day presenting new challenges and opportunities for making a difference.

Life Lessons from Santa Maria

Sam acknowledges the pivotal role her time at Santa Maria played in her journey. Exceptional teachers inspired her to excel academically, and the camaraderie among her classmates provided invaluable support. The school’s emphasis on strong values, morals, and community-mindedness has guided her decisions throughout her career.

Passion and Inspiration

Sam has always been inspired by her mother’s unwavering belief in her potential, saying that although her mum may not always have been happy with some of her adventures, she has always had her support. Making a difference and bringing happiness to people and their pets is what motivates her today.

For Sam, being a veterinarian means embracing the unpredictability of each day and the uniqueness of every case. She finds immense joy in seeing smiles on the faces of pet owners when she helps their beloved animals.

Challenges and Coping

Dealing with the public can be challenging, but Sam maintains her mental health through yoga, exercise, naps, and spending quality time with dogs. She takes amazing holidays to destinations like the Himalayas and practices self-compassion.

When she’s not busy saving animals and improving lives, Sam unwinds by spending time with her dog, renovating old cars, catching up with friends, listening to podcasts, and indulging in a bit of chocolate.

Changing Landscape

The veterinary profession has seen a significant shift in gender equality since Sam began her career. Back in 1985, it was predominantly male-dominated, but today, new graduates are predominantly female, marking a positive transformation.

Advice for Aspiring Vets

Sam’s advice to students interested in pursuing a career in veterinary medicine is simple: Go for it! It’s a rewarding and extraordinary journey filled with endless opportunities.

Sam’s journey from Santa Maria to a globe-trotting veterinarian is a testament to following one’s passion and embracing the adventure of life. Her remarkable story continues to inspire us all.

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