Biochemistry student finds true calling, headed to vet school in the fall

Shelby Lassiter standing on The Mall

Growing up in Spencer, West Virginia, Shelby Lassiter ’22 had plenty of opportunities to be around animals. Along the way, she developed a passion for helping them.

Now, her hard work in the classroom at Marietta College has provided her the chance to fulfill a dream of becoming a veterinarian. Lassiter, who will earn a Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry during Marietta’s Commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 7th, will attend the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine in the fall.

“I believe my experience with the chemistry department has helped me the most in preparing me for vet school,” Lassiter said. “I came to Marietta without knowing anyone, and now I feel like I have a home within the department. Specifically, over the past two years, I have become much more involved with the department.”

Virginia-Maryland is located on the campus of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, but it serves as the state-supported college for both Virginia and Maryland. Lassiter was also accepted to the veterinary programs at Ross University, Mississippi State University and the University of Tennessee.

“I narrowed it down to Mississippi State and Virginia-Maryland because I liked the atmospheres at those schools the best,” she said. “I eventually decided on Virginia-Maryland because it is closer to home, and family is very important to me. I also really like how hands-on their program is.”

She has some time to decide, but Lassiter is unsure if she wants to practice small animal medicine or mixed animal medicine.

When Lassiter arrived at Marietta in Fall 2019, she planned to follow in her sister’s footsteps (Casey Lassiter Legraen ’18, PA’20) and enroll in the College’s Physician Assistant Program following graduation. But her plans changed.

“I shadowed physicians the summer after my sophomore year. Following this experience, I realized I didn’t possess the passion for this field and decided to take a leap of faith and change career paths my junior year,” she said. “I have always had a passion for animals and decided to follow my heart. I worked at Parkersburg Veterinary Hospital and shadowed a large animal vet on my days off this past summer and fell in love with the profession.”

Dr. Suzanne Parsons, McCoy Associate Professor of Chemistry, said Lassiter is passionate about the field of biochemistry and veterinary medicine, and that she also understands their connections.

“Shelby is who I would want as my own animals’ veterinarian,” Parsons said. “When Shelby was a freshman, she told me that she wanted to become a physician assistant, and she planned her undergraduate studies to prepare her for a PA program. I was slightly surprised when Shelby told me last year that she was more interested in applying to vet school than PA school, but I applauded her brave decision to pursue a change in direction to a career that she felt more passionate about.”

Lassiter credits Marietta’s faculty with helping her grow into the person she is today.

“(The chemistry professors) have always supported me, encouraged me, and helped me grow as a person and student,” Lassiter said. “The relationship I’ve developed with these professors has made me excited to continue my education and has given me the confidence to do so.”

Parsons is excited about Lassiter’s future.

“Shelby is a truly compassionate person, and she will make a fantastic vet,” Parsons said. “She’s soft spoken but speaks with confidence. She’s quiet at first but super fun once you get to know her. I can definitely tell that she feels a special bond towards animals, and she’s so intelligent — the world of animals will be lucky to have her.”