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Becoming a Veterinarian: A journey of a thousand steps began on the Crow Creek Reservation

BROOKINGS, SD – Traelene Fallis, a first-year student in the South Dakota State University professional program in veterinary medicine, is pursuing her dream of becoming a veterinarian to give back to those in her community.

Originally from the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe reservation in Fort Thompson on the Missouri River, Fallis grew up raising horses and helping her neighbors with their cattle. While in high school, she never thought about pursuing a college education. However, because SDSU was the only college to send a recruiting representative to her tribal school, she learned about the wide variety of opportunities SDSU could present to her as a student.

After deciding to attend college, Fallis needed to choose which career path she wanted to pursue. Her grandfather, in particular, had a significant influence on her decision, as he owned the horses she grew up with and provided a lot of her exposure to other animals. Additionally, Fallis recalls having a sick puppy who had parvo. Wanting to help it but not knowing how helped her recognize the need for a local veterinarian in her community.

Fallis started her freshman year at SDSU in fall 2018 as a biology major, with the end goal of becoming a veterinarian. To gain more experience working with animals and livestock, she started working at the Equine Teaching Facility on campus, and it was there where she was able to engage with and learn alongside other animal science students.

“One of the people that I looked up to was an animal science student, and she led me down this path,” said Fallis.

After doing some research about the major and seeing that many of the classes offered hands-on opportunities, Fallis decided to switch her major to animal science.

“I never imagined that studying animal science would have given me so many opportunities and experiences,” said Fallis.

Once senior year came, she started to apply to veterinary schools. Numerous SDSU faculty members supported Fallis in her journey to becoming a veterinarian as she went through the extensive application and interview process.

“When I participated in the interview, they were very intrigued by what I had to say and I felt like they wanted me to be a part of the program,” said Fallis.

After much anticipation, she received a call from SDSU President Barry H. Dunn who let her know she was accepted into SDSU’s program. Fallis was on her way to work when she took the call and became emotional after hearing the good news–she felt ecstatic at the fact that SDSU believed in her and wanted her to become a successful veterinarian.

“I went my whole life thinking of what I was going to do when I grew up and then, as time went on, I noticed how hard things were getting to become a veterinarian,” said Fallis. “I got the call and all I thought was, I actually have the opportunity to do this.”

For Fallis it was a big sense of relief and accomplishment. Over the past few years, she has worked at several vet clinics where she has gained formative experience working with numerous species, with a heavy emphasis on learning more about cattle.

In spring 2022, Fallis graduated from SDSU with her bachelor’s degree in animal science.

Looking into the future, she will graduate in May 2026 with her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree with the hope of opening up her own clinic to support those living in her home community.

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