Cultivating Tomorrow’s Leaders

An integral part of the mission of the Texas Veterinary Medical Foundation (TVMF) is dedicated to ensuring the infusion of bright new medical talent into the veterinary profession by supporting students at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (TAMU-CVM). TVMF recognizes the importance of cultivating leaders who embrace diverse perspectives and strive to improve the local communities where they will live and work after graduating from school. This is why TVMF reserves two seats on the Board of Trustees solely for TAMU-CVM student representatives, who bring a unique yet important viewpoint to the table.

This year’s TVMF student representatives are Catherine Bristow (TAMU-CVM Class of 2022) and Taylor Hood (TAMU-CVM Class of 2023). TVMF is intentional about creating an environment in which student representatives are provided with a unique combination of challenges and support in an effort to help them develop leadership capabilities that they will continue to use in the future.

“TVMF is growing so much in their ability to impact veterinarians and owners,” Bristow said. “I am excited about this momentum and the new ideas that will create and improve on the ways TVMF enables leaders in communities to help each other.”

Fellow TVMF student representative Hood concurs. 

“I am most excited about the focus of serving our communities through access to veterinary care,” Hood said. “I love the fact that TVMF works to provide the means for pet owners to be educated on proper animal welfare as well as providing necessary medical treatment that would otherwise be impossible.”

In 2019, TVMF went through a strategic planning process to help shape the direction of the Foundation over the next three to five years. One theme that surfaced repeatedly during the planning process was the desire of veterinarians to have more ways to connect and give back to their communities. One way that TVMF helps facilitate that goal is through the TVMF PALS (Pets Assisting the Lives of Seniors) program, which provides veterinary care free of charge to the pets of Meals on Wheels clients in Austin, Bryan/College Station, Dallas, Houston and Abilene. Both Bristow and Hood have been involved in the TVMF PALS program in Bryan/College Station. 

TVMF student TVMF Board of Trustees representatives Catie and Taylor along with a fellow veterinary student and TVMF PALS recipient “Blackie”

After joining the TVMF Board of Trustees this fall, Hood’s first Foundation activity was decorating and delivering Christmas stockings to TVMF PALS clients. 

“It was such a joy to be able to sit and laugh and love on their pets with their owners!” Hood said. “This program has taught me that giving back is a very personal thing, involving in-person contact and being unified over a shared desire. In this circumstance, that desire is to help their pet have a long and healthy life.”

Bristow also reflected on her experience with the TVMF PALS program. While delivering stockings in 2018, Bristow was introduced to Meals on Wheels client Florence and her canine companion Bobby, a 14-year-old dachshund. Following that initial visit, Bristow and several other students visited Florence and Bobby several times last spring and went on walks with them around the block. 

“This was an incredible break from the extensive study load of vet school and an energizing reminder of why we were working so hard toward this career,” Bristow recalled. “Though Bobby passed several months after we started to get to know them, I felt incredibly moved that my time sitting in the vet clinic with Florence, in her home being present with her and helping connect her with resources that could help Bobby is a gift I can’t fully express my gratitude for. I feel incredibly lucky to have had such a personal experience with the PALS program, and I am eager to do what I can to make sure this incredible gift is available for many more pet owners, pets and veterinarians for years to come.”

TVMF believes in helping student representatives to harness their leadership potential and to understand how their commitment and dedication to their home communities can leave a powerful and lasting impact. Students who serve on the TVMF Board of Trustees hear and contribute to the resolution of real-world challenges, like the choices that many low-income, elderly pet owners have to make each month between paying for their own necessities or caring for their beloved animal companions. These students are given the opportunity and mentorship to help develop and implement action plans. This process brings many voices to the table and utilizes a collaboration of professionals and community members to assist those in need.

Hood spoke passionately about her drive to serve her community in her future role as a veterinarian. 

“It should be the goal of every person within their community—a drive to give back to the people around you through whatever resources you have,” she said. “Veterinarians are in a unique position to help their community through their medical training and passion for helping both animals and people. These are special resources that only a veterinary professional can provide.”

Bristow agreed and added, “I think opportunities to give back are as unique as the people who create and follow through with them. Veterinarians who work with members of the community every day to take care of their animals have unique insight into the needs of a community. With the right initiative and support, they have incredible potential to bring positive change for people and animals alike.” 

Cultivating these leaders of tomorrow and instilling a passion to serve where they live are what student engagement on the TVMF Board of Trustees is truly all about.

“So many of my classmates and veterinarians that I have encountered so far are eager to make a positive difference,” Bristow said. “I can’t wait to join them in this profession to see what unique ways we can make a difference together.”

Should you have any questions about the engagement of the students at the TAMU-CVM or need additional information about TVMF, please contact TVMF Director Leah Ann Tibbitts at 512-452-4224 or