Maddie Nardi, who graduated this month with a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine through the U.S. Army’s Health Professions Scholarship Program, has a bright future in the armed forces. 

Nardi has been an animal lover ever since she can remember, and she always knew she wanted to be a veterinarian. Horseback riding throughout her childhood further inspired a career in veterinary medicine. 

The summer before she started work on her undergraduate degree in Virginia Tech's animal and poultry sciences program, she visited the Air Force Academy with her parents, who had met there — Nardi’s father went on to become a fighter pilot and her mother became a meteorologist in the Air Force. 

"Growing up, I was always inspired by them — they are very smart, determined, disciplined people — but I had never thought about joining the military until they took me on that trip," said Nardi. 

Nardi realized that the military could be a place she could thrive, and she soon learned about the Health Professions Scholarship Program, which covers tuition and provides a stipend in exchange for a commitment to join the Army. 

“I thought this would be a wonderful way to both financially support myself through vet school and also serve my country, and serve the animals and humans, and be a part of the military that I was already proud of my parents being a part of." 

Veterinary school isn’t easy, and the pandemic was an additional challenge. Despite extra barriers to schooling and forming relationships with her classmates, Nardi pulled through and was excited to complete her final year — a clinical year full of different rotations. 

“I really enjoyed getting exposure to and working with all different species. I love working with all kinds of animals, and I appreciate that the school has supported me in developing various skills and has given me a multitude of opportunities. I have been able to fill my rotation schedule with a wide variety of experiences covering different species and specialties,” said Nardi, who was in the veterinary college's food animal track. 

One highlight of her rotations was the opportunity to work with Travis Burns, associate professor of practice and chief of farrier services. She enjoyed getting hands-on with equine podiatry as well as Burns’ encouragement and positive attitude. 

As part of the the scholarship prpogram, Nardi has completed Army training at Fort Sill in Oklahoma and Fort Sam Houston in Texas during the summer between her third and fourth years of veterinary school. 

Next, Nardi will head to Fort Sam Houston for further training, then she will serve her first year in the U.S. Veterinary Corps at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. There, she will treat government-owned animals such as dogs and horses as well as privately owned pets of military personnel. She also will work with food inspection and food safety. 

She will serve four years of active duty, followed by five years in the Army Reserve. The critical thinking skills she has learned in veterinary school will help her in her military career as she tackles new challenges.

"I have already learned so much as a veterinarian, as a soldier, and as a leader. The training that I went to last summer and my experiences with the military have led to a lot of personal growth and confidence," she said. "It requires a lot of discipline and determination to pursue this path, but it will be rewarding."

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