From the Fairways to the Ivy League

Words by Jenny Lynn Davis | Images by Ryan McGill

Since November 2021, Madison Lawson has graced the fairways and pro shop at Musgrove Country Club in Jasper. But this fall, she is headed to Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, to pursue her dream of becoming a veterinarian.

From a young age, Madison knew she wanted to a pursue a career in helping animals. She would try to find any reason to get her parents to take the family dogs to the vet.

“I tried to tell my parents that our lab, Snow White’s, nose was falling off,” she laughs. “They assured me it wasn’t, but in my 8-year-old professional opinion, it was. So, I fixed her up with some band-aids, and she was good to go!”

In the 7th grade, she was assigned a project on the book Shiloh, but took the rubric into her own hands and turned it into a research project on veterinary medicine. That project is now framed and still in Madison’s possession, and it served as inspiration and motivation during her schooling.

After graduating from Walker High School in 2017, Madison pursued her bachelor’s degree in biology at The University of Alabama (UA). She spent every summer of her high school and undergraduate career shadowing at local Jasper vet clinics.

She will graduate from UA in May with her master’s in public health but began applying to Veterinary Medicine programs around this time last year.

“I applied to many schools in the southeast, but I decided to step out of my comfort zone and apply to Cornell,” she says. “When I received the call that I had been accepted, it was a little disorienting and didn’t feel real—but I am glad it was!”

The veterinary medicine program at Cornell is a rigorous one, with three years of didactic study and one year of hands-on clinical. While pursuing her master’s, Lawson decided to step away from vet shadowing to work in the golf shop at Musgrove Country Club. She wanted to walk into the vet program with fresh eyes and to have a slower-paced job before she jumped into the fast-paced world of vet med.

When asked why she was so passionate about pursuing a career in veterinary medicine, Madison said, “The basic answer is that I’ve always loved animals, but more in-depth is that I want to be their voice. They can’t talk; they can’t tell us what’s wrong. I want to not only treat the animals in a clinical setting but also advocate for them.”

While she is most nervous about adjusting to the cold weather in upstate New York, Madison is excited about learning more in-depth concepts and principles of vet med. Currently, she wants to specialize in orthopedic surgery or small animal surgery, but she is open to other possibilities that she will learn while in school.

Madison’s story is a testament to the power of determination and following one’s dreams. She knew from a young age what she wanted to do and took every opportunity to pursue it. Her dedication and passion for animals will serve her well as she begins her studies at Cornell. WL

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