By LISA BICKNELL
CV&T News Editor
Before she could say the word ‘veterinarian,’ Sarah Hall Crank knew that’s what she wanted to be.
She worked hard in elementary school to get straight A’s so she would be accepted to a good veterinarian school. She laughs about that now, but Sarah has always known exactly what she wanted to do with her life.
She remembers drawing pictures for her grandmother of a vet’s office with animals lined up in the waiting room to see her.
A 2009 graduate of Estill County High School, a 2013 graduate of Eastern Kentucky University, and a 2017 graduate of Auburn University, Sarah has recently returned home and is now practicing at the Waco Animal Hospital owned by Dr. Martin.
The good grades she earned throughout her school years in Estill County-she graduated as class valedictorian- and EKU earned her acceptance into Auburn University in Alabama.
Every summer through college and vet school, she worked alongside Dr. Martin.
“I was his retirement plan,” said Sarah.
However, there were a few times when she questioned whether or not she had made the right decision about veterinary school. Classes were grueling-all day, every weekday, from 8 to 5 p.m, she’d go from lecture to lab, back to lecture again. There were cycles of testing spurts, said Sarah, and the pressure was constant.
Not only was the academic pressure great, but so was the pressure of knowing that student loan debt was piling up.
The average veterinarian graduate accumulates $200-300,000 in student loans, similar to the amount of debt accumulated by a human doctor. However, the national average for a starting salary for a veterinarian is $72,000, or sometimes less in rural areas. That debt-to-income ratio dissuades some from pursuing a career in veterinary medicine, Sarah explained.
Still, for her, there was never a plan B. She persevered, and Sarah graduated from Auburn in May of this year, just in time to fill in for Dr. Martin who had suffered some major health problems in the days leading up to her graduation.
Sarah had planned to work for him when she came home, but she was thrown in “to sink or swim” immediately after she graduated. It was an intimidating introduction to her career, but she said Dr. Martin had been telling his loyal clients that she would be stepping in for him.
“It’s been good to have him as my mentor,” she said. She is also quick to give credit to her family for supporting her in the pursuit of her dream.
Sarah’s mother, Kim Hall, said she used to worry about how her daughter, so tenderhearted toward her pets when she was a child, would handle the “blood and guts” side of the profession she would inevitably face.
But her worries were relieved when Sarah would come home from her job as an intern and “be telling surgery stories at the supper table.”
Still, “It takes a little piece of your soul, when you can’t save an animal,” Sarah says.
She adds that it is a challenge to go from supporting a sad pet owner who has just decided to have a pet euthanized to getting excited for the next client who has just acquired a new puppy or kitten.
While blood and guts don’t bother Sarah, birds do.
“I have a very big fear of birds,” she laughs. Ducks she can handle, but chickens are another story. Sarah said she thinks her fear stems from a childhood experience when she was startled by squawking chickens.
But wouldn’t you know, during her first week on the job, someone called with a chicken question. Sarah was quick to refer the person to a veterinarian at Dr. Martin’s Berea office who specializes in more exotic breeds such as reptiles and birds.
Sarah is the daughter of Kim and Jerry Hall. She has a brother named Chad, and she is married to James Crank, her high school sweetheart. The couple lives at Winston in Estill County.