The May Wildlife Rehabilitation Center helped Senior Preston Turner find his passion

Senior Preston Turner knew he wanted to do something other than traditional pet care when he decided to pursue veterinary school, so when he discovered Lees-McRae and the college’s wildlife-focused Pre-Veterinary Medicine program, he knew that this would be the perfect place to take a different path than simply cats and dogs.

Throughout his four years at Lees-McRae, Turner has been extremely involved on campus, working as an RA (residential assistant), serving as a member of Order of the Tower, being involved in the Honor Society, and more.

“Being an RA has taught me a lot about myself. It’s like having a job you never get away from,” Turner said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re on duty or not, someone is still going to knock on your door and ask you how to work the radiator. Learning how to set boundaries for yourself and delegate that work has been very important.”

While each of these organizations have shaped Turner in different ways, the one thing that has stood out above all the other clubs Turner has participated in has been the May Wildlife Rehabilitation Center and the relationships he has formed through working there. The Pre-Veterinary Medicine major, Wildlife Rehabilitation minor is interested in “exotics,” a group of animals which includes rodents like chinchillas and ferrets, reptiles, and birds. The May Wildlife Rehabilitation Center often intakes patients like these.

“Freshman year I got a work-study position at the rehab center. That allowed me to kind of dip my toe into the rehab department,” Turner said. “I did the classes, did the shifts, and really started to fall in love with what we do there and what we stand for. We are a big, huge, crazy, dysfunctional family, and we all live, breathe, and eat wildlife rehab. We give ourselves wholly to that cause.”

Through working at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center and talking with his professors—Turner names Associate Professor and Veterinarian Amber McNamara and Director of the May Wildlife Rehabilitation Center Nina Fischesser as two instructors-turned-mentors who guided him along the way—Turner was able to forge a passion for the work and decide he wanted to pursue it professionally.

“Dr. Amber and Nina are amazing at what they do. Dr. Amber knows my knock on her door because I ask her so many questions,” Turner said, laughing. “My experience would have been very different without them. Overall, all the professors I have had have been great.”

While Turner currently works as a vet assistant at a small animal clinic, he hopes to continue his study of exotics in veterinary school at NC State University. He cites NC State’s exotics program as a big reason why the school is his top pick, as the program would serve as a smooth transition from his undergraduate studies at Lees-McRae.

Looking back at the past four years he has spent on campus, Turner finds the work he has done and all he has accomplished in college to be extremely rewarding. Over the years he has collected countless stories about the difference he has been able to make in the lives of local wildlife.

“You get baby songbirds in who are blind and basically naked, and then in two or three weeks they get some feathers, and then soon they’re flying around the room, and you have to try to catch them, and then they’re gone,” Turner said. “It’s so rewarding to be able to do that. Having patients that you don’t think are going to make it end up making it is pretty great. I can say that I had a part in that, and that tangibility is special.”

Thanks to the relationships he built and the memories he made at Lees-McRae, Turner says he will always remember his time on campus fondly.

“I got to do something that I’m extremely passionate about, something that I want to do for the rest of my life in undergrad, and I actually got to see the fruits of my labor,” Turner said. “Not many people get to say, ‘I did what I love in undergrad, saw it actually work, and now I know that I want to do it for the rest of my life.’”

By Maya JarrellMarch 30, 2022
Campus Life