IJAMSVILLE, Md. (AP) — Most children have an idea of what they want to be when they grow up — whether it's an astronaut, baseball player or doctor — but few get to live out that childhood dream.
Laura Page Warden, veterinarian and co-owner of the Green Valley Animal Hospital in Ijamsville, is one of those lucky few.
As a girl growing up in Rockville, Page, 50, would try to nurse back to health small animals and birds that had fallen victim to her cat. While these efforts yielded limited success, she said, she had found her calling.
"I knew from day one I always wanted to be a vet," Page said. "I used to watch that TV show 'Daktari.' It was about a jungle veterinarian, and he would work on Clarence the cross-eyed lion and the monkeys, and I always thought, 'That's what I'm going to do.'"
While her practice involves less exotic creatures — mostly cats, dogs and the occasional pet snake — Page said she is just happy to be able to do what she always hoped to do.
Her career almost took a different path, though. Page said she was discouraged from getting into veterinary medicine by people who said it was too challenging and competitive. There were only 24 vet schools in the country at the time.
"I was told, 'Vet school is too hard and you'll never get in,' so I thought about going into nursing," Page said.
She enrolled at the University of Maryland, where even her counselors tried to steer her away from veterinary medicine, she said.
But she worked for a veterinarian throughout college and after graduation, and that strengthened her desire to go into the field, Page said.
In 1985, she enrolled at the vet school at Tuskegee University in Alabama.
Page worked for a vet in Montgomery County before she moved to Frederick County and started with Green Valley Animal Hospital in 1992. The move was about quality of life, she said.
"I looked out of my exam room and looked out at the pastures with the goats and the pigs and everything, and just loved it," said Page, who lives in New Market with her family. "And the people, the clients were just wonderful. Everybody loved their animals. It's just been a really good relationship, a really good client base, and I could just feel that it had a different air to it than down in Montgomery County. I felt like I was part of a family."
She bought the hospital in 2003.
Page maintained a single-minded focus on her goal, and she followed a piece of advice her mother gave her when she expressed fear about having to take a physics class at Maryland, she said.
"She said, 'If you're going to be defeated, let someone else defeat you, but never defeat yourself.'"
Information from: The Frederick (Md.) News-Post, http://www.fredericknewspost.com