It’s a springtime ritual that’s occurred for well over a decade. I get home on a Thursday night in late April after a long day of work at my companion animal veterinary practice. My telephone rings: “Hello, is Dr. Kornet in? I’m a student at Cornell University. I’m taking an animal science course, and our assignment is to conduct an informational interview with a member of the Alumni Career Link.”
I smile, happy to answer questions about my path to becoming a veterinarian. Mentorship has been an important part of my professional life, and I am thrilled at the opportunity to help a student and develop a lifelong relationship as a role model.
I decided to become a veterinarian when I was 13, and I never wavered from that decision. Living in a small apartment in Queens, N.Y., I was never allowed to have dogs. I always loved animals, so my parents bought me a hamster. One hot summer day, my hamster became ill and my parents took me to a very kind veterinarian who treated my special pet. I can remember walking out of the front door of the animal hospital and thinking, “I want to be a veterinarian.” From that time on I did everything possible to achieve my goal. In 10th grade, I enrolled at John Bowne High School, which had a program in agriculture. One of my class assignments was to contact a college and get information about their programs, and in the summer of 1969, when I was 14 years old, I wrote to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. From that point on, Cornell was the only place for me.
One frequent question that the students from Animal Science 1105—Contemporary Perspectives on Careers in Animal Science—ask me is if there were any undergraduate courses that I use in my veterinary practice today. In the early years of the interviews, I would tell students that there wasn’t much that I learned that I use in my day-to-day practice. I couldn’t have been more incorrect. The course that I use every day, the foundation of my scientific database, was Bio 101. Cornell gave me the greatest academic gift: the ability to learn and think like a scientist. In my office, I still have my tattered, taped and possibly moldy Bio 101 textbook written by Professor William Keeton placed strategically on my shelf to remind me that my freshman biology course is the foundation for everything I learned.
I struggled in Bio 101. Things were so bad at one point that I called my parents and told them that there were a lot of really smart people at Cornell and I didn’t think I had the ability to do well and get into vet school. When students ask me how I turned it around, I tell them that I gave up all worldly pleasures—and I just studied and studied.
Cornell has instilled a work ethic in me that allows me to enjoy a lifetime of learning and discovery. The culture at Cornell encourages students to work hard in their studies and make a difference in the lives of people we interact with. Veterinarians have to continue to expand our knowledge base for the benefit of our patients, and CALS has given me the tools to succeed. I am forever grateful to be part of this culture.
One Animal Science 1105 interview even resulted in a lifelong relationship. Aspiring veterinarian Adam Krawczyk ’05 contacted me and asked, since he lived close to my practice, if he could interview me in person. I quickly realized that he could be an asset to my staff if he wanted a summer job. Adam continued to work in my practice during winter and summer vacations while he was in vet school at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine, and when he graduated he took an internship at a local animal hospital. We conferred and discussed many medical cases together over the years, and it was so clear to me that Adam was developing into an excellent veterinarian. On Dec. 11, 2014, Adam and I became partners in running the Long Island Animal Hospital. It has been so exhilarating and fun for both of us. Our new practice has grown, and I’m thrilled that I was able to offer a unique opportunity to a student I met during an Animal Science 1105 interview.
When I look back at the evolution of my involvement with Cornell since graduation, I realize that my connections with students have had a huge influence in my life. Although I inspire students with my story, the students give as much back to me. I feel so lucky that I can work with so many bright, young people, and I thank Cornell for giving me that opportunity.
Mitchell Kornet, DVM, has been the director of Mid Island Animal Hospital since 1983 and is a partner in the Long Island Animal Hospital. As a member of the Long Island Veterinary Medical Association’s Disaster Preparedness Committee, he was part of a team responsible for sending veterinarians and assistants to Ground Zero at the World Trade Center site on a daily basis to care for the search and rescue dogs. In December 2001, the Long Island Veterinary Medical Association named him Veterinarian of the Year for this service. He is a member of the advisory councils for CALS and the College of Veterinary Medicine and is a past president of the CALS Alumni Association. He has hosted hundreds of students during class trips to his practice and has allowed students of all ages to shadow him during his daily activities at work. Kornet earned a B.S. and a DVM from Cornell and is the father of two Cornell alumnae, Allison Kornet White ’04 and Robin Kornet Goldenberg ’08, and father-in-law of Matthew White ILR ’04.