Dr. Sandra F. San MiguelFounder and Leader, League of VetaHumanz | Associate Dean and Professor, Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine | BA 1989, Gettysburg College | DVM 1993, MS 1994, PhD 1997, Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine | Diplomate (Emeritus) ABVP Swine Health Management
I didn’t really like school except for making things in shop class. I was going to be a street juggler. When I got kicked out of high school for bad behavior my guidance counselor said she would fix everything if I applied to college. In college, a professor gave me a research project and multiple jobs so I could pay fees and not have to drop out. He asked me what I wanted to do with my life. Every time I made poor decisions, there was always someone, usually a teacher who gave me another chance so I decided to be a teacher. I really liked research and animals too. I thought being a professor at a veterinary college would be perfect-super smart students to teach and I could help animals. First I wanted to be a dog surgeon since I liked shop. Then in vet college, I got to go to a swine farm and fell in love! I became a professor and a hog vet!
Learning in school was always difficult for me and veterinary college was super challenging. I tried to quit a lot but there were always professors who kept me on track and my husband was super supportive. Two years after I got my vet degree, I became severely allergic to cats, then dogs, then 15 years later-pigs. I had to stop practicing which still hurts, but it has also opened up opportunities that I would never had pursued as a hog vet.
In 7th grade, my metal shop teacher* told me that as kid, I couldn’t control my environment or the people around me. He said to just hang in until I was 17 and could live on my own. Then I could choose the kinds of people I wanted to surround myself with and create the kind environment where everyone was kind and supported each other. This was profound advice for which I am constantly grateful. Now, every day, I get to work with amazing people (including the best students ever!) who are committed to helping each other succeed.
*He also taught me how to arc weld. After school I got to put on the coolest helmet ever and fix everything that needed welding. I was a boss.
My Typical Day
During the week, my day starts at 4:30 am with reviewing priorities for the day, then foam rolling, breathing, and readiness exercises. Next, I check the critters (monkey-tailed skinks), meditate, eat breakfast, and get ready for work. I like to get to work between 6:30-7:00 and start the day by feeding my fish, Troy, Abed, and Ripley, and with a win- working on a project I am passionate about. Meetings with students, faculty, and the Engagement team start at 7:30. I get to teach, mentor, do research, and develop programs that support community partnerships where kids can have access to new opportunities and experiences. After work, I become a powerlifter and train for 1-2.5 hours. Then, quality time with family and critters, and an early bedtime. On Saturdays I work on cool work projects that I couldn’t get to during the week (I LOVE writing grants!), post a weekly video for my YouTube side hustle, Dr. Sandy’s Chalk Ninja Challenges, and meal prep. Sundays are for lifting, relaxing, and learning new things outside of vet med -I limit my worktime on Sundays if at all possible.
Navigating animal allergies as a veterinarian is incredibly stressful mentally and physically. Traveling is also very stressful for me. I spend time with my husband, meditate, lift heavy things, and draw on walls and driveways with chalk, to offset my stressors.
I wake up every day and can’t believe this is my life. I get to be around so many awesome people! I love learning from others, inside and outside of the veterinary profession, and incorporating their perspectives and superpowers into my models/approaches for mentoring, teaching, and leading.