Dr. Terrence Ferguson (c/o 1992) majored in veterinary science at what was then Fort Valley State College. Below, He shares how his education, coupled with his passion for animals, helped him become an entrepreneur.
1. When did you develop a passion for animals?
“I’ve wanted to be a veterinarian since I was six or seven years old,” Ferguson said. As a child he recalled the family dog suffering an injury after being hit by a car.
“I doctored the dog back to health. Now looking back, the dog wasn’t hurt that bad,” he said. Ferguson said this experience lit a fire under him.
2. Who motivated you?
“My mother was an educator. She’s retired now. She told me if I wanted to be a veterinarian, I had to learn how to spell it,” Ferguson said. He recalled his mother tracing the letters on construction paper, cutting them out and making him put them in order. “That was a big giant word, I wanted to say animal doctor, but she said, ‘No, its called veterinarian’”. His mother explained that he may be asked to spell and write about it, so it was imperative that he could spell veterinarian. Sure enough, Ferguson was asked to write about what he wanted to be when he grew up. His teacher read his assignment and said he misspelled veterinarian. “I knew I was right,” Ferguson said. To confirm, he went to the dictionary and looked it up. Respectfully, he showed his teacher that he spelled it correctly. “I was prepared for that moment,” Ferguson said.
3. How did FVSC prepare you to become a veterinarian?
“Fort Valley State totally prepared me; of course they prepared me academically, but they prepared me by shaping my character,” Ferguson said. He said FVSC taught him great bedside manner, which he defines as treating people with compassion, dignity and respect.
4. What’s the best part about your job?
“The best part about my job is seeing the client healed and the patient healed.
If I can take care of the baby, then I’m taking care of the owner or client as well. So it’s rewarding in two ways. The owner is ecstatic and the animal is feeling better,” Ferguson said.
5. How did you get into co-owning your own practice?
After graduating with a doctorate of veterinary medicine from Tuskegee University in 1998, Ferguson said he and his classmate, Dr. Vernard Hodges, knew they wanted to own their own practice, but did not know how to do it.
“We stepped out on faith, went in with sweat and equity,” Ferguson said. The Critter Fixer co-owners opened their practice May 1999. Ferguson and Hodges did everything in the beginning. “We were the receptionists, the technicians, those are the things you have to do to get it going,” Ferguson said. Ferguson also credits his mentor, Dr. Earnest Corker, for being a guide during the start-up process and throughout his profession. Ferguson and Hodges eventually expanded their practice and now have two locations in Byron and Bonaire. “We’ve been blessed being in two locations. They both do very well,” Ferguson said.
6. What advice do you give students who want to be veterinarians?
“I tell students you have to have a passion and love for it,” Ferguson said. The Talbotton native said he encourages students to volunteer and get their hands dirty. When he speaks to students on career days, he explains that being a veterinarian can appear to be one way from the outside looking in. He said students should make sure they want to be around animals on a regular basis.
Ferguson also said students seeking acceptance into a veterinary school should maintain excellent grades and seek opportunities outside the classroom.
He said most students applying to veterinary school will have good grades and great letters of recommendations; however, it may be volunteer work, work at a veterinary office, civic work or philanthropy that makes them stand out.
“You have to find those one or two things that separate you from the others. FVSU was very instrumental in helping me with that experience,” Ferguson said. During his last two years at FVSC, the father of two said he participated in internships with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for two summers. “I worked in Alaska and Maryland. That separated me because others did not have that experience.”
7. While attending FVSU, how did you balance academics and extracurricular activities?
“I had good study habits. Playing sports helped to corral some of that because I had curfew because of football,” Ferguson said. He said students should make sure they begin with a strong GPA, especially during the first two years, because once the GPA goes down, it’s hard to bring it back up.
He also explained how his professors helped to keep him focused. “HBCU’S tend to have instructors that are very nurturing. They kept me encouraged, made me walk a straight line, kept me motivated. You need those professors to be your parent away from home,” Ferguson said.