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Veterinary college partners with Make-A-Wish Arizona


Seventeen-year-old Dayson Judd was able to experience veterinary school for a day

Dayson Judd practices haltering a horse on a model with guidance from lead veterinary technician Abigail Matzdorff (Image courtesy of the University of Arizona).

Dayson Judd practices haltering a horse on a model with guidance from lead veterinary technician Abigail Matzdorff (Image courtesy of the University of Arizona).

Dayson Judd was 3 years old when his family welcomed home Tilly, a miniature schnauzer. Dayson, who was lonely now that his sister started kindergarten, found a new best friend in Tilly, and soon, the duo began playing together. Through Tilly, Dayson learned how veterinarians took care of animals, inspiring him at a young age to pursue a career in veterinary medicine.

Since then, Dayson Judd worked hard to complete steps toward his goal and now in his senior year, he will graduate from Tanque Verde High School and attend the University of Arizona. He hopes to enroll in the W.A. Franke Honors College to earn a degree in veterinary sciences with hopes of attending the University of Arizona College of Veterinary Medicine.

However, unlike most inspiring veterinarians, Dayson was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis when he was 8 months old after he presented to his doctors with a persistent cough, but his doctors were able to manage his symptoms, according to an organizational release.1 At age 7, his health took a turn and he began to have more frequent hospital visits and dozens of medications and treatment plans. According to Dayson Judd, he was in the hospital 15 times between the ages of 7 and 12 due to low lung function.1 Before his teenage years, Dayson Judd joined a drug trial for Trikafta, causing an immediate improvement in his health.

Now, as Dayson Judd prepares to begin his college career, Make-A-Wish Arizona, PAWS Veterinary Center, and the University of Arizona collaborated to grant his wish of becoming a veterinarian for a day.

"His first response was to give his wish away to help someone else," said Chet Judd, Dayson's father.1 "He's a very empathetic person. We support him in whatever career field he wants, but choosing veterinary medicine makes perfect sense to me, as far as his personality. He cares for animals. He's a great person."

Dayson Judd kicked off his day with a tour of the college, College of Veterinary Medicine, where he was given a stethoscope and scrubs. He then went on to meet with Julie Funk, DVM, MS, PhD, dean of the school, Alex Ramirez, DVM, MPH, DACVPM, PhD, associate dean for the academic programs and faculty affairsand Shannon Salinas, JD, associate dean of student affairs. The school officials explained to Dayson Judd more about the profession, shared their own experiences, and answered questions he had about college. After this roundtable, he was invited to attend assistant professor Elaine Norton, DVMMS, PhD, DACVIM-LA, class and reviewed coursework with a second-year veterinary student.

"The College of Veterinary Medicine is all about fulfilling our students' dreams of becoming veterinarians," Funk said.1 "We are so excited to share our college with Dayson and are excited to learn about his passion for veterinary medicine. I am hopeful that visiting the college further assured Dayson's interest in becoming a veterinarian, and through meeting our faculty and students, he feels that veterinary medicine is home, the place to build a career. We would love for Dayson to be a future University of Arizona VetCat."

In 2020, the College of Veterinary Medicine opened its doors and became the first and only public veterinary school within Arizona and differs from the normal curriculum of other veterinary schools because its curriculum spans 3 years not the traditional 4 years.2

Dayson was also invited to meet and shadow Randy Aronson, VMD, CCRT, CVMA, co-owner of PAWS Veterinary Center where he met with patients, discussed treatment plans, and worked in the center’s lab. After all of these experiences, Dayson believes he is ready to begin his journey into veterinary medicine to help treat pets, like his childhood best friend Tilly.

"Today was better than I could have imagined, it's just amazing," he concluded. "The connections I have made, the people I have talked to, have all been amazing. It's helped a lot, and I am very excited."


  1. UArizona partners with Make-A-Wish Arizona for “veterinarian for a day” experience. The University of Arizona. Published March 14, 2024. Accessed March 19, 2024. https://news.arizona.edu/story/uarizona-partners-make-wish-arizona-veterinarian-day-experience
  2. First College of Veterinary Medicine class set to graduate. News release. The University of Arizona. Published August 16, 2023. Accessed March 19, 2024. https://news.arizona.edu/story/first-college-veterinary-medicine-class-set-graduate#:~:text=The%20state's%20first%20and%20only,the%20workforce%20one%20year%20sooner.
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