Skip Navigation
Oklahoma State University
Center for Veterinary Health Sciences

Healthy Animals - Healthy People

A Different Path to a DVM Degree

Wednesday, April 15 2015

A career in veterinary medicine requires commitment, persistence and stamina. There are pre-requisites that must be met and then once accepted into the DVM program, four more years of college. And for one senior veterinary student, that road was much, much longer.

Leland Liston, 49, of Claremore, Okla., is one of 88 students who will earn a Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine degree from Oklahoma State University’s Center for Veterinary Health Sciences on May 8, 2015.

Originally from Los Angeles, Calif., Liston spent 20 years there working as a heavy line technician fixing cars at a Chevrolet dealer.

“I was very successful in my field,” says Liston. “I was a shop foreman in charge of 25 guys making $75,000 a year, but I wasn’t happy.”

Liston always wanted to go into veterinary medicine but didn’t think it was something he could make happen.

“It’s something I always wanted to do all my life.  I didn’t want to be rocking my golden years away on the porch with regrets. So at age 40, I quit my job. It was a big risk to throw away a successful career.  My friends helped me realize it’s never too late; you’re never too old to learn something new.”

In 2001, Liston started taking night courses at a community college while working full time. In 2007, he moved to Oklahoma to earn a degree in veterinary medicine. He completed his undergraduate degree at Rogers State University in Claremore and applied to OSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

“I chose OSU because my parents live here.  I loved Oklahoma once I moved here. This is the only school I wanted to go to and it was the only one I applied to.”

Luckily for Liston, he was one of 83 students from a pool of 364 applicants selected as the class of 2015.

“I love the challenges of veterinary college. I like how hard you have to work because it makes you better prepared for when you get out in the real world. My favorite memory is junior surgery—gloving up and gowning up and actually getting my hands in there doing things as a real doctor for the first time.”

Upon graduation, Liston wants to go into private practice, preferably a mixed animal practice.

“I want to stay in Oklahoma; I really love it here. I have family here and even own a home in Claremore. I like cats, dogs, cows and horses. I would just like to get my hands in a little bit of everything and have some variety. I have been in school for a long time and I am ready to get back out there and start working again.”

And to others thinking about a career as a veterinarian, Liston has this message:

“Make sure veterinary medicine is what you really want to do because it is a challenging program and it’s really going to push you. If anything, I hope I am an inspiration to older students or people who want to go through a career change. It was really scary to throw away everything I knew and start over and I’m so glad I did. Even if I had failed, at least I would have tried.  If you have friends and family to support you, anybody is capable of anything regardless of your age. If it’s what you want to do, go for it. Now I feel like I can be part of something good and help people and their animals.”

While the class of 2015 started at 83 members, 88 will graduate as students transferred into the program.

For more information about admission to Oklahoma’s only veterinary college, visit or call (405) 744-6961.