An aspiring veterinarian working closely with people whose pets have cancer is Colorado State University’s 2015 student employee of the year and has received similar honors at state and regional levels.
Amanda Meeks, who will graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in biological science, works in client services at CSU’s Flint Animal Cancer Center and in the research laboratory of virologist Barry Beaty, a University Distinguished Professor.
The honor earned Meeks a $1,000 scholarship, which she will apply to studies in the one-year CSU VetPrep Program before entering the university’s Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Program.
After earning the CSU award, Meeks advanced and was selected as Colorado student of employee of the year from among 129 other nominees throughout the state. The Western Association of Student Employment Administrators then picked Meeks for the same honor from among 618 nominees in a 13-state region. It’s the first time a CSU student has won the regional award.
“I’m very overwhelmed, honored and thankful to receive these awards,” Meeks said at a gathering with coworkers at the Animal Cancer Center on April 13, when she learned about her scholarship and other honors. “I’m so grateful to work here with all of you. I’m really happy to be part of this place and part of this family.”
In another surprise, the first-generation college student’s mother flew in from Florida to attend the celebration.
“My parents raised me to have a good work ethic,” Meeks said. “Basically I just try to do my best every day. I definitely work with a great group at the cancer center and couldn’t have won this without them. I hope to represent the award well.”
Meeks has a history of helping people with medical needs: She served in the U.S. Air Force, first at the Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany, then at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, assisting other service members and their families obtain mental-health services.
In San Antonio, Meeks cultivated her dream to become a veterinarian while working as a veterinary technician. Soon she was pursuing that dream at Colorado State, which drew the student with its open space, fresh air and dog-friendly community.
Meeks helps prepare clients and their pets for appointments and cancer care at the university’s renowned Animal Cancer Center – collecting medical records, answering questions, and providing an extra touch whenever needed, said Sandra Larson, her supervisor.
On one occasion, that meant thoroughly grooming a large dog to comfort the animal and its owner, who was in another state and didn’t have the chance to groom the pet before he was transported to CSU for cancer treatment.
“The dog was happily lying his head in her lap while she was grooming him for hours,” Larson recalled. “We were able to add that extra TLC and sent pictures to the owner to let her know.”
Meeks said she is able to field calls from concerned pet owners after her military experience helping people in distress.
“We do our best to comfort and reassure people on the phone who are in the midst of a highly emotional situation,” Meeks said. “My Air Force experience helped me feel comfortable talking to people who are having a difficult time. People sometimes use anger when they are afraid, and it really helps to know that they’re not angry with you, they’re upset about their pet’s cancer diagnosis or the situation.”
Meeks also is a lab assistant in the CSU Infectious Disease Research Center, where she cares for a population of mosquitoes called Anopheles gambiae that transmit malaria; researchers study them to fight the disease.
But Meeks doesn’t stop at her two campus jobs. She has been a volunteer counselor at Sky High Hope Camp, a camp for children with cancer west of Denver; a mentor for foreign exchange students; and a member of Pre-Vet Club, among other CSU groups.
“You’re a huge part of the family here,” Larson told Meeks at this week’s celebration. “Your love and admiration for what happens here shows. You teach me every day.”