June 2, 2008
Mothers and daughters share a special bond, and veterinary students build strong connections during four years of intense study. But Sharon Hunt Gerardo and her daughter Angelina share both distinctions as they prepare to graduate together June 13 from the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California, Davis.
Sharon, a UC Davis alumna who earned a bachelor's degree in 1980 and a master's degree in 1982, wanted to be a veterinarian most of her life, but when she did not get into veterinary school after college, she went on to earn a doctorate in immunology from UCLA and pursue a research career. She married Michael "Mike" Gerardo, who earned his doctor of veterinary medicine from UC Davis in 1982, and together they began a veterinary business and a family, settling in Simi Valley.
Daughter Angelina and her brother Jimmie grew up surrounded by animals. "We had a ton of pets, spent summers in the clinic and went to work with Dad when he had emergencies," Angelina says. "I didn't consider any other occupation."
Mike's unexpected death in 2000 caused profound family changes. Through troubled times, Sharon remembered the joys of her husband's practice and revisited her own career, determining that she still carried her dream to work with people, their animals and the community as a veterinarian.
From then on, it was a matter of timing. In 2003, both women applied to veterinary school. They talked about their unusual situation and even interviewed the same day at one East Coast college, but they never expected to enroll at the same school. Angelina selected UC Davis. Sharon was considering another veterinary school, but at the last moment, she chose to stay in California, too.
Angelina admits she "wasn't that thrilled" about sitting next to her mom in class for the next four years. However, with separate homes, lab sections and friends, the two got along fine. "We started studying together," Angelina says, "We found that we study at the same pace."
With veterinary school completed, Angelina has joined the Army Veterinary Corps for three years and is considering a military career. Her first assignment, after basic training, is Camp LeJeune, N.C., where she will care for 50-60 military working dogs and the small animals of service personnel.
Now re-married, Sharon will remain in Davis a bit longer. She will combine her experience in immunology and an interest in infectious diseases by pursuing a Master of Preventive Veterinary Medicine degree. Her ambition is to practice in a public research or diagnostic laboratory.
By choosing the same professional path, both women hope to carry on a double legacy from Mike Gerardo -- and an ever-stronger personal bond created by their veterinary school experience.
* Lynn Narlesky, School of Veterinary Medicine Dean's Office, (530) 752-5257,
* Pat Bailey, UC Davis News Service, (530) 752-9843, firstname.lastname@example.org